Meet Ron Fairfax, a dedicated member of the airport and many other local organizations. Ron and his family moved to the Wood River Valley in 1996 from Southern California. Ron first fell in love with the area when he and a buddy drove his buddy’s moving truck to the valley in 1983. After that, Ron made it a priority to visit the area a few times a year. Eventually, Ron pulled the trigger, built a house in Hailey, and moved to the valley full time shortly thereafter.
A licensed pilot since 1981, Ron has always felt a sense of freedom when flying. As he said when we sat down together, “my airplane is my time machine.” Currently, Ron has two aircraft that he frequently takes out. One is an experimental backcountry aircraft that he built himself, and the other is a classic V-Tail Bonanza. Both are fun to fly, and he can zip his family up to the Stanley Baking Company for breakfast on any given day.
When Ron isn’t busy being a dentist, he and his wife enjoy flying to their second home in Parker, Arizona, for a quick weekend of warmth and outside time—especially during our long Idaho winters. The aircraft brings another level of freedom to their lives, making it easy to get away without taking extra time off.
You’re probably wondering what sparked Ron’s interest in becoming a pilot. Well, Ron told us that his father would often talk about the times when he took introductory flying lessons after World War II, and although his dad never received his pilot’s license, Ron was inspired and decided to get his.
In 2015, Ron and a group of 10 other pilots flew the first private planes into Cuba in more than 50 years. They flew into Cienfuegos, Cuba, and then continued on to Havana and back to the United States. Getting permits for this flight took nearly six weeks, with quite a bit of red tape to get through. Earlier this summer, the U.S. government reinstated rules that restrict private aircraft from traveling to Cuba.
Over the years, Ron has fulfilled many roles as an airport board member. He currently serves as an independent board member, representing the public, pilots, and general airport users. Ron also sits on the finance committee and other, smaller committees like the engineer selection committee. Thanks to Ron’s longtime experience with the airport and service on the board, he can knowledgeably speak to many of the issues and changes of the past.
When we asked Ron about his proudest accomplishments, he said he is most proud of the fact that the airport is fully self-supporting, rather than being supported by Blaine County taxpayers. A few years ago, the board and airport went through the modifications to standards when the terminal and taxiway work was done to allow for staying in the current location. This was a big success for all, as they replaced 90% of the airport concrete. The project itself took three years and $35 million to complete. Ron was chairman of the airport board for the duration of the project, so you can understand why he considers this a big accomplishment.
Going forward, Ron says he is looking forward to the airport’s new approach plan with SkyWest and United, which he believes will be a big improvement to our airport. “This will almost eliminate diversions in the wintertime—it’s HUGE,” Ron said.
There’s a chance you’ve noticed that Alaska Airlines, which already has its own private approach into SUN, has decreased its weather-related diversions by nearly 90%. If we could get close to this with SkyWest, it would be a real boon to the traveling public. Ron is optimistic that this could happen within the next year or so.
We asked Ron what he perceives to be some of the biggest changes around the valley during his time here. “Hailey has become a destination of its own,” he observed. “When we first got here, there were maybe one or two restaurants you’d visit, but now there are at least a dozen good restaurants in Hailey. You don’t have to drive to Ketchum anymore if you want to see a movie, go ice skating, attend a play, or enjoy great food.”
Fun facts: Ron was one of the founders (and is still the president) of Hailey Ice, and he has been in charge of the town’s outdoor ice rink for 20 years. To this day, Ron still plays in the hockey league and is proud of what he’s done for the city! Watch for him driving the Zamboni in the Fourth of July parade.
Next time you see a 1973 blue Volkswagen bus with pink flamingos on the curtains, be sure to wave—it’s Ron!