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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003


FAA supports airport search option

Interim standards for Friedman loosened

"If this thing is shut down, not only will (the community) lose a lot of access, but it will lose a significant economic engine."

— THOMAS B. CAMPION, "Save Friedman Airport" petition representative

Express Staff Writer

Hailey airport officials may not stop the process of working to achieve the latest level of safety compliance for larger aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration has reported to the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority. But discussions at a meeting in Seattle last month have resulted in a better compromise on interim requirements than the board expected as they move forward with the latest master plan, which includes looking for a site for a new airport.

Airport manger Rick Baird and Airport Authority Commissioner Mary Ann Mix reported at the board’s meeting Tuesday, Nov. 4, that the FAA would not relent on requirements that the airport continue to upgrade standards for larger aircraft.

As the airport nears completion, upgrades to meet B3 requirements specified in the 1994 airport master plan were designed to eliminate safety deviations from the runway protection zone. The Hailey airport is now required to meet design standards to accommodate larger, C3 aircraft.

The FAA said Friedman Memorial Airport must meet the new standards, but the governing body also said the new requirements could not be met at the current location because of the impact on the community, said Hailey City Councilwoman Martha Burke in her report to the council Monday, Nov. 9.

Among other improvements, the C3 designation would require a 1000-foot buffer at either end of the runway and buffers laterally, which in the case of the Hailey Airport would mean moving Highway 75 and acquiring more private property. A compromise is acceptable to the FAA, because the Airport Authority has announced plans to look for a new airport.

The airport allows some larger aircraft (heavier planes with wider wingspans) to land at the airport, something the FAA has allowed by granting waivers to airports in the past.

"The message is the (FAA) hasn’t given (the Airport Authority) a lot of choices," said Ketchum attorney Thomas B. Campion, who is representing a group advocating to "Save Friedman Airport." "It seems the FAA is giving them some slack, giving them an informal waiver."

Because the authority has chosen to go ahead with directing the latest airport master plan to include consideration of a new location, the FAA has agreed to allow the airport to take some less drastic upgrade measures.

The FAA agreed to fund a feasibility study, which will be part of the new master plan to see if building a new airport away from Hailey makes sense for the tourism-based economy of the valley and if such a plan works for the community. The FAA asked that the airport look at making interim improvements: bringing the airport closer to required C3 standards as prospects of a new location are studied.

Interim improvements should include lateral grading alongside the runway and extending the runway 200 feet to the south. The FAA also asked the airport to study the possibility of installing a breakaway concrete crash zone, a program called EMASS at the north end of the runway. Much like a runaway truck ramp, the safety system has been installed at other airports around the country. The cost, about $5 million, is prohibitive the authority said, but for now the FAA has asked that the airport at least look into the safety buffer.

The airport will complete its previously scheduled upgrades, including improvements and expansion of the terminal and moving the control tower, but the arrangement with the FAA is satisfactory for the interim as the airport moves ahead with its study of how and where to move airport operations, Baird said. "We thought they would say, ‘no matter what you have to have 1000 feet on either end of the runway.’" The study will also look at what to do with the current runway.

Campion presented the "Save Friedman Airport" petition to the Airport Authority asking it to direct its energies toward improving the safety and facilities of the existing airport. The petition had 208 names on it.

The advocacy group argues that the valley cannot support two airports and that a new airport would force Friedman to close.

"Their goal is to keep the airport open whether there is a new airport or not," Campion said. "The primary purpose is to preserve at least (general aviation service)."

The group cites the 1990 decision not to go forward with a new airport. Moving the airport will "permanently and adversely" affect the quality of life in the valley, the petition signers argue.

"If this thing is shut down, not only will (the community) lose a lot of access, but it will lose a significant economic engine," Campion said.

Authority board member Leonard Harlig said it is not a forgone conclusion that Friedman will be closed. The feasibility study will look at all possibilities.

Improvements planned at Friedman would continue over the next 10 years, Mix said. The airport can expect about $1 million per year in grants from the federal government, which would largely pay for the improvements.



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