Special Update: Recent Air Traffic Delays
We all know the holiday season is one of busiest times of the year for travel and travel to SUN is no exception. Our busy holiday flight schedule began in earnest on Friday, December 16. Since then, the airport has experienced very high activity levels by both commercial airline and general aviation (private) aircraft. We are aware that many users of the airport have been frustrated with recent air traffic control delays and I wanted to take some time to explain.
First, our airport is located in a very constrained mountainous environment. As such, our air traffic flow is different than a “typical” airport and results in reduced capacity (the number of aircraft which can use the runway and airspace at the same time) to ensure safety. Ordinarily, this type of operation isn’t noticeable to passengers. However, during times of heavy traffic, as has been the case this season, our airspace capacity is further reduced.
We are aware air traffic control may have held your aircraft in the air, circling for several minutes before clearing your aircraft land. Others of you were on aircraft sitting at the end of the runway for several minutes awaiting take off. Some of you may have heard that FAA Air Traffic Control was giving preference to private aircraft over the airlines. This is simply not the case. The air traffic control system is set up on a first come, first serve basis. To the point, the challenges our airspace has encountered during the past several days is a matter of saturation by a lot aircraft in an airspace with inherently reduced capacity to begin with.
Adding to the situation (and frustration) for many of our Los Angeles customers, is the fact that the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) has been experiencing significant air traffic delays. This has had a trickledown effect on our SUN/LAX flights. It is my understanding the LAX delays resulted in potential crew time issues requiring SUN flights to be sent to Boise where relief crews were available. I have been in contact with FAA air traffic control on several occasions the past few days and I know they are doing all they can to reduce impacts to all aircraft using our airport. While this explanation will certainly not relieve your understandable, frustrating experience, it is important to us that you, our customers, are provided accurate information.
We want to thank each one of you for flying SUN. The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, airport staff, and our air service partner Fly Sun Valley Alliance, care deeply about your flying experience to our airport and community. We also care about your safety and enjoyment while visiting the Wood River Valley including Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. As a team, we continually strive to make improvements to enhance your traveling experience at the airport and we will continue to do so.
Happy holidays and safe travels.
Chris Pomeroy, SUN Airport Manager