Airports making pact with the devil? |

Airports making pact with the devil?

Allen Best

HAILEY, Idaho – Resort-area airports that have taken money from the federal government are finding that it’s something of a pact with the devil. The Federal Aviation Administration in the last several years has been asserting considerably more control, increasingly overruling local airport operators in matters of noise, safety and weight.

Peter Kirsch, a Denver-based attorney, told airport managers gathered in Sun Valley recently that historically there was antagonism, but the “agency is becoming increasingly aggressive.”

The FAA, he said, is being pushed by airplane manufacturers and by promoters of larger fraction-use airplanes.

When airports, among them Friedman Memorial Airport, the gateway to Sun Valley, receive considerable federal funds for improvements, expansion and operations, the federal government has some say over restrictions.

In the past, said Kirsch, who represents Friedman in a dispute with the FAA, the FAA has been focused on safety, but that has changed.

If airports try to limit access, the FAA argues that “grant assurances” do not permit airports to place restrictions on such basis,” Kirsch said. “The FAA is saying “We don’t trust local airports with noise, safety and weight issues – Washington knows best.'”

Kirsch says airports have asked about de-federalizing their operations, but the FAA does not allow airports to return funds. If current policies lead to safety problems – because airports are forced to push the bounds of safety – it is not clear who will be responsible, the FAA or local airports, he said.

Locals miss out on ski area sale

CRESTED BUTTE – As owners of the Crested Butte ski area looked for a buyer, it seems that a group of local residents were interested in buying it. But they couldn’t put the dots together quickly enough, and a buyer is expected to be chosen imminently.

“The financing is just more than I could figure out how to do,” said Linda Powers, mayor of Crested Butte, who met with about a dozen other potential investors.

This quiet talk began last June after Hal Clifford, author of “Downhill Slide,” gave a warmly received talk in Crested Butte about how other communities have bought and operated ski areas.

Powers then asked Frank Bell, town manager, to investigate. The Crested Butte News reports Bell found two major issues: financing and figuring out how to manage the thing once it was purchased – to sell real estate or strictly manage it for skiing.

Colorado has only three such ski areas, which can be described as small, smaller and smallest: Lake County’s Ski Cooper, Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill, and Silverton’s Kendall. Winter Park is also community owned, but the community is Denver, 68 miles away.

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