Sunday, December 06, 2015

Our View: Saving Burley Municipal Airport (KBYI) Requires a Regional Effort

Signs mark the runways at the Burley airport, where asphalt has had no major improvements for 20 years.

The Burley airport is running out of runway and city leaders will have to decide soon whether to build a new airport or shutter the only air hub for the region.

Millions of dollars and scores of jobs hang in the balance, but the highest stakes hinge on what the decision will mean for future economic growth. Without an airport, Mini-Cassia leaders can forget about attracting more of the big new businesses currently driving the region’s boom.

As it stands, the Burley airport indirectly supports 56 jobs with a $1.2 million payroll and provides an economic impact of $3.8 million annually to the community.

More than 4,400 flights take off or land at the Burley airport each year, including an air cargo UPS flight that flies in 500 times a year. Six crop-dusting companies are based at the airport. Student pilots take about 1,000 flights a year, and Life Flight air ambulance based an Agusta helicopter at the airport in March and projects 1,000 operations annually. It’s also sometimes used to deploy firefighting aircraft and military planes.

But the airport’s biggest – and sometimes less talked about – benefit to the region is its use by the area’s big manufacturers, whose management teams fly in and out hundreds of times a year. It’s no secret that a close airport is a must-have for companies scouting new locations.

In that sense, the Burley airport truly is a boon to the entire region. It’s only right that other communities in Mini-Cassia – not just Burley – share responsibility for what happens next.

To recap the conundrum faced by Burley leaders: The Federal Aviation Administration says it’ll soon cut the bulk of the airport’s funding unless it expands its runways to meet safety guidelines. But the airport is essentially out of space, locked between the Snake River and the community that’s grown up around it; there isn’t a cost-effective way to expand.

So the airport must be moved. City leaders have struggled for years to find a suitable space.

It’s time the rest of the region got involved. An airport authority makes the most sense.

An authority would include representatives, perhaps elected, from a slew of Mini-Cassia communities, who would make decisions about where the new airport would be located. The group could also incur debt and levy taxes, though the FAA has said it’ll chip in a huge percentage of the funds required to move the airport.

An authority puts a regional team in charge of a regional airport. That requires regional cooperation, of course, something that hasn’t always been the hallmark of Mini-Cassia leaders.

But we’re hopeful. It’s time the area’s leaders put petty differences aside and do what’s best for the area. Isn’t that what we expect from our leaders?

The region has only a few more weeks decide whether it’s going to work together to find a solution. The FAA is demanding an answer soon.

The controls are in your hands, community leaders. We expect nothing less than a safe landing.

Original article can be found here:

Airport manager Kevin Gebhart works on a turboprop crop-duster at the Burley airport Nov. 16.

Private Pilot

Posted:  December 17, 2012 

Letter to the Editor—

I have been a private pilot since 1997, and have enjoyed the use of the Burley airport for the last 33 years without any problems. I currently fly a Cessna 206 and a Piper Super Cub for both business and recreational use. When the Flight Service was located on the field, it was a busy and fun place to stop for fuel, snacks, file a flight plan, or just to watch students do touch-and-go landings.

It’s sad how things change over a few years. Fewer students, higher costs with fuel and maintenance, buildings in need of major repair and improvements, etc.

How many of you remember the last airshow organized at Burley? Aerobatic performers like Patty Wagstaff were here, aircraft from all over the state were on display, and I remember a mink coat being given away to a lucky pilot flying in.

It is obvious the City of Burley has lost pride in a very valuable asset. The first impression made by a visitor flying in can simply turn them away and/or make them feel unwelcome.

The Flight Line does a great job of maintaining our aircraft, but I think improving a pilot’s break area and some decent restrooms should be immediately addressed. How about a courtesy car? When someone flies in it would be an incredible welcome to have transportation available. I would suggest we promote our airport and community as a fly in destination for golf, dining, recreation etc.

When I hear the myth about the Burley airport being unsafe, it simply shows how uneducated some people are about general aviation. Pilots are required to know and understand the limitations of their aircraft, runway requirements, density altitude factors, and especially crosswind components.

A long single runway is great, but pilots are taught to land “INTO” the wind, and many times a crosswind will exceed the aircraft design limitations. Burley’s airport was designed with three runways to accommodate varying winds that are constantly changing (back then most aircraft had tail wheels and were more difficult to control in strong crosswinds). Currently two runways are in use, the third is used to taxi to runway 06.

People ask me if I think Burley needs a new airport. The simple answer is “no”. If a business owner needs to land their Learjet, or similar type aircraft, Twin Falls is only a few short miles to the west. The owners of Coors Brewing Company are a good example. They have utilized both the Burley and Twin Falls airports for 30 plus years. The current location is perfect for Life Flight transports, UPS, Fed Ex, Civil Air Patrol activities, Search and Rescue flights, aerial application businesses and most general aviation activities.

I personally don’t see how the City of Burley can afford or justify a new airport. The costs to residents have not been fully explained, and the costs outweigh the current needs. Twin Falls is simply too close if longer runways are needed.

Mike Wheeler
Flying W Farms
Declo, Idaho


1 comment:

  1. I hope the city fathers wake up and understand just what a jet capable airport means to a community. The company I work for look at small rural communities to build facilities that employ many local people, having a decent airport in or nearby the community is an important factor. Good luck, Burley.