Friedman Memorial Airport plans to back one of its busiest weekends of the year with its busiest day on Tuesday as Allen & Co.’s jet set roll into Sun Valley—or, rather, fly into Hailey—for the tight-lipped investment bank’s annual A-list conference.
On Monday night, airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said he didn’t know how many planes would show on the traditional arrival day—and likely wouldn’t until flight plans are filed and jets are on the way. But he expected Tuesday’s traffic to “about double” a typical busy day.
“We’ve been prepping for a couple of months-plus,” Pomeroy said. “It’s a lot of coordination with Atlantic [the airport’s private ground-support contractor] and the FAA.”
“We’re trying to refine what we do, make it better each year,” he added. “This has been going on for a long time now, there aren’t a lot of surprises. We expect it to be busy. We’ll see how the day unfolds—it’s always a dynamic situation.”
Typically, the rush begins around noon and continues into the evening before tapering off after 7 p.m. Pilots file flight plans with the FAA before then, first from the East Coast—in advance of their longer trip—and then from the West.
The golden ticket doesn’t kick in until guests are off the airport grounds. Friedman doesn’t reserve parking spots, Pomeroy said, so once a plane lands, Pio rules apply: First come, first served. Airport staff pieces the puzzle together from there, fitting aircraft into the limited space. There’s no set number of spaces—it depends on how big the planes are and the order in which they arrive.
The jets have been trending bigger, pushing the limits of what Friedman’s runway can accommodate. The FAA determines the amount of weight a runway can support for takeoff and landing; Friedman can handle up to 95,000 pounds for a dual-wheel jet. That roughly corresponds to a 100-foot wingspan. Both the Gulfstream G650 and Bombardier Global 7500—the $70 million, 19-passenger jets pacing the world’s plushest aeronautics race—can top that limit when packed full and filled with fuel. At 104 feet, the Global 7500’s wingspan is almost 20 feet longer than that of the 76-passenger Embraer 175s that Delta and United use for commercial flights in and out of Hailey.
The added noise of Allen & Co. arrival day—amplified by the conspicuous consumption and astronomical wealth it trumpets—have been a common summer complaint for residents of Bellevue and southern Hailey since the airport modernized. Things should quiet down some after Tuesday evening. Typically, attendees leave on Saturday, though Pomeroy said he has seen that spread out in recent years. For guests flying private, a return trip is only a phone call away.
Pomeroy said most flight crews follow the airport’s voluntary noise abatement protocol, which asks aircraft to avoid buzzing downtown, by approaching and departing from the southern end of the runway as weather allows, and not to operate between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The airport does have a public complaint form on its website, iflysun.com, though the FAA prohibits it from punishing pilots who violate the voluntary procedures.
“We try to notify pilots of our program, and a vast majority of them do a wonderful job,” Pomeroy said. “We understand the impacts that all activity has on the vicinity. It’s an event that, while impactful, brings significant economic benefit to the area. It’s all part of summer in this valley.”