By Katherine Wutz
Aviation consultants Mead and Hunt presented eight scenarios for expanding Friedman Memorial Airport at its existing site during an Airport Authority meeting Tuesday, but emphasized that not all are realistic.
Mead and Hunt was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a 90-day study of how the airport’s layout could be expanded or modified to comply with design standards for C-III aircraft such as regional jets and the Horizon Air Q400.
Dave Mitchell, spokesman for Mead and Hunt, presented eight such options at the meeting. Four would bring the airport into full compliance with C-III design standards, but the other four would require a safety review and approved special operating procedures for the FAA to allow operation of C-III aircraft at the airport.
Mitchell emphasized before presenting the alternatives that he viewed the options from a technical perspective only—that is, he was only evaluating what could be done from an objective point of view, not suggesting which options might be popular or appealing.
“Believe me, I understand there are political, environmental and other issues that are involved,” he said. “Our job right now is to view [these options] technically.”
Mitchell said that the first four options, which would bring the airport to full compliance, were dramatic and included solely to show the FAA what it would take to reach compliance at the current site.
The first option involved shifting the runway and the highway to the east, acquiring 88 homes and moving the Wood River Trails bike path to the east. Those movements would bring the width of the required runway safety area and obstacle-free area, neither of which are wide enough currently, into compliance.
Mitchell said the option also would require shutting down the airport for two years, and that the main benefit would be that the airport terminal and hangars would not need to be moved.
“It’s difficult, to say the least,” Mitchell said, adding, “The environmental impact is huge when you are moving that many people.”
The second alternative included moving state Highway 75 to the west of the airport, which would not require acquiring as many houses in the Woodside neighborhood of Hailey—though some would be located in the new runway’s obstacle-free zone and would need to be torn down.
Alternatives three and four would eventually require moving the terminal and other infrastructure, Mitchell said, because those options call for shifting the runway either west or south into the Flying Hat Ranch property. Mitchell said that in option three, the terminal would be moved to provide room for the runway and the runway safety area, while option four would simply be inefficient.
Airport Authority member and former Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant said the city of Hailey had serious concerns with the report, especially the first four options, and would likely comment on the report before it is sent to the FAA in November.
“They understood that the report is technical in nature only and that there will be other reports to take us down the path we’re going,” she said. “[But] they do have concerns.”
Mitchell’s last four options contemplated moving Highway 75 east between the existing power line and the bike path and not moving the runway at all—avoiding taking out homes in Woodside.
“You can move Highway 75 to provide the obstacle-free area without acquiring residential property,” he said. “Whether that fits with [the Idaho Transportation Department’s] plans for Highway 75, we don’t know.”
While the fifth and sixth options involve moving the runway south into the Flying Hat Ranch, options seven and eight require no shift. However, option seven involves losing a significant amount of general aviation parking and hangars.
The firm’s last option, option eight, was billed as “modest expansion” by the firm. It is essentially the same as option seven, but would require buying land in the Airport West industrial area and on the Flying Hat ranch to rebuild some of the hangars and parking lost in option seven.
“That area is occupied and it’s light industrial land, so that could be expensive,” Mitchell said.
The land is to the south of Rocky Mountain Hardware and Silver Creek Ford, and is occupied by the Sun Valley Masonry Center and other businesses.
The final report with cost estimates will be presented to the Airport Authority board during its November meeting. Once approved by the board, the report will be sent to the FAA for analysis and review.