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For the week of May 30 through June 5, 2001

Study: Airport probably can’t ban noisiest jets

Express Staff Writer

Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport probably can’t ban the handful of noisy, outdated stage-2 corporate jets that fly into the Wood River Valley, concludes a study funded by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Co.

The planes often leave a flurry of complaints in their wake from neighboring residents.

Still in draft form until at least next week, the report seeks to find ways to eliminate or reduce stage-2 jet noise, while promoting tourism through better air service.

The "stage" designation measures noise levels.

Sun Valley Co. general manager Wally Huffman would especially like to see more and bigger jets servicing the area. But that might inflame Bellevue and Hailey residents, who say they get few of the tourist dollars generated by the airport, but all the noise. Banning outdated stage-2 jets and encouraging newer, larger but quieter stage-3 jets might solve the problem.

But the Federal Aviation Administration historically has opposed airports’ banning any particular aircraft. FAA officials have said that might interfere with interstate commerce, the report states. To restrict the jets, small airports like Hailey’s, will probably need to form a nationwide consortium to lobby for new federal legislation.

The Blaine County Air Transportation Advisory Group, whose members include officials from the airport, city governments, chambers of commerce, Sun Valley Co. and private citizens, commissioned the report.

Except for statements in a press release, Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce director Carol Waller refused to comment on the 15-page report because it is still in draft form and not ready for release to the public, she said. Airport manager Rick Baird declined to comment for the same reason.

Air Transportation Advisory Group chair Tom Blanchard, in an interview Friday, said he believes that 10 to 30 percent of the noise complaints the airport gets each month are caused by stage-2 aircraft.

The number of complaints fluctuates, reaching nearly 60 during a summer month, to only a few in a winter month, the report states.

Friedman airport already has a voluntary noise abatement program that encourages pilots to fly in a way that minimizes noise to surrounding communities. The program requests, but doesn’t require, that pilots avoid flying between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The request is not always heeded.

The report recommends that airport managers consider having the FAA review the safety of nighttime operations. If safety issues arise, then the airport could be closed to nighttime flights.

Blaine County, Bellevue and Hailey planners could also change land-use zoning around the airport to encourage compatible uses, the report states. Building codes could require noise-attenuating features such as soundproof windows and extra insulation. The report doesn’t state who would pay for the features.

Other recommendations include exploring new ways to ensure that pilots know about the noise abatement program, and continuing to help the public understand why the airport "must operate as it does, how it operates and its value to the community."

Frederick Isaac and Temple Johnson, veterans of the FAA now working for a Bellevue, Wash.,-based consulting firm called InterFlight Services Inc., interviewed over 40 people for the report. Four were Bellevue residents or city officials.

Two other reports are also scheduled to be released in the next few weeks. One covers the proposed installation of new navigation equipment at Friedman to improve foul-weather landing. The other report analyses market competition and the possibility of beginning regularly scheduled commercial air service using 50- to 70-passenger regional jets.


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