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Cd’A Airport needs traffic control tower, director says

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | November 30, 2023 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Traffic at the Coeur d’Alene Airport has increased so much that director Gaston Patterson said he plans to pursue adding an air traffic control tower at Pappy Boyington Field.

“Not only does that help sequence and improve traffic flows, but it also improves the community’s experience with the airport,” Patterson told Kootenai County commissioners during a special meeting Tuesday.

The airport has more than doubled the allowable traffic at which the Federal Aviation Administration may consider a tower study.

Patterson said he intends to start the process with the FAA but noted it can take eight to 10 years from start to finish. The Coeur d’Alene Airport can’t wait that long, he said, and he’s open to “creative solutions” to make it happen.

“The safety concern is much greater than waiting 10 years to get there,” Patterson said. “We’re looking at temporary options. We’ve had a seasonal fire tower the last few years. There are a lot simpler ways to go about a tower than to build a full-blown tower.”

Throughout the summer, Patterson said the Coeur d’Alene Airport sometimes exceeded the operations count, or takeoffs and landings, at Spokane International Airport. Some days, Spokane saw 300 to 400 operations, while Coeur d’Alene saw 600 to 700 in the same period.

Patterson said these numbers illustrate the need for an air traffic control tower.

“When you reach that level of traffic, it’s almost impossible to sequence that much traffic,” he said.

The Coeur d’Alene Airport services everything from bush planes to business jets, though Patterson said the majority of traffic comes from the three flight schools operating at the airport. About 75% of the airport’s traffic is small, general aviation.

During Tuesday’s meeting with commissioners, Patterson also described a new policy prompted by a request from StanCraft for an addendum to rewrite the financing clauses and obtain new terms for a handful of leases.

Patterson said the county has worked with the FAA to make sure the new policy complies with all requirements.

“What the addendum is trying to do is a very common thing but we wanted to have further clarity and transparency and make sure all the boxes are checked,” he said.

The policy will apply to all airport stakeholders.

“This isn’t a StanCraft policy,” Patterson said. “This is an airport policy.”