Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Committees support air tower funding

Friedman facility now deemed critical to operations

Express Staff Writer

    Bills passed by U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees last week included money to keep the Friedman Memorial Airport tower open through September 2014.
    Fiscal 2014 appropriations bills passed by the individual committees include $140 million to fund the nation’s 149 FAA contract air-traffic control towers. The federal-contract towers are those not staffed by FAA employees but by private firms under contract with the agency. The tower at Freidman airport in Hailey is one of them.
    The towers’ continued operation was put into jeopardy by the federal “sequester” budget cuts early this year, though federal legislation passed in April secured temporary funding through this September.
    Funding for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, will not be assured until a Department of Transportation appropriations bill is passed by the full Congress and signed by the president.
    In February, Friedman airport Manager Rick Baird said closure of the tower would not put an end to commercial operations at the airport. He said planes could communicate with a tower in Salt Lake City, which could cause delays but would not halt flights. However, in a meeting at the airport on June 4-5, FAA representatives told Friedman officials that commercial flights could not use the airport without an operating tower, Baird said during an Airport Authority meeting on Tuesday.
    “The closure of the tower would be the end of commercial air service for our valley,” he said.

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