BLACKFOOT — Mayor Paul Loomis spoke to about two dozen McCarley Field users about airport improvements, the budget and a potential future move to a different location at a special meeting held Tuesday night.
The existing airport, which is nestled between Jensen’s Grove and the Blackfoot Golf Course just east of Interstate 15, doesn’t have space to expand and become an FAA approved B-II facility. The current local Blackfoot airport is designated B-I because of its limited space between the main runway and taxi strip.
However, the McCarley Field Airport in Blackfoot does see about 1,200 flights of larger wingspan aircraft use the facility during summer months when agricultural aerial spraying takes place. Western Aerial Applicators owner Brandon Vistor said his operation involves about 1,200 B-II sized aircraft flying in and out of Blackfoot each season. FAA safety rules put the cap for B-I airports at 500 flights annually for heavier aircraft with larger wingspans.
“We’re not making this airport bigger,” Mayor Loomis told the crowd.
Tadd Warner, a consultant for Armstrong Consulting, said an examination of alternate locations for a larger local airport would begin next year, but improvements made possible by a $530,320 grant from the FAA will continue at McCarley Field.
“It’s a process that takes eight to 10 years to complete,” Warner said about putting an airport in a different location.
Using the FAA grant money, the existing airport received a new rubberized emulsion fog seal on its runway last year. In addition new runway lights and a beacon will be installed this year. The new lighting system will be pilot-controlled with incoming aircraft able to trigger brighter lights along the runway as needed.
Warner said people need to understand that when it comes to the airport’s budget, only 6 percent comes from Blackfoot taxpayers, with the city being the sponsoring agency.
“Ninety-four percent comes from people who buy airline tickets,” Warner said. “It’s the flying public that pays for airport improvements.”
Small airports all over the nation benefit from a special surtax attached to every commercial airline ticket.
Blackfoot airport monitor Randy Wareing captured the consensus of those attending the meeting when he said everyone loves the existing facility.
“People love this airport,” Wareing said. “It’s a perfect airport to learn how to fly.”
In addition to grants, McCarley Field receives its funding from airport leases granted to the owners of hangers and the agricultural-application business, as well as the sale of airplane fuel and the operation of a small shuttle to and from the airport.
“The funds stay at the airport,” Loomis said. “It’s not diverted to streets or sanitation.”
Work done by city departments, like snow removal at the airport, is coded so only airport projects are paid for with airport revenue, according to the mayor.
Since taking office in January, Loomis has been attending meetings with people who keep the airport operating on a weekly basis.
“We’ve never had that kind of support here,” Wareing said.
All those who use the Blackfoot strip regularly shared their personal stories about flying in and out of Blackfoot and their affection for the local airport. Among those speaking at Tuesday’s meeting was Keith Jensen, a member of the Sky Riders Flying Club based in Pocatello. He said Blackfoot offers a friendly atmosphere lost in Pocatello.
Experimental Aircraft Association President Natalie Bergevin said it is a collective effort of volunteers who have helped make improvements to the Blackfoot Airport.
She would like to see more activities to draw pilots from around the region, including northern Utah, Carey, Idaho Falls and Rexburg.
She announced that the EAA is sponsoring a fly-in breakfast on Saturday, April 26, beginning at
“I remember when this airport was really fun,” Wareing said. “This airport can just be buzzing.”