Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Big changes at Friedman Memorial Airport (KSUN) in 2014: New tax and new construction help fuel rebirth of Friedman

The year 2014 brought big changes to Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey. An additional 1 percent local-option tax supported by voters in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey helped fund revenue guarantees that brought new air service from San Francisco and Denver. The year also saw completion of much of a $34 million construction project to bring the airport’s runway and taxiway configuration into compliance with federal safety standards.

Air service

By late summer, enplanements at Freidman Memorial Airport had jumped by more than 28 percent over last year.

On a seasonal schedule, commercial air carriers now offer direct flights to the Wood River Valley from five cities—Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Seattle.  The expanded schedule coincided with the introduction of 65-seat jets by Delta Airlines in early January. The jets replaced 28-seat turboprop planes and added 3,100 seats each way between Sun Valley and Salt Lake City for the 2014 schedule, though with a reduction in the number of flights.

A 2014 winter air passenger survey carried out by the nonprofit Fly Sun Valley Alliance showed that 37 percent of visiting passengers were on Delta flights to Salt Lake City, 25 percent on Alaska Airlines flights to Seattle, 22 percent on Alaska Airlines flights to Los Angeles and 16 percent on United flights to San Francisco. Thirty percent of the passengers from San Francisco were first-time visitors to Sun Valley, indicating that the new flight is bringing more business to the area. The approximately 1,000 first-time visitors who arrived from San Francisco spent an estimated $1.3 million in the area.

“This shows that our collective air service development efforts are working,” said Eric Seder, Fly Sun Valley Alliance board president. “More flights do bring more business and it is exciting to begin to catch up with our competitors in terms of offering easier air service access to and from our community.”

Master plan

A 20-year master plan for Friedman Memorial Airport will recommend changes at the existing site as well as evaluate sites for a replacement airport. It will also provide “trigger points” at which increased operations at the existing site would prompt construction of a new airport.

The airport’s current master plan was created in 1985 and last updated in 2004. Since then, plans for a replacement airport have been put on hold. The Federal Aviation Administration has permitted modifications at the space-constrained Friedman site to its usual standards regarding separation of runways and taxiways.

Longtime Friedman consultant Mead & Hunt presented a draft scope-of-work document for a $500,000 updated master plan to the Airport Authority board in February. It proposed an 18-month schedule for completing a plan that would assess projected demand and needed facility changes for five-year, 10-year and 20-year horizons.

“The schedule indicates that we really are looking at a dual-path approach,” Mead & Hunt representative Mark McFarland said.

In early December, the initial round of master plan working papers was submitted to the Airport Authority board for its review. The papers included preliminary forecasts of commercial aircraft operations over the next 20 years. In January, the board will review finalized forecasts as well as forecasts of general aviation activity. Following FAA approval of the forecasts, Mead & Hunt consultants will evaluate future airport requirements based on existing conditions and expected aviation activity.

Construction project

The FAA is funding 94 percent of the $34 million construction project, scheduled to be completed by July 2015. In April, the agency awarded an $18 million grant to fund construction work over the next year.

The south half of the west-side taxiway was moved 70 feet farther west, requiring closure of the runway for 25 days from April 28 to May 22. The runway will again be closed for 25 days next spring to allow for the same work to be done on the north half of the taxiway.

The taxiway reconfiguration required demolition of the current operations building and a remodel of the terminal to allow passengers to board and exit planes on the north side of the building. The current boarding area is on the east side. The terminal’s current 20,000-square-foot floor area is being expanded to 34,000 square feet.

In September, a contract for the $8 million terminal project was awarded to local contractor Conrad Brothers Construction. Firm co-owner Paul Conrad said “a significant amount” of that figure will be paid to local subcontractors.

The Airport Authority board also awarded a $3.5 million contract to Barry Hayes Construction of Idaho Falls to build a new operations building to house the airport’s administrative offices as well as fire-fighting and snow-removal equipment.

Work on both projects began in October and will continue through the winter. It is expected to be completed by July or August.

- Original article can be found at:

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