For the week of October 14 thru October 20, 1998  

Plans for landing system stall

Express Staff Writer

o14run.gif (8582 bytes)Inaction on a bill before Congress could delay installation of the Transponder Landing System by this winter as planned (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Due to inaction on a key bill in Congress, installation of a more precise navigation system at Friedman Memorial Airport is unlikely to happen by this winter, the airport’s manager said yesterday.

Airport authorities had initially hoped to get the Transponder Landing System in place by this fall. Once installed, the system is expected to eliminate a majority of the weather-related aircraft diversions to other airports that plague winter travelers to Sun Valley.

However, airport manager Rick Baird said the airport authority is waiting for Congress to pass the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which has a line item to fund TLS installation at small airports, including Friedman.

"As the budget process whines on, the less likely it is that we will get the system in this winter," Baird said. "Our goal is to have it operating next year."

If the line item doesn’t make it through Congress at all, Friedman hopes to develop a financing plan of its own, Baird said.

Purchase and installation of the system has a price tag of near $1 million, which will be paid over a two-year period to the manufacturer, Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corporation (ANPC) in Hood River, Ore. The price includes maintenance of the system for five years, after which the maintenance fee will run $5,000 to $15,000 annually.

Formerly anonymous, brothers Keith and Bruce McCaw have offered to loan the airport $250,000 for the installation of the system.

"This is a gesture, a genuine effort, to enhance the safety and reliability of the airport, and also to help the community," Baird said. "The board is very appreciative."

The remaining $750,000 would still need to be raised from aviation and resort businesses.

According to airport officials, the TLS holds several advantages over the current Global Positioning System.The TLS uses radio signals from the ground, and directs pilots left, right, up, and down; it is much more precise than the GPS, which uses signals from satellites.

Officials said the TLS enables a pilot to land when there is a cloud ceiling as low as 400 feet with up to one-mile visibility; the GPS cannot direct a pilot through cloud cover, and can’t be used with cloud cover lower than 2,500 feet, and less than five-mile visibility.

Because aircraft can make a higher approach into Friedman with the TLS, operations are expected to be much quieter.

According to Baird, the TLS system will eliminate a majority of the busing between Friedman and the Twin Falls airport caused by diverted flights in inclement weather. The system may also result in commercial air carriers adding more flights or regional jet service to Friedman.

Baird said a majority of commercial aircraft are already equipped to work with the TLS, which doesn’t require additional equipment as the GPS does.

If the authority is unable to fund the purchase, the equipment will be returned to ANPC, and ANPC will refund $200,000 of the $250,000 installation fee.


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