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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Friedman seeing quieter times

Airport noise complaints in a nose dive

Express Staff Writer

At its regular monthly meeting a week ago, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority’s stack of agenda reports included what obviously is good news—only one noise complaint from a nearby homeowner about a parked jet’s auxiliary power unit running at 4:30 a.m. during the airport’s pre-dawn curfew.

That was enough for airport manager Rick Baird to happily comment later, "The program is working."

The "program" is Friedman’s voluntary program to reduce aircraft noise as a major source of complaints.

In past months, the governing board’s monthly agenda contained reports of a half dozen or more noise complaints.

Actually located within walking distance of downtown Hailey, the airport is virtually surrounded by mushrooming residential housing.

Although residents knew the airport was there when buying their homes (Friedman dates back to the early 1900s), this didn’t lessen complaints about nighttime operations and other airport-related noise.

The geography of Friedman’s location between mountainous terrain also limits the ability of pilots to maneuver away from the source of most complaints, the city of Bellevue, which lies under the approach path to the airport when landing aircraft are descending over a populated area.

Aircraft noise has helped accelerate the study of whether a new airport should be built at a distant site outside the Wood River Valley.

Baird set out two years ago to minimize the noise and thus minimize complaints.

As Baird has reported to the board periodically, the program is aimed at pilots and aircraft owners and at the community.

He attempts to inform the community about the inevitable noises of arriving and departing aircraft in hopes of developing patience. He and his staff also investigate each complaint and report back to the complainant about results.

With pilots and aircraft owners, he has taken a broad approach of education: avoid takeoffs and landings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., not to use APUs for longer than 30 minutes (and never during the curfew), and never operate to and from the north over Hailey if the aircraft weighs more than 12,500 pounds.

Offending pilots and their aircraft owners receive a letter from Baird citing the violation and asking for future cooperation.

Baird also produced a video of noise abatement procedures for pilots, and distributed CD copies throughout the nation.

A noise abatement committee was formed to air community concerns and complaints and to make recommendations to Baird.

One of Baird’s obstacles is explaining to critics of noise that the abatement program is voluntary and the airport lacks authority to enforce rules with penalties.

Baird said, however, that during a trip to Washington he would meet staffs of the Idaho congressional delegation to discuss legislation to ban older, noisy Stage 2 jets from Friedman, a long shot at best. Stage 2 jets are now a small part of corporate fleets.

The aging jets have been banned at Jackson, Wyo., because the airport is in Grand Teton National Park.

Although banning them at Friedman is a long shot, Baird told the Mountain Express that officials might be willing to give airport operators more flexibility in dealing with local noise problems.

Baird also told the board that Federal Aviation Administration changes in enroute altitude rules and aircraft separation will begin to squeeze Stage 2 jets into obsolescence because of their operating limitations.


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