HAILEY, Idaho – Travelers should expect to be detoured to other airports in Idaho if they have plans to fly into the Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey this month. The airport is currently closed; its last day of service was Sunday.
The plan is for the airport that serves Sun Valley to be shut down for 25 days so improvements can be made so that it can meet FAA standards and flourish for years to come.
It’s been at least 10 years since Friedman Memorial Airport was forced to shut down, the runway expansion was the culprit for that closure.
Airport Manager Rick Baird says the closure came because there are several areas that are not compliant with FAA standards; the most important is the runway safety area. That area needs to be free of bumps and humps, so that in the case of a plane going off the runway there is minimal damage to the plane and a reduced chance of injury.
In addition to moving the taxi area, crews will fix some grading issues south of the runway, one side is too steep, the other is too flat.
“So we’re moving enough material from the east side to the west side, and if you stacked it all on a football field – it would be 66 feet tall,” said Baird.
This is the airport’s slow season, a time when all the major airlines but one having stopped their service. So there are very few commercial flights that were either canceled or forced to other airports.
Baird says this $6 million project, funded through government grants, should have a positive economic impact on the local economy, with this crew from Boise spending money to eat and sleep in the Wood River Valley.
“Now whether that off sets the economic minus of being closed I don’t know, but it certainly helps,” said Baird.
Regardless of the impact, Baird wants this project done as soon as possible because he estimates the airport will lose upwards of $90,000 during the closure.
“The outcome of this is an airport that will serve our air service needs, both commercial and GA (general aviation) for many years into the future,” said Baird.
The plan is for the airport to open back up on May 22nd at noon, that way a flight from Delta coming in from Salt Lake City can arrive that afternoon, and the airport can get back to business as normal.
This project is number two of six at the airport. Next spring the airport will close again for about a month to make improvements to the north end of the property.
Those improvements include moving the airplane terminal parking and building a new passenger terminal.
All projects are expected to be complete in the next 15 months.