Friday, November 2, 2012

Regional jets get ‘green light’ from FAA

Final approval of CRJ-700 aircraft deemed imminent

Express Staff Writer

The Federal Aviation Administration has essentially given the green light to SkyWest’s plan to fly jets into Friedman Memorial Airport.

A final environmental assessment for the airline’s plan to fly the 65-passenger CRJ-700 into Sun Valley was approved last week, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

The draft environmental assessment was released in September and submitted to the FAA after a 30-day public comment period. Kenitzer said the report garnered only nine comments from the public. 

Compiled by aviation consulting firm Mead and Hunt, the report showed that use of regional jets for two flights a day would not have a significant impact on the surrounding area.

“[This is] basically a green light,” said Friedman Memorial Airport Authority spokeswoman Candice Pate. “This is actually a finding from the FAA on the books.”

The FAA had previously completed the other necessary process for approval of regional jet operations—the Safety Management System, which was completed in April. The process involved field visits to the airport and a test run of the aircraft to ensure that the CRJ-700 could be operated safely under the same procedures used for Horizon Air’s Q-400.

The FAA will still have to give final approval to SkyWest’s modified operation specifications, which airport Manager Rick Baird said is simply a document that an airline submits to the FAA to tell it which aircraft the airline will be using at a specific airport. That approval is expected very shortly, Baird said.

Pate said that once that final approval is given, the airport would enter into discussions with SkyWest to determine when the airline can begin using the CRJ-700 at Friedman. Baird said a date for those discussions will likely be decided after the election.

“The CRJ will be a reality here sometime in the near future,” he said.

Pate, who is also a spokeswoman for Yes to Air, said that while the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority has not endorsed a local-option tax for air service, she believes that both the approval of regional jets and the tax, if passed, could lead to significant changes in air service at Sun Valley.

“Suddenly, you have a plane that can come here and tools to have discussions about minimum-revenue guarantees,” she said. “It could really change the game for this community in the next 18 to 20 months.”

Kate Wutz:

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