Traffic at Friedman Memorial Airport

Traffic at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey has plummeted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Friedman Memorial Airport (SUN) will likely receive $18.4 million in relief funds from the federal CARES Act Airport Program, it was announced during a regular Friedman Memorial Airport Authority meeting Tuesday.

Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said that SUN was notified on April 14 that it was eligible for two CARES grants, and the offers—subject to approval by the Blaine County Board of Commissioners and the Hailey City Council—will soon be reviewed by the board.

“One of the main purposes for the congressional CARES funding is to help airports offset their losses for operational maintenance and expenses, and help them maintain employment,” he said.

If accepted, the first CARES grant offer of $11.4 million would cover about three years’ worth of operational and maintenance costs, Pomeroy said. The second grant of $7 million would “most likely” be used for capital improvement projects.

“We’re still working with FAA to understand how [the $7 million] could be used for capital projects, but my guess is that the funding would apply to our upcoming terminal renovation, air traffic control tower, pavement maintenance and approach-protection projects,” Pom-eroy said. “It could also be used to purchase additional snow-removal equipment or go towards parking lot reconstruction.”

The Friedman Memorial Airport would “greatly benefit” from a new runway pavement sensor system, Pomeroy said. That project would mean installing temperature sensors at various points along the runway and using the data to better conduct snow removal.

“This would make snow removal operations more efficient and cost effective, so we would want to install this as soon as we can,” Pomeroy said.

One project that could potentially benefit from CARES funding is the airport’s parking lot improvement plan, which has moved to its bidding phase. The project would involve moving employee parking from the southwest corner of the airport’s lower lot to an area west of the administrative office and installing new lights and a concrete stairwell. One goal is adding new large-vehicle and rental car spaces, Pomeroy told the Express in March.

The Friedman Memorial Airport is still being considered for an FAA air traffic pilot program that would allow controllers to supervise takeoffs and landings remotely using high-definition cameras.

“We’re hoping to have full FAA approval sometime late this summer,” Pomeroy said.

The airport’s upcoming Terminal Area Plan is expected to begin in June, but that could be delayed due to COVID-19, he said.

The plan hopes to address an expected increase in commercial airline activity, renovate aircraft parking areas and increase baggage claim and gate capacity. Another objective is looking at possible zones for terminal relocation, a staff report noted.

The terminal project is expected to be funded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program entitlement funds, with the airport pitching in at least $18,000.

“We’re still waiting for the appropriate time for the consultant team to travel to Hailey to start the Terminal Area Plan,” Pomeroy said. “It obviously depends on how the next several weeks evolve with COVID-19, travel and people’s comfort with on-site meetings.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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