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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 20 - June 26, 2001


New landing system back on target

Express Staff Writer

A proposal to install a new navigation system at Hailey’s airport is back on track, says Rick Baird, airport manager.

The tide has shifted dramatically since a report released April 30 concluded the installation proposal was stalled in a morass of Federal Aviation Administration bureaucracy, Baird said.

The project began in 1999 when Congress approved Friedman Memorial Airport as one of six locations to receive the experimental Transponder Landing System to test its ability to help struggling small-town airports.

TLS would give pilots a more precise navigation capability than currently available.

By allowing pilots to fly through heavy clouds, rather than under them and closer to the ground, the TLS would improve landing reliability, something tourist-dependent businesses like. Safety, and the airport’s relations with neighbors who are sensitive to low-flying plane noise, may also benefit.

The system was scheduled for completion in January 2002. But the 10-page report, paid for by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Co., found a "noticeable lack of coordinated leadership, management attention, and organizational priority being given to the TLS program by the FAA."

The report’s authors, Frederick Isaac and Temple Johnson, both veterans of the FAA now working for InterFlight Services consulting firm, in Bellevue, Wash., did not find any specific cause for delay other than "lack of interest" and "confusion" at the FAA.

"One manager advis[ed] us that the TLS program was on schedule," they wrote, "while another said it is possible that it may never" be completed.

The authors recommended that Blaine County officials closely monitor the FAA’s installation schedule.

To help, Baird announced June 5 during a Friedman Memorial Airport Authority meeting his intention to travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the project’s completion.

He planned to gather together FAA officials with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and ask whether the FAA intends to finish the TLS project, and if not, how would the FAA help improve safety, reliability and community relations at the Hailey airport?

Last week, however, Baird said, an FAA aircraft equipped to work out new flight paths for the TLS landed in Hailey.

"That would tell me they’re getting very close to issuing TLS procedures for pilots," something that should happen near project completion.

"The project appears to be speeding up," Baird said, perhaps because the report "made it where the FAA is paying attention to the program."

Baird said he doesn’t know of any specific reason the program stalled in the first place.

He said he is prepared to travel to Washington, D.C., in July if the project appears to derail again.

Baird, local officials and local businesses like the TLS project because the federal government would pay the $750,000 installation price, then give the system to the Hailey airport after two years.

Ongoing maintenance after that would be from $5,000 to $80,000 per year, Baird said.

The Blaine County Air Transportation Advisory group, which commissioned the report, includes officials from the airport, city governments, chambers of commerce, Sun Valley Co. and private citizens.

Another report the advisory group commissioned is due for release June 30. It will recommend ways to increase commercial air service to Hailey.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.