Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sighs of relief

    News on the fate of Friedman Memorial Airport, which serves the Sun Valley area, was on the upswing last week, but the airport is still going to need a political boost to secure its future.
    We could nearly hear the sighs of relief from airport officials when news broke that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill with enough money to keep the airport’s tower open through 2014. Funding had been set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
    The bill will still need approval by the U.S. House and Senate, but it was a positive first step given the upheaval in the outlook for the airport that’s been caused by the automatic federal budget cuts called “sequestration.” While we must be grateful for a reprieve from the federal funding axe, it is ridiculous news because the destiny of Idaho’s premier mountain resort communities is tied to the airport and the best the nation can do is guarantee little more than one year of funding.
    A one-year horizon is really no way to run a serious airport—or any serious enterprise. It creates uncertainty for most local businesses that depend heavily on the airport.
    The other good news was that the Federal Aviation Administration gave a green light to safety modifications that will keep the airport viable for use by commercial regional jets, but not for large-body jets.
    Airport officials are optimistic that the approvals will end the years-long controversy over what should be done with the airport in Hailey. We don’t share that optimism given that the airport won’t be moved out of Hailey, a fact that will provide plenty of fodder for complaints.
    However, everyone should share the officials’ relief that the airport will not continue to be blocked at every turn as it strives to survive as a key component of the area’s economic success.

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