Awarding Partnership

July 8, 2001

Awarding Partnership

Baird recognized for fostering tenant-airport relations

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

July 2001

LONG BEACH, CA — Richard Baird, manager of the Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, ID, since 1993, was cited by the National Air Transportation Association with its annual Airport Executive Partnership Award. The honor, sponsored by AIRPORT BUSINESS, recognizes airport managers who help promote positive relations with tenants. Baird, who is also mayor of Carey, ID, was honored during NATA’s annual convention, during which he shared thoughts on his airport and industry issues. Here are edited excerpts

Rick Baird

On the Hailey, ID, airport ...
It is the airport that provides service to Sun Valley, as well as the rest of Blaine County. It’s similar to a lot of airports in this country because it’s basically a utility airport that’s become an air carrier airport. We can trace aircraft landing on the site to 1914; the airport itself was dedicated in 1938. We have somewhere between 70,000 and 90,000 operations. What is significant is the type of air service (SkyWest, Horizon Air) that we provide.
We have one FBO, Sun Valley Aviation, and significant general aviation activity at the airfield. In the summer, it’s not unusual to see 20-plus Gulfstreams on the field at one time.
The airport’s basically in a boxed canyon, with mountains on three sides, so we’re continually dealing with an unusual traffic pattern with all takeoffs and landings to the south. We have a 6,602-foot runway. The airport is administered by an authority, and the board members are appointed by the city and county.
On being the mayor of nearby Carey, OH ...
There’s a lot of comparisons to being a mayor and running an airport. In a small community, you want to make sure that the activities you’re managing are in accordance with the desires of the constituents that put you in office. It’s similar in an airport; to manage in a non-adversarial relationship, you try to involve those people and businesses who will be affected by the decisions that you make.
Sun Valley Aviation is a major player on our airfield. While they don’t run the airport, they should have plenty of say in the decisions that I make.
On issues facing his airport ...
We have the same problems as even the largest airports have: the issue of trying to be a good neighbor; growth issues. We’re implementing a master plan with a total cost of some $15 million, significant for an airport our size. We’re in year number three of a four-year construction program.
The master plan is not about growth, but about making the operations that take place more standard in accordance with FAA design rules. We will actually move about 98 percent of the general aviation activity during that four years.
On future concerns and opportunities ...
Probably the most significant issue that we will be dealing with is the regional jet era. Our master plan basically was approved prior to the regional jet era; it’s based on the Dash-8 and the BAC 146. Since the master plan was adopted, the regional jet era has come about and many of those aircraft are configured in ways that are going to make them difficult to use the airfield. So, as the turboprop era goes away, how the community will maintain air service becomes a significant issue.
The initial wave of regional jets is sleeker and quicker, which puts them in a higher approach category. But there are jets now being made that operate quite nicely in a mountain environment, and those are the ones we’ll target for service in the future.
SkyWest in four or five years is hoping to be an all-jet organization. In their conversations with the community leaders they say they are going to ensure that we have air service. If you ask them what type of aircraft they’ll be using for this market in five years, I don’t think they could say. But it’s an issue we’re going to have to deal with as a community.
On the potential to lose small community air service ...
I think there’s the potential, if you listen to industry experts and then look at the size of the community. For small communities the fight may be to keep air service rather than to improve air service.
On the challenge of environmental issues, particularly in a resort environment ...
Probably as much as 20-25 percent of my time is spent making sure the airport remains the best possible neighbor. Probably an even higher percentage of my time is spent on environmental issues.
It’s a two-way street. We try to educate the pilots and operators who use the airport about the sensitivity of the environment in which the airport is located, and are continuously trying to educate the community on the significance of the airport to the economy of the valley.
We’re watching with interest the Stage 2 noise issue that’s occuring on a national level. We’re attempting to deal with our noise issues with voluntary measures — what we call a good neighbor flying program. Several of the airports in this country that are having very difficult times with noise have sought our advice and copies of what we do. It’s an issue that the community will be watching.