Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Coeur d'Alene Airport (KCOE) hangar owners oppose $3.1M runway project

Coeur d'Alene Airport (KCOE) manager Steven Kjergaard has presented three possible funding solutions for the decoupling issue. They have received stark opposition from hangar owners and pilots.

A tentative runaway project at the Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field could become the burden of hangar owners and taxpayers.

Airport manager Steven Kjergaard recently updated county commissioners on possible changes to the disputed runway decoupling project.

An attempt to improve safety and meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations, decoupling the Coeur d'Alene Airport's two runways — 2-20 and 6-24 — has been in the works since 2017. Sporting a $3.1 million price tag, the project would remove about 1,000 feet of pavement from runway 2-20 to disconnect the two takeoff points.

Hangar owners have banded together against the project, citing what they say are the potentially adverse effects on economic, safety and pilot operations. However, if the airport does not fix the issue in a federally approved fashion, the FAA would most likely cut funding for other projects, according to Kjergaard and FAA officials.

The option favored most by the hangar owners is to extend runway 2-20. At the time of the airport's last master plan between 2017 and 2019, Kjergaard said, the board had listed the extension as the preferred option, but statistical data did not validate the cost. Without FAA support, the extension would cost about $12.8 million and be funded through three possible avenues.

The first option would have the county agreeing to pay for the extension through the general fund, including current and future work associated with the runway 2-20 project.

"Kootenai County funding is completely off the table. I will not vote for that, and taxpayers cannot afford the $12 million project as presented," Commissioner Chris Fillios said. "We have a major construction project that we've already selected an architect for. We're looking at potentially up to maybe $20 million to erect another structure here on the downtown campus. There's absolutely no way we're going to take on anything else."

Considering a second option, hangar owners would agree to an additional land rent surcharge between 25 and 60 cents per square foot per year, they said.

"What this would allow us to do is then we can bond against that revenue and have three or four revenue bonds to extend the runways and deal with that," Kjergaard said.

The third option is going to a ballot vote for bond referendums on top of increasing hangar rent to fund future reconstruction costs. While the commissioners said this is a viable alternative, the hangar owners would take a majority opinion.

"You'll have to see what you can find support-wise because I'll be honest, I don't think we can get 50% of tenants in the field to say yes," Commissioner Leslie Duncan said. "The reason being they'll be doubling or tripling their rent. That's a massive increase."

As of this week, the FAA had not yet filed an official response to the Dec. 3 meeting, making commissioners hesitant to finalize any action. Kjergaard said the FAA is willing to shift some projects around because of the pilot community's outreach comments, but specifics haven't been released.

"After talking with the FAA, I have a pretty good idea what they're going to do, but I would like to see it in writing," said Commissioner Bill Brooks, county liaison to the airport.

Disagreements over the decoupling and other airport management issues have led to a lawsuit from Coeur d'Alene Airport hangar owners including Jim Walsh and John Huckabay.

"We would like to go visit with the FAA, but we would need your guys' support," Walsh said. "Until we get an official meeting with the FAA to discuss the options to the stakeholders, we'd like to see it stopped, then proceed with the project."

The chance of any change with funding for the extension is doubtful, Kjergaard said, with an estimated 95% unlikelihood.

However, during the December 3 meeting, the FAA expressed interest in looking at different examples and working with stakeholders. Walsh said the FAA has also mentioned that if the Coeur d'Alene Airport and community continue to see air traffic increases, it would be willing to fund the expansion.

"Given our growth, the type of aircraft we have, even the additional aircraft that will eventually be coming to us and the expansion of the airport on the north side, I do want to work with the stakeholders to find the best option," Duncan said.

Kjergaard said the decouple could be pushed back to 2025.


  1. Don't know why you can't just leave things alone. Most, if not all, airplane owners don't want increase in taxes and rent so why even do this? If FAA is requiring this, then ask FAA for a waiver and can it be grandfathered in.

    1. If you look at the airport diagram, it's clearly an unsafe situation, which is why I'm sure the FAA is looking to have it decoupled.

    2. Well the 2006 Comair CRJ crash in Kentucky caused these intersecting end point runways being accessed by a single taxiway to cause all the ruckus. It is only more risky at night and in low visibility conditions, especially snow where markings may be obscured (and signage for taxiway and runways are limited for placement.

      That said, I still don't understand how a pilot can potentially take off at a 240 heading for runway 24 when he meant to take off from runway 20 with a 200 degree heading. WWII era airfields used these intersecting runway points for decades and it wasn't a pandemic of crashes from the wrong runway taxied onto - many of which old airfields are still operational as civilian ones.

      But that's the "I'm-not-responsible-for-my-mistake" world we live in today: it's not the pilot's fault, it's the airport's layout fault if they take off on the wrong runway.

  2. Seems unfair to tax hangar owner, who rent the land from airport, to pay for project many others would benefit from. It is a public airport. If you lived adjacent to a freeway and drove to work on it, are you then responsible to pay if they want to add a lane, since you live next too it?