KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration has given approval to the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority to pursue two possible paths to improve safety for passengers flying into the resort area of central Idaho, an official said.
Dave Mitchell of Boise-based T-O Engineers said the improvement will bring the airport in Hailey into compliance with runway safety standards by relocating and extending the airport's taxiways and relocating airport hangars.
The Idaho Mountain Express reports (http://bit.ly/VQxBso) in a story published Friday that Mitchell also said T-O Engineers will be planning for a replacement airport and that the FAA is paying for a siting study.
The FAA says the airport should be improved or moved because expanding residential areas and high hills make the current airfield too dangerous for larger aircraft. Local leaders are concerned about the potential loss of commercial service and the economic damage to Blaine County where the tourist destinations of Sun Valley and Ketchum are located.
"We need to move forward," said Friedman Memorial Airport Authority member Tom Bowman. "We should insist on relentless forward movement."
A plan to move the airport south stalled when expenses soared to more than $300 million, forcing officials to consider expanding the current airport to meet federal standards. In August of 2011, the FAA said it had stopped work on an environmental impact study on a new airport because of the increased costs and potential impacts on wildlife.
Currently, aircrafts such as the Horizon Air Q400 turboprop are allowed to fly into Friedman Memorial because of a special agreement between the airport and the FAA. That aircraft falls under a congressional mandate requiring runway safety standards that must be met by 2015.
The requirements include a safety area that must be free of steep grades and bumps higher than 3 inches. The zone must also be at least 500 feet wide and centered on the runway.
Mitchell said that under the plan accepted by the FAA, the company would first complete construction projects within the existing airport footprint. The next step would be to look into expanding the airport by acquiring land to replace lost aircraft parking and snow storage.
Mitchell said that even with the improvements, aircraft with wingspans wider than 100 feet wouldn't be allowed to operate at the airport.
Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com