The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners met with Airport Director Gaston Patterson on Tuesday morning for a monthly update. Below are the updates from Patterson, along with Airport Advisory Board Chair Brian Cleary and StanCraft Jet representatives.
Airport Advisory Board update by Chair Brian Cleary
After being appointed to the Airport Advisory Board and elected as Chair, Brain Cleary has led the board to complete all 12 main items that were requested by the BOCC. Now, per BOCC direction, the advisory board is considering a new airport board complaint process. Have reviewed draft submitted by airport board and accepted public comment on draft at last advisory meeting. Will have discussion and contemplate possible recommendation to BOCC at December 13th advisory meeting. Will get recommendation to BOCC either late December or in January 2024.
StanCraft Lease Updates
StanCraft had requested to have an addendum to rewrite refinancing clauses in their leases and obtain new terms in a couple of leases. Director developed a simple, straightforward policy to go through this process for StanCraft as well as any other stakeholder going forward.
Intent: StanCraft is looking to refinance existing assets at airport, combining those refinanced assets to redevelop and add more value to airport itself. Airport is modifying terms on only 3 of StanCraft’s leases and keeping those in smaller option increments (StanCraft had wanted 50 years). The FAA’s biggest concern was lease terms. Any money that is refinanced through the StanCraft addendums will be reinvested into the airport, and this policy will be standardized throughout all airport stakeholders.
The BOCC had no negative feedback about the new policy or lease addendums so they added it to the afternoon’s BOCC business meeting for approval. The new policy and lease addendums were NOT included in the business meeting’s documents online but they will be included in this article at KCSpectator.com if they become available.
Airport Director Gaston Patterson’s 10,000ft View of Identified Tasks and Challenges
Now that Gaston Patterson is the official Airport Director, he has been evaluating every part of the airport and has put together an information list for the BOCC from a 10,000 ft view. This is not a list that will be completed any time soon; this is to give the BOCC an idea of what is top of mind for Patterson and what the airport is going to need in the future.
Updating positions/job descriptions for all duties performed at airport. Will also reduce liability.
Expanding Ops staff in short term by 2 positions: adding diesel mechanic and admin staff serving users on weekend. Evaluating staffing and exploring part-time, seasonal staff.
Updating training program for new hires and current employees.
Lack of air control tower on field. CDA has more than doubled the allowable traffic that the FAA uses to start a tower study. Looking into a few creative solutions to this issue.
Working with FAA in AWOS (Automated Weather Observation Program) augmentation.
Developing a neighborhood noise reduction procedure to reduce noise complaints by 80-90%.
Bringing Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARF) station up to current NFPA standards with inspection, training, and readiness. Currently compliant but can be better.
ARF fire truck is aged (23 years old) 2x the lifecycle FAA likes to see which brings more maintenance. Studying rebuilding it or procuring a new(er) truck.
FAA has recently certified a new foam system (safer/non-toxic) but the old truck cannot operate the foam without modifications. Nothing required by FAA yet but something will have to be addressed.
Continuing outreach training communication with emergency partners. I.e. KCEMS, Northern Lakes Fire, KC Fire, etc. They have received feedback from those emergency offices stating that they are happy with the new partnership between them and the airport.
Improving perimeter fence for wildlife integrity. Still have issues with coyotes digging under fence and found that the new fence that was installed a few years ago (under old Airport Director) was not properly buried and will now have to look into new perimeter fence plan.
Put together comprehensive asphalt pave & maintenance plan to not solely rely on FAA money to maintain. Maintenance *should* have been done 5-10 years ago under former Airport Director but there has been no fog sealing, crack sealing, etc. and it’s starting to show. The new Airport Director is developing a maintenance plan and phased plan to maintain what they currently have and repair what is needed.
Evaluating existing airport lighting system. Slowly updating to LED lights but 20-year old equipment will need to be phased out.
Working with surrounding municipalities for better communication on how land development is affecting the airport, as well as citizens and businesses around the airport. Currently the airport has 45 people on the waiting list to build a hangar on the field. There is no ground with infrastructure to be able to address the waiting list. There is approximately 150 acres on North side of airport that can be used for hangar development but there is no infrastructure on that land.
Build a new comprehensive transparent waiting list on the website instead of the current excel spreadsheet that is not easily available to the public. Would show who is on the list, how long they’ve been on the list, who has been taken off the list, etc.
Look into an in-field grass landing area.
Continue communications with CDA Skeet & Trap Club to resolve land issues and secure their future list of property.
Planning admin office relocating to north side.
Equipment & Fleet
Looking at different options for leasing/purchasing programs to get the best equipment.
Evaluating snow removal equipment and look for replacements. Age of equipment effects the quality of operators hired; a lot of the new guys coming from highway districts cannot operate the older equipment.
Traffic is the driver for the majority of issues. CDA is being operated as the 2nd largest Idaho airport to Boise. Both are Part 139 operator certificate airports (FAA-required certification for airports serving aircraft designed for more than 9 passenger seats but less than 31 passenger seats), they follow same set of rules, only difference is Boise has the larger commercial aspect. CDA has exceeded the operations counts of Spokane International Airport through most of the summer. Operations counts is the number of landings OR takeoffs of aircraft. While Spokane was getting 400-ish counts per day, Kootenai County was hitting 600 counts per day. About 75% of that traffic comes from smaller, general aviation aircraft and flight training. (There are 3 flight schools that operate practically non-stop out of CDA.)
CDA services everything from the backcountry bush plane all the way to 737 business jets, Gulfstreams, globals, etc. CDA does NOT have an air tower. In the summer they have a temporary fire tower to help with the Forest Service fire planes but nothing outside of that. Because of this increased traffic, the regional FAA partners do not think of CDA as a small general aviation airport anymore, they think of as a larger regional general aviation airport which means having to tighten up safety and procedures that the Director is looking at with the list above. Patterson is working closely with the regional FAA partners to ensure that everything is within compliance and to keep an open line of communication.
Director Patterson says that this increased traffic is not due to attracting companies to use our airport as a stop, it is the natural growth that has happened due to the influx of residents in this area.
As for ways of paying for the above list, Director says airport is “very solvent, firmly in the green consistently putting in over $750,000 into fund balance every year.” Director Patterson wants to create phasing programs to purchase what is needed when it is needed instead of trying to pay for everything immediately.
StanCraft representative states that they have brought in and pay for customs border protection so people flying from out-of-country can land directly into CDA instead of having to go to Spokane International Airport or Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell first. They have people coming from Europe, Mexico, Canada, etc., although, according to StanCraft, a majority of the people come from Canada. The out-of-country flights are both local residents that come home or flights that just use CDA as their first stop into the United States.