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AOPA, Idaho pilots team to protect Sun Valley airportAOPA, Idaho pilots team to protect Sun Valley airport

AOPA, Idaho pilots team to protect Sun Valley airport

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Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) in Hailey, Idaho, serves its pilots well and does not need to be expanded or relocated, AOPA told the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority during a hearing last week. The airport commission is considering whether to keep the airport as it is, expand it, relocate it, or build an additional airport for larger aircraft to use.

"The current airport is safe and works well for both GA and the limited number of airline flights, and that should not change for the foreseeable future," said Roger Cohen, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "All this nonstop talk about expansion or relocation has unnecessarily riled up pilots, Sun Valley tourism interests, and airport neighbors."

The airport caters to general aviation pilots - about 80 percent of its operations are local flights - while scheduled air carriers account for only 3 percent of the airport's operations.

AOPA had written the commissioners earlier this year, saying that the "existing airport works well for its primary users, and there does not appear to be an immediate need to replace it anytime soon."

Some 400 people attended the hearing, including many Hailey residents opposed to expansion. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Chuck Matthiesen attended, and Blaine County Pilots Association representative Carlton Green made an impassioned defense of the existing airport.

Cohen urged the commission to continue its study but also to devote the same amount of time and resources to finding less costly, less disruptive approaches that will continue to maximize the safety and utility of the current airport.

"It is important to reassure the airport users and businesses that a rush decision will not be made and that their investment plans will not be jeopardized," Cohen told the group. "AOPA will work to help the commission address these issues."

October 3, 2005

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