The almost two decades of the effort by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take our sport flying airport has always puzzled me. Maybe I haven’t seen the forest for the trees. Look at it this way. Ravalli County Airport is no doubt the most convenient, accessible county-owned public airport closest to Missoula in a 75 mile radius with a well qualified Fixed Base Operator who I understand came here from Missoula International Airport.
Repeatedly over the years the FAA personnel working the Ravalli County Airport Project have referred to our airport as an “unloader” airport, a backup airport, alternate airport and a destination airport. All of these terms refer to the Missoula International Airport as principal beneficiary. Then the suggestions evolve into a new longer runway and extensive warehousing totally foreign to a small public airport situated in a generally rural area. Not a single published FAA criteria used to justify expansion apply. Over the years the fate of the well maintained and safe existing runway, which was repaired after frost heave damage and ended up with an increased landing load capacity, has never really been explained.
I believe the present runway will remain in service designated as a light aircraft runway, thereby removing a very real and serious flight safety issue centered on mixing light and heavy private aircraft landing in a relatively narrow valley without air traffic control. Heavy aircraft will use the new longer runway. Expect to see a new airport administrative center and hangers servicing the larger aircraft become a reality along the new runway. The existing facilities will service the light aircraft referred to by the big boys as “flivver planes.” Even here the engineering and earth removal requirements will be huge and very expensive.
The taxpaying residents have nothing to say. No input and no part in the development except to contribute more tax revenue to pay for an adjunct to the International Airport in Missoula. The Ravalli County Commission is betraying their constituents plain and simple. So what is new?