Friday, January 3, 2014

Ease up

    The city of Hailey should ease its “nothing outside the fence” policy regarding Friedman Memorial Airport when relatively minor changes would help the airport meet safety-related requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.
    Hailey residents are benefitting from the FAA’s easing of restrictions on landing regional jets. The jets are quieter than the retired prop jets and because they carry more passengers, fewer flights are necessary on the same routes. The area’s economy is benefitting as well.
    Even so, last month Hailey refused to let the airport buy a small parcel of property outside the airport’s boundaries on its northwest corner to allow it to meet a safety standard. The proposed parcel is bounded by commercial property.
    As part owner/operator of the airport with Blaine County, Hailey controls decisions on expansion. A succession of mayors and members of the City Council for decades resisted proposals to extend the runway and other areas beyond the current footprint. The city’s stance rightly protected the airport’s residential neighbors from noise and other noxious impacts and forced an unsuccessful process to relocate the airport.
    However, when small changes to the airport’s footprint would make the airport safer without significant impacts on residential areas, the city should get on board.
    Long-time City Councilwoman Martha Burke, who represents the city on the airport’s governing board, last month urged the city to ease its policy on the small piece of land. The mayor and the rest of the City Council disagreed.
    They should reconsider. Keeping commercial air service in the valley has got to be a partnership proposition with the FAA. Just saying “No” to even the smallest changes outside the airport fence won’t get the city, pilots, passengers or the local economy what they need: safe, stable, reliable, modern, commercial air service.

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