...And Little Runways vs. Big Heavy Jets

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In Sun Valley, Idaho, Friedman Memorial Airport is embroiled in a controversy over the size of aircraft that can land there. The area attracts lots of wealthy tourists, and the small airport's 95,000-pound weight limit is rankling some who want to fly in with bigger and heavier jets. Ronald Tutor, a California construction mogul, has filed suit in federal court in an effort to force the airport to lift the ban so he can land his 170,000-pound Boeing Business Jet, a modified 737, on the 6,600-foot runway, USA Today reported on Monday. Other GA airports across the country, especially in tourist regions and other high-growth areas, are facing similar pressures from corporate flyers. The BBJs have been turned away from GA airports in Florida, New Jersey, and Colorado, but not without a fight. Again, federal funds are central to the argument. Tutor's suit argues that because the Idaho airport accepts federal funds, it can't unreasonably deny access to the airport, according to USA Today. The lawsuit has become the focal point of local disputes over the future development and character of the region. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) said last week that weight-based restrictions make sense, as long as the restrictions are not used as a substitute for limiting aircraft noise. "It certainly makes sense to protect pavement from damage from aircraft that exceed the design criteria by a significant margin," said NATA President James Coyne in a news release. "What we would object to is using 'weight-based restrictions' as a way to limit noise by restricting access to an airport by a certain class of aircraft." NATA urged support for the FAA's proposals regarding weight-based restrictions at airports.