FAA Throttles Bizjet Traffic To Idaho Billionaires’ Conference


Ground stops are nothing new during busy travel periods but last week the FAA instituted holds all over North America for aircraft headed to a small airport in Idaho. There were so many business jets headed to the 38th annual Allen and Company conference in Sun Valley that the agency had to throttle traffic to Friedman Memorial Airport, which is 13 miles south of the famed resort town. The Allen and Company conference is sometimes called “summer camp for billionaires” and attracts some of world’s highest net worth people.

Like many small mountain airports, Friedman has a single runway (13/31 7550 x 100) and while that seems ample, it’s also at 5318 feet. Idaho is also in the middle of a historic heat wave so density altitude has been a lot higher than that during the heat of the day. Despite the constraints, dozens of aircraft, from Citations to Global 7500s were funneled into the facility and crammed onto the ramp. Keynote speaker was Bill Gates, who delivered a speech on climate change. It’s not clear how Gates got to Idaho but he has defended his use of private aviation (he recently bought a pair of G650ERs) saying he uses sustainable fuel and has purchased carbon offsets to mitigate their contribution to the problem that he talks about every day. He has also complained about the cost of those offsets. “It was amazing to me how expensive that was, that cost to be green … we’ve got to drive that down,” Gates told Fox News’s Chris Wallace in a February interview.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. As someone who flew these conveyances around for these people to these conferences, Aspen at 7838 ft, warm in summer and snowy in winter with its own traffic throttling was also often the bane of my existence on earth. During my latter (read wiser) years in this business I was not unaware of how disproportional it seemed in every way imaginable to be squiring one or maybe a handful of these people to and from these venues in an airplane that could also have just as easily have taken them non-stop to London and sometimes did. But every time we’d park that airplane for a week somewhere and hitch a ride home on the airlines only to reverse the ride a week later back to the airplane, I realized anew why, understood the disproportionality, and knew beyond the shadow of a doubt why people like myself were afforded a living in order to do what we did for whom we did it. I very much understand and appreciate Bill Gates’ work but also his conundrum. As a mere crew member in later years it became my conundrum too. Like dangerous painkillers, it can become an addiction but also seems a necessary luxury if the world is to turn as we have come to expect it to turn. Do we really want it to continue turning according to our traditional expectations? Maybe that’s a question they should be answering at these conferences.

  2. I am wondering what happened to the increased “efficiency” in traffic management that was supposed to happen with ADS-B. I have yet to see any benefit to the expense involved with the ADS-B installation in the business jets I fly. I’ll reserve comment on the global warming stuff, but there is not a lot of airline service into SUN. After my experience last week in dealing with ATC delays out of the New York areas, I am beginning to wonder just what is going on with ATC and the FAA

  3. I got it..let’s make up a crisis, then fly our ” best and brightest” to the most obscure meeting places, so as to not attract attention to the attendees, only to have them complain about the distractions of traveling to the meetings. If there were some sort of awards given out you could easily film it and sell some advertising for all the efforts…then pump that money back into the next “crisis campaign”

  4. “he uses sustainable fuel and has purchased carbon offsets to mitigate their contribution”

    LOL – I bought enough carbon offsets so now I feel green flying my G650 alone in the back. I guess money can buy everything.

    • And where is that separate tank for sustainable Jet A at all the airports? I guess I missed that on my last flight.

  5. Holds and traffic throttling? The simple answer is to cancel IFR and proceed to the airport.

    • That works at uncontrolled fields but where there is a tower (class D) IFR traffic gets priority. Cancelling IFR to get around a traffic delay can get yourself hung out to dry waiting to enter class D airspace. If you are Pt135 it may not be legal depending on the ops specs that company operates under.

  6. How secure is a large flock of business people in one place? They are a target of the likes of ‘antifa’ and the eco-terrorists who destroyed a radio station tower in Snohomish WA.

    Gates is a fool.
    The physics of greenhouse gas molecules limits the amount of temperature rise that CO2 can cause to a small amount, most of which has already been realized. That’s because of the ‘saturation’ effect of energy flow from overlap of absorption-emission spectra of carbon dioxide and the most common greenhouse gas, dihydrogen monoxide (water vapour).

    Reality is that the climate is not warming at an alarming rate, and sea level is not rising at a rate significantly faster than it has been since the end of the long cool period around 1750AD. (See PSMSL.org for government databases.) Records of surface temperatures are incomplete and contain unexplained ‘adjustments.’ I’ll instead go with traditional weather balloon thermometers and satellite sensors. Climate was stable during the Mycean, Roman, and Medieval warm periods (during which Vikings farmed southwest Greenland).

    Climate has always been changing, warm is better for us and our food source (which also benefits from more CO2). Hopefully Earth won’t slide into another ice age.”

    • “How secure is a flock of business people in one place?” Probably pretty secure. Years ago, I flew into Durango Colorado on business while one of these conferences was being held at a nearby ski resort. It took a while to find a parking space for our little King Air among all the heavy iron that was lined up at the airport. Having a little time to kill, we wandered among the planes admiring them. One of the guys with me took out a note pad and was jotting down some of the N-numbers of the larger planes. After a couple minutes three large gentlemen in suits walked up and asked what we were doing. We replied that we were there on business and were simply admiring all the planes while we waited for our transportation to arrive. One of the large guys inquired about the list my friend was making. He asked if he could see the list. My friend gave him the little note pad. The guy looked at the list, then tucked it into his suit pocket. He smiled and said “have a nice day”, and walked off. We got the message. I suspect there was a similar contingent of large gentlemen at the conference.

    • +1

      If you keep up all this reasoning, then you’ll take away the excuse the tyrants have for controlling us.

    • And what exactly are your credentials? Excuse me for asking, but I don’t know you and am skeptical of anyone on the internet talking in terms of fact.

  7. I love how the rich ‘virtue signal’ to keep the poor stupid mobs away from them. Gates has figured out the canon credits shouldn’t be for just the rich to keep the stupid crazy mobs away… maybe the poor and stupid would buy into the carbon credit scam if the credits were less expensive. He must need money to pay off his soon to be ex-wife and the children he likely slept with to keep quiet…
    What a guy.

    • I am a strong critic of Bill Gates, but I judge claims of sleeping with children to be trashy.

  8. I have a dumb question. A person buys carbon credits from another party who emits little or no carbon. They then use those credits to offset their excess emissions. So, if everyone BUYS carbon credits, who is left to SELL them? That could be why carbon credits are so expensive. Maybe I should buy a Tesla and sell credits for the gasoline I don’t burn. Anyone have Bill Gates phone number? 🙂

    • @John Mc, If that’s a serious question, there is a serious answer. The Wikipedia article “Carbon offset” is a good place to start. They say, “…programs generate carbon offset credits provided that an emission reduction activity meets all program requirements, applies an approved project protocol (also called a methodology), and successfully passes third party review (also called verification). Once carbon offset credits are generated, any buyer may purchase them; for example an individual may purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the emissions resulting from air-travel….”. So, if plant a bunch of trees that would not otherwise have been planted, that can be a carbon offset credit. If I update my steel mill to emit less carbon, that can be a carbon offset credit. If I retire my coal-fired power plant, then its carbon emission allowance can be a carbon offset credit. Projects like that have the carbon credits to sell. And, if there is more demand to buy credits than supply to sell them, then the price can go up. This brings in market forces. The higher price encourages carbon generators to reduce their own production rather than pay for offsets, and encourages more projects which sequester carbon and reduce carbon emissions. Market pricing of carbon offset credits is a feature, not a bug.

      • Jim, thanks. The post was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but also a little serious. I understand how carbon credits work and why the price varies. Right now, it is definitely a seller’s market for credits. My problem with the whole carbon credit concept is that it is subject to considerable “manipulation” by those looking to profit from the program. To use your example, planting trees is a good thing, but proving you were doing it to specifically offset carbon emissions, as opposed to taking credit for trees you were intending to plant anyway is the trick. Also, when a company shuts down a coal-fired generator, were they planning to retire it anyway due to it’s age, or are they really trying to reduce emissions? My comment about the Tesla is a similar example in the extreme. If I only did it to claim credits does not qualify unless I could prove that I routinely drive X miles a year and will continue to do so with the electric car. Obviously the couple tons of CO2 I would save is a pittance compared to power plants or steel mills, so not really worth the trouble.

        My point was that the system is well intended, but also complex and subject to some questionable tactics. It gives the appearance of being a PR game for rich people to justify their lavish lifestyles without any real pain on their part. As usual, if people are really serious about cutting carbon emissions, they should be looking at the large emitters like cement production, power generation or steel mills and not at the 2.5% of total emissions that come from aircraft. Also, the U.S. Has reduced its total carbon emissions by about 20% since 1995, so let’s get credit for progress instead of being villified for what hasn’t been done.

        • I agree that carbon credit schemes are complex and subject to manipulation. You point out some of the weaknesses.

          A straight-up carbon tax is simpler and harder to game than carbon credits. Would you be in favour of a carbon tax in the USA? My province of British Columbia has had a carbon tax in place since 2008, and it seems to have worked well and been effective at reducing the rate of carbon emission.

          My province of British Columbia also just recorded a high of 49.5°C (121°F), the highest temperature ever in recorded Canadian history, and higher than the record high for Las Vegas. The next day, that village (Lytton) burned to the ground. Climate change is happening, human actions are driving it, and we are experiencing the results now. “Credit” and “villification” aren’t the point. “Harm” and “response” are the point.

  9. I think the title was a little inflammatory/misleading. It implied that the FAA was somehow cracking down on evil rich people and that is not the context of an otherwise well delivered article.

    With that said I dislike Bill Gates. For me he’s in the same category as Elon Musk as a virtue signaling neo-hippie pseudo do-gooder playing off peoples fears, governmental authority, and the populace’s cerebral weakness.

    At least his excuses for warming the planet (if that’s relevant) are comical and expose him for what he is.

    • Maybe, but I’m not sure how else one would put it. And the very first sentence of the article explained what it was about. The part about Bill Gates could have been left out, though, since it didn’t contribute to the rest of the article.

      • Bill Gates is a hypocrite, working against aviation by pandering to the anti-human mentality of climate catastrophism while taking advantage of aviation’s benefits.

        I support inclusion of the question.

  10. Allen & Company is a small financing arrangements operation, quality of leadership is notable including ethics and lack of bureaucracy.

    Recently emphasizing entertainment industries, so expect Bezos to show up.

    Gates may be making contacts for contributions to his confused charity. He cycles through methods of the charity in the health field, learning as he goes just like he did with software such as Windows.