Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Grow Idaho Falls lists arguments for keeping airport tower staffed

Grow Idaho Falls, the city's economic development agency, is leading a write-in effort to keep the Idaho Falls Regional Airport control tower open.

Because of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, IFRA is one of nearly 200 airports that have been told they have until Wednesday to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration that closing the tower would not be in the national interest.

Grow  Idaho  Falls says Idaho Falls Regional fell just short of the FAA's cutoff in 2012, hosting 9,435 commercial aircraft operations. The FAA minimum was 10,000.

Idaho Falls Regional is currently served by Delta  Airlines, United Express, and Allegiant Air, with  non-­stop service to Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Airport Manager Craig Davis said he has been assured by all the airlines that service will continue regardless of what happens with the tower.

Here is a rundown of Grow Idaho Falls' arguments for keeping the tower in operation:
  • The  airport is the only CDC-approved pharmaceutical stockpile  drop-­off point for eastern  Idaho,  western  Wyoming and southern Montana. The airport is also directly in the service area for Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and the Trauma II Center, which serves a 250-­mile radius, and a population  of  about 400,000 people.
  • Idaho National Laboratory is the Department of  Energy's lead  nuclear lab. With 77 percent of  INL  employees  living  in  Idaho  Falls,  this  is  closest air  travel  connection  to  the  rest  of the  United States.  Since  the  start  of  the  current  fiscal  year in October 2012,  Battele  Energy  Alliance/Idaho  National Laboratory  employees  have  flown  more than 2,000  trips. The INL is also the site of several Department of Homeland Security and  Cyber-­Security missions, with international importance and implications.
  • The  airport  serves  as  diversionary  landing  strip  for  multiple  commercial  airlines,  corporate  business,  and  general  aviation  aircraft that divert due to weather conditions from surrounding airports, including Salt Lake City; Jackson, Wyo.; Boise; Billings, Mont.; and even Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  • Hill  and  Mountain  Home  Air  Force  Bases  utilize  the  airport  for  safety  training  operations.
  • The city of Idaho Falls has maintained an aggressive capital improvement and maintenance schedule. At a length of 9,002 feet, IFRA has the longest runway in the multi-­state region. The airport has Full Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) capabilities for Index B operations with new ARFF trucks; there is a multi-­million dollar snow and ice control program, with a new fleet of vehicles. A new passenger terminal project is under construction.
  • IFRA  is  located  in  the  geographic center of a relatively isolated multi-­state area with a 120-­minute passenger catchment area that is home  to  665,359  people. The  nearest comparable airport in Idaho is in Boise, a four-and-a-half-hour drive west.
  • In  2012, IFRA processed more than 2 million pounds of air cargo through four companies: Federal Express, UPS, Western Air, and Empire  Airlines. In  addition,  many  banking  and  financial  documents utilize these services for specific business documents.

Anyone who wishes to comment can e-mail closurecomments@faa.gov.