Group Hopes to Save Airport Tower in Idaho Falls

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Updated: 3/11/2013 7:13 pm
 

The Idaho Falls Regional Airport and some 200 other airports have been put on notice. Unless they can show that closing their tower would have a negative impact at a national level, the tower will close as a result of sequestration.

According to Grow Idaho Falls, Inc., the Idaho Falls Regional Airport fell just short of the FAA cutoff of for commercial aircraft operations that would have protected the tower from sequestration.  And that’s just one of the many reasons they feel like the tower should be saved.

The Idaho Falls Regional Airport is the busiest commercial airport on this side of the state.  They had 168,000 passenger enplanements in 2012 but its value to our region goes far beyond that.

According to Grow Idaho Falls, Inc., the airport is the only “CDC approved pharmaceutical stockpile drop-off point” in eastern ID, western WY, and southern MT. The airport is also directly in the service area for the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center and the Trauma II Center which serves a 250-mile radius, and a population of about 400,000 people.

It’s also the closest commercial airport to the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The INL is 1 of only 17 national laboratories, and is the Department of Energy (DOE) designated lead nuclear lab. With 77% of the INL employees living in Idaho Falls, this is closest air travel connection to the rest of the US. Since the start of the current fiscal year, Battelle Energy Alliance/Idaho National Laboratory employees have flown over 2,000 trips since October 1, 2012 of this fiscal year.

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, UT; Jackson, WY; Boise, ID; Billings, and even Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Grow Idaho Falls, Inc. is encouraging you to show your support for the airport by emailing closurecomments@faa.gov . The deadline for the airport response submittals is March 13, with deliberations to be on March 18, and announcements on March 20

             The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is 1 of only 17 national laboratories, and is the Department Of Energy (DOE) designated lead nuclear lab; and as such conducts specialized services (e.g. Japan TEPCO Daichii incident), including but not limited to disaster monitoring, safety equipment supply (e.g. monitors, measurement devices, etc.), safety training, remediation, consultation, and R&D. The INL core areas of specialization include energy, national security, science, and the environment.

             The INL is also the site of several Department of Homeland Security and Cyber-Security missions which have international importance/implications; and these missions were placed here precisely because of our geographic location and environment.

With 77% of the INL employees living in Idaho Falls, and their mission relationships to DOE, DHS, DOD, and the NRC to name a few – this is the safest and closest air travel connection to the rest of the US. Since the start of the current fiscal year, Battelle Energy Alliance/Idaho National Laboratory employees have flown over 2,000 trips since October 1, 2012 of this fiscal year.

             Hill and Mountain Home Air Force Bases utilize the airport for safety training operations.

             For many years now, IFRA’s municipal and staff leadership have aggressively maintained a capital improvement and maintenance schedule. IFRA is the only regional airport in the Intermountain West uniquely poised to continue air services in the national interest not only because of our vital location geographically, but also because of high quality, strategic, and progressive infrastructure, of which the most significant include:

             Longest runway in the multi-state region at 9,002 feet (Excellent condition, constructed in 2008);

             Full Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) capabilities for Index B operations with new ARFF trucks;

             Multi-million dollar Snow & Ice Control program with new fleet of SRE vehicles;

             New passenger terminal project under construction.

 

             IFRA is currently served by Delta Airlines, United Express Airlines, and Leegiant Airlines with non-stop service to 6 network airline hubs including: Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

             IFRA is located in the geographic center of a relatively isolated multi-state area with a 120-minute passenger catchment area, which is home to 665,359 people. The nearest competing airport is Boise located a 4.5 hour drive west.

In 2012, IFRA hosted 9,435 commercial aircraft operations (just short of the FAA cut-off point of 10,000 to close towers). Source: Statistics from FAA Air Traffic Activity System - ATADS). This would include 168,000 annual passenger enplanements, and over 40,000 combined annual operations.

Also in 2012, IFRA processed over 2 Million lbs. of air cargo through 4 on-file companies including FEDEX, UPS, Western Air, and Empire Airlines. In addition, many banking and financial documents utilize these services for specific business documents. 

ACTION REQUESTED from the FAA: The above points illustrate the potential adverse impacts to the greater national interest, and therefore urge you to reasonably consider and act for the continuation of the Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IFRA) FAA Contract Tower (FCT) Program.

You can send your comments directly to: closurecomments@faa.gov and/or feel free to contact our congressional officials, we have been in contact with them as well.

 REMEMBER - they are seeking comments regarding ADVERSE IMPACTS of discontinuing funding to the Tower and employees, to the national interest, that would pertain to the functions of the Idaho Falls Regional Airport. If your business has other national interest impacts that could be affect - please share your comments with the FAA.

The deadline for the airport response submittals is March 13, with deliberations to be on March 18, and announcements on March 20.  You can submit your opinion to closurecomments@faa.gov.

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