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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.
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For the week of October 8 - 14, 2003


Airport Authority says airport must move

New facility planned
to meet long-term demands

Airport codes

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

The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority decided at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Oct. 7, to begin the search for a site outside Hailey for a larger airport.

The authority agreed to accept the recommendation of its consultant to find a new airport site to accommodate the long-term demands of the facility serving the resort communities of the Wood River Valley.

"The purpose of the decision is to decide how best to implement the master plan," authority chairwoman Mary Ann Mix, said prior to the meeting.

The decision Tuesday also means the authority must continue to make minimal changes to the Hailey airport to maintain FAA safety standards. Airport Manager Rick Baird said he and airport authority members plan to meet with FAA officials prior to their November meeting to determine the minimum requirements necessary to maintain airport safety.

A Joint Powers Agreement adopted in May 1994 by the City of Hailey and Blaine County established the operating parameters for the governing body of the airport.

Members of the governing body usually include two representatives from the county, two from the City of Hailey, and one appointee from the flying community, Mix said. When city and county government terms are up before the two-year airport authority terms, members are often kept on to help keep consistency in a planning process, which is lengthy.

Mix served as a member as a Hailey city councilwoman and currently serves as a county commissioner. Leonard Harlig, a former county commissioner, still serves on the airport authority although he’s no longer on the commission.

The function of the authority is to guide master planning. The group guides the effort to identify the capacity of various airport facilities, says the agreement, which in turn defines the point at which the airport can no longer accommodate additional activity.

The last sentence in the preamble to the 1994 Master Plan Update defines the "trigger point" at which the authority must guide planning in a new direction.

"The Friedman Memorial Airport is critical to the success of our resort economy, yet it has an enormous impact on the adjacent community. The goals of this Master Plan are to eliminate as many of the safety deviations as possible while not expanding the impact on the adjacent community," the preamble states. "We seek the highest quality and safest airport possible within the physical limits imposed by the geography and the human use of adjacent lands. As pressure for use reaches the physical limits of the facility, we need to look for alternatives away from the valley cities rather than expansion at the present site."

Currently, two elements dictating whether or not the authority would go forward with a new direction in planning are new rules of the Federal Aviation Administration and public comment.

Mix said the period for gathering public comment has been sufficient, according to the typical process of public notification and public hearings.

At a public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 29, in the old Wood River High School, the vast majority of the public assembled spoke in favor of moving the airport. At the least, many residents were opposed to expansion of the current site in Hailey. But a major question on the table is what economic impact a move would have on the Wood River Valley and the area around potential future site.

According to the FAA, Friedman has outgrown its current design, which is for B3 aircraft. The airport does allow larger C3 class aircraft to land, but limited use is no longer allowed according to the FAA. The government says it will enforce its rules rather than grant waivers as it has in the past.

Engineering consultants Mead & Hunt drew up a composite of the most saleable ideas for how to sell a site expansion in Hailey to the public.

According to their best scheme, to bring the site up to standard the authority would have to acquire 45 acres from the Spencer Eccles Flying Hat Ranch to the south of the airport runway. The authority would also have to request that the Idaho Department of Transportation move Highway 75 further to the east.

Buying the land would be expensive, said Airport Manager Rick Baird. When the airport commenced its B3 improvements in 1998, which extended the runway 350 feet, the cost for 40 acres was $4.3 million.



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