By PAMELA JENKINS
Three summers ago, I moved into the Chantrelle community, three miles south of Friedman Memorial Airport. Clearly I was aware of the airport’s existence and the mountain flight paths before the purchase was final. My only mistake was believing the online research I did prior to the purchase pointing towards an eventual airport relocation. I had thought we had done our due diligence with a new airport on the horizon and an in-place noise abatement program.
Almost immediately after moving in, we attended airport coffee talks, took the airport tour, and have tried to attend as many of the airport board meetings as our schedules permit. Because of our proximity to the airport, we wanted to be sure we knew what was going on.
We live in the center of the community, which gives me a unique opportunity to be aware of outgoing and incoming flights. I have occasionally, in the past, brought to the attention of the airport via the airport noise complaint line about planes not conforming to the proper flight path. Each call has been met with a courteous reply from the airport and suggestion that I have been wrong—that there is no way to monitor this; no radar, no video, no photo would prove my allegations.
After a particularly noisy Thursday and Friday recently, I decided to conduct my own survey. I don’t think I would have done this except that it had been suggested to me by airport personnel that I was probably unaware of flights that were in compliance with the voluntary noise abatement policy because I did not notice them. From the first flight in at 6:50 a.m. to the last in at 10:25 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, I counted 59 flights. Of those flights, 47 were in blatant non-compliance. Eleven were in total compliance, but only one of these was an arriving flight; and one small plane was clearly headed farther north on the western side of the valley. Most of those in non-compliance were directly overhead of my home, which, as I mentioned, lies in the center of the Chantrelle community; not the east valley, not the west valley, the center of the valley. That’s a less than 20 percent compliance rate.
Each of these flights was noted—either by a telephone call, or once the complaint line was full, by an e-mail. So yes, my plan was to completely make a one-day nuisance of myself, which was apparently very successful, because clearly I had touched a nerve. I received a beautifully crafted e-mail response from Rick Baird, the airport manager for whom I have the utmost respect, once again outlining what is done by the airport to request that pilots comply. To which my response is, that is clearly not enough, because it is not working. I cannot say the same for our county commissioner, Larry Schoen, whose response was to advise me with an unsolicited e-mail that I had a “victim’s mentality.” My goal was to forcefully bring to the airport’s attention that we in Hailey/Bellevue have a real problem here, that is not going away, especially with all of this new money being poured into the current airport location. Yes, the problem exists. The bigger question is when and how will the problem be resolved?
Pamela Jenkins lives in Bellevue.