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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of August 7 - 13, 2002


Airport in showdown over bigger jet landings

Express Staff Writer

The multi-millionaire owner of a large corporate jet prohibited from using Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport is threatening a showdown that Blaine County Commissioner Mary Ann Mix says could get ugly.

If, that is, the showdown ever occurs.

An attorney for the Tutor-Saliba Corporation, of California, wrote Monday in a letter faxed to airport attorney Barry Luboviski that the company’s Boeing Business Jet, a larger and heavier corporate model of the popular Boeing 737 airliner, "will immediately begin operating its BBJ into and out of Friedman at the approximate weight of 115,000 pounds."

And therein lies the crux of the eyeball-to-eyeball impasse that has pitted the airport against Tutor-Saliba since last November—the weight of the aircraft.

Since 1991, Hailey’s airport has restricted the field to aircraft weighing no more than 95,000 pounds gross takeoff weight.

Airport Manager Rick Baird said his engineers have calculated that regular use of the runway by aircraft of more than 95,000 pounds eventually would damage it, forcing it to be closed for as long as 60 to 90 days for reconstruction. An exception can’t be made just for the Tutor-Saliba jet because other owners of larger jets also would demand access.

Also, with the airport closed for repairs, the Wood River Valley’s tourism industry would be severely damaged.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the Tutor-Saliba jet had not appeared at the airport.

The Boeing Business Jet at issue is owned by part-time Ketchum resident Ronald Tutor, owner of Tutor-Saliba, who also has a twin-engine Gulfstream III jet he uses for flights to the Wood River Valley.

The Boeing Business Jet recently was featured in a cable TV program segment about high-end luxury corporate aircraft.

In his faxed letter, Santa Monica attorney Patrick E. Bailey said Baird had not provided sufficient grounds for denying use of the aircraft at the Hailey field, and that engineers retained by Tutor-Saliba dispute Baird’s need for weight restrictions.

The attorney also claimed Baird is violating the Federal Aviation Administration’s provisions in grant funds by denying his client access to the airport.

But Baird said he has an FAA letter supporting his position.

Runway weight limits are noted on all pilots’ flight planning documents, with one section requiring pilots to obtain permission from airports when their aircraft exceed published limits.

Mix, the Blaine County Commission representative on the airport authority, told the Mountain Express that Tutor-Saliba’s attorneys attempted a "back room deal" by requesting a private meeting. She and Baird invited them to an authority meeting in June, at which they did not appear, and then to another meeting Tuesday.

Mix and Baird also said that if the jet lands at Hailey, it’s too large for existing parking spots, and Baird would be forced to park it on the runway and close the airport to all operations.

Mix also said if the plane lands at Hailey, she would undertake to file charges against the pilot for operating an aircraft unsafely, and attempt to have his license lifted.

The impasse began last November, when Tutor-Saliba requested permission to land the jet in Hailey. The request was rejected in December.

The Boeing Business Jet is an offspring of the Boeing 737, some 3,500 of which operate throughout the world. But the BBJ is larger and designed for the most sumptuous tastes of a government leader or corporate executive.

The BBJ is 110 feet, 4 inches long, whereas the Gulfstream V, one of the most popular and expensive new corporate jets operating out of Hailey, is 96 feet 5 inches.

The BBJ’s certified gross takeoff weight is 171,000 pounds, while the G-V is 90,500.

Opening an airport such as Hailey’s to the BBJ would be a benefit to its manufacturer, Boeing, which is attempting to sell it to corporations now using smaller jets with less range and smaller capacity.

Hailey airport authorities’ tough policies on jet size has irritated the area’s tourism interests, which contend that opening the field to larger aircraft will encourage airlines to launch destination flights to Hailey from the East and West coasts and other major cities.

But the airport’s master plan is firm—that it will never relax its policies, and accommodating larger jets will have to be done elsewhere, presumably meaning a new airport.

Baird’s unbending enforcement extends to noise abatement as well.

Baird once even denied permission for the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, to take off in a military jet before dawn.

He also wrote a complaint letter to President Bill Clinton when the commandant of the U.S. Marines broke the noise abatement policy and took off early. The White House in effect apologized and said the general would no longer ignore such airport policies.



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