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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 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 October 1 - 7, 2003


Airport Authority
to decide
Friedman’s future

Public debates keeping airport
in Hailey or moving it

From B3 to C3 standards

FAA designations for airport design standards are based on the type of aircraft using or expected to be using an airport. Aircraft are placed into categories under the airport reference code (ARC), which has two components: the first category is depicted by a letter (A through E), indicating aircraft approach speed. The second component relates to an aircraft’s wingspan and is depicted by a numeral (1 through 6). With improvements made in the last two years, Friedman Memorial Airport is a nearly compliant B3 airport, but use by C3 aircraft like the Horizon Airlines Dash 8 Q400 and new FAA rules require design upgrades to C3 status. Typically a change in FAA safety requirements comes when operations of larger aircraft reach 500 arrivals and departures.

Express Staff Writer

Public reaction to the possibility of a new airport serving the Wood River Valley is mixed, although generally supportive of a thorough planning process. There are advocates both for and against a move.

"I support and encourage the commission to actively investigate all possible alternatives that would facilitate accommodating regional jet service to the Wood River Valley, including looking again at alternative sites," wrote Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co. general manager. However, he urged caution in the planning process, citing a number of concerns. "If the commission concludes that relocation is the only option, and commits the community accordingly, then what will happen to the next 10 to 15 years while studies, findings, construction, etc., is going on?"

Huffman sent written comments and offered his help to the Blaine County Airport Authority in its search for the ultimate strategy and conclusion. His was one of many responses to an Airport Authority presentation on current Friedman Memorial Airport planning Wednesday, Sept. 24, in the auditorium of the old Wood River High School.

Others spoke publicly at the special town hall meeting.

"If most people go for (moving the airport), I am in the minority," said Bellevue triangle resident Jay Coleman. "But, if few people say something I will put up a stink. The (current) airport is a tool by which we can have some growth control, like zoning. Due to outside demands, government backs down on what they can do. I don’t want to see a repeat of the St. Luke’s (hospital) situation."

Other south valley residents were less hesitant about jumping into plans for a new airport.

"Go find a place for 737s," said Bellevue resident and retired United Airlines pilot, Robert Bouttier. "Make it a full airport and have yourselves an economic boom."

Helping with the search for an ultimate solution, airport planner Tom Schnetzer was charged with presenting to the public a summary of the board’s planning developments. At issue is how the airport can continue to meet government requirements for the layout of the airport as use increases.

Airports are required to review design standards every five years. Schnetzer’s presentation described how the airport is fulfilling requirements for a B3 airport as larger C3 category aircraft have already begun to use the facility. Schnetzer described a composite plan showing what is required to bring the airport up to the latest C3 standard.

Current Federal Aviation Administration policy does not give airports a choice to limit access, although, previously, Friedman authorities believed there was flexibility in meeting standards. The new rules require the airport to meet higher standards as soon as use by a higher category aircraft reaches 500 operations, including arrivals and departures..

In August, airport authority members believed that they would not be able to sell the community on changes required by a C3 designation. The board set aside Wednesday’s public hearing to present the current dilemma and get public feedback about how the community felt about focusing planning on a new site.

Public comment will still be accepted through the end of the business hours today. At the airport authority’s regular meeting Oct. 7, a final decision to go forward with planning for a new site for the airport is possible. Proposals for a new airport would include making some improvements to the current site in the interim, Schnetzer said.

Once all comment is in, the board will deliberate amongst themselves and make a decision on which way to go, board chairwoman Mary Ann Mix said. "It’s about future planning."

Bringing the airport into compliance with FAA B3 standards has been the main objective since 1994. Completing the work has been possible mostly through federal airport improvement grants.

There is considerable concern about the future of Friedman even with a new airport. Could it become a private airport for general aviation if a new federally funded airport is approved?

The question begs further consideration, which the airport authority says it will make in the planning process.

"I have taken abuse for promoting moving," said Bellevue City Councilman Parke Mitchell, representing the city. "Our major complaint is not with commercial aircraft, but with private planes, jets flying over. All planes should be landing (at the new airport) and not flying over Bellevue."

Mitchell’s comments were met with applause.

Schnetzer explained that his employer, the Minneapolis-based Mead & Hunt group, has been working on the airport master plan for the past year and a half and it is now largely implemented.

Airports are dynamic facilities that are continually changing to accommodate changes in aircraft design and passenger demand, said Schnetzer. The airport has been changing since it was first built as a dirt runway.

"As pressure for use reaches physical limitations of the community, you have to look at another site," he said. "The goal of the current master plan is to eliminate as many safety deviations as possible from FAA requirements, while not expanding the impact on the adjacent community."



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