Saturday, September 15, 2012

Burley Municipal (KBYI), Idaho: Airport Users Formalize Group

BURLEY • Pilots and citizens interested in the fate of the Burley airport have formed an organization to make sure their voices are heard.

The Burley Airport Users Association met Thursday and adopted bylaws that defined the group’s purpose. It also elected officers to represent the membership.

“I don’t know if it’s fair to characterize us as wanting to support this airport unequivocally without looking at some of the other options,” said Jack Hunsaker, who spearheaded the group and was elected vice president. “If they want to proceed, we want to look at the options and have some input and help them determine which one is the best site.”

For a time, pilot Joe Larsen was on the committee tasked with examining new airport sites, but later resigned.

Larsen said the new airport users’ group does not necessarily want preservation of the Burley airport as it sits today, but rather of a Burley airport in general. The sentiment, he said, comes in response to an statement made in April by Burley Mayor Terry Greenman that the city would petition the Federal Aviation Administration to close the airport if it could not be relocated.

“The safety record of the Burley municipal airport exceeds that of most of the airports in Idaho,” said Larsen. “Safety is a big issue that hits a raw nerve with pilots and users and the characterization that it is an unsafe airport. That’s one of the things we want to dispel as a group.”

Hunsaker said he researched the National Transportation Safety Board records for the last 30 years and the two fatality crashes that have occurred near the airport were both due to pilot error.

Former Burley councilman Jay Lenkersdorfer, who attended the meeting, said the underlying driving force to relocate the airport lies in economic development of the airport ground by the city.

“I think economic development is a big piece of it,” said Lenkersdorfer. “Obviously it’s not good to put an airport in the middle of a city but it happened that way. Ideally you’d have it somewhere else. It’s the last big piece of ground inside the city limits that the city could sell power to and that’s a big economic factor.”

Burley Administrator Mark Mitton said during an interview Friday that economic development of the land has not been discussed by city officials.

“Jay wasn’t around at the beginning of this,” Mitton said.

The city has been trying to relocate the airport for more than 15 years.

Mitton said the issue is about the “future of the Burley airport.”

City officials are concerned about having an “adequate airport” and an “improved airport that’s safe,” Mitton said.

Mitton said the city has looked at other options at the current site, including making a runway longer. But because of the airport’s location, it doesn’t have proper safety zones.

Larsen said there is also concern of financial compensation by pilots who have purchased hangars at the airport and by business owners at the airport.

Members also expressed concern that hangar costs at a new facility would not be affordable.

Minidoka County Commissioner Bob Moore said if the airport users and the public want to relocate the airport and the true costs are publicized, he would not oppose the project.

Moore said the cost estimates change each time they are discussed by city officials and he does not think accurate estimates on federal reimbursements have been presented.


No comments:

Post a Comment