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Felts tower to stay open

Remember how Congress moved almost like greased lightning to keep stop the slowdown in commercial flights that the sequester was going to cause?

And remember how the jaded among you said that was just because they were getting to leave on recess, and didn't want to face delays as they flew home for the break?

Well, turns out there's some dough left from the money the FAA moved around to keep air traffic controllers off furlough, and it's going to help the little airports like Felts Field. And gee, they almost never fly into the little airports…at least not outside of campaign season.

Read more inside the blog.

Senators weigh in on FAA tower closure plans

WASHINGTON — Powerful Congressional voices on transportation issues, including Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, admonished the Federal Aviation Administration for plans to shutter control towers nationwide as a result of federal spending cuts, including Spokane’s tower at Felts Field.

 Cantwell joined six of her colleagues on Capitol Hill to sign a letter insisting the agency look at other options to comply with mandated federal spending cuts. The signees warn the closures, which would hit 149 towers under contract with the FAA, could have air safety ramifications that have not yet been looked at closely.

 “It is deeply troubling that the agency seems intent on proceeding with the closure of key air traffic control assets absent adequate safety data and study,” the legislators wrote in a letter delivered to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on Thursday.

 The Felts Field tower was scheduled to close April 7, but the FAA delayed those plans until June 15. The Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing next week to press officials on the affect federal budget cuts would have on air safety. Huerta will be among those testifying.

 Cantwell was among several Commerce Committee members who signed the letter, along with Committee Chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Today’s highlights

Skyway Cafe owner Sandy Melter, left, talks with Jerry Martin, center, and Ron Webber, right, at the “pilots table,” Tuesday. Located at Felts Field, the Skyway is 63 years old and filled with aviation memorabilia. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Welcome to another hot and sunny day in Spokane. To celebrate we have a tour of today's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger is continuing her tour of places to see in the Spokane Valley area and this week she visited the Skyway Cafe at Felts Field. The cafe is known for its good food and prime location that allows diners to watch planes taking off and landing at the airport.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane County Fire District 9, both of which serve residents in the Spokane Valley area, have replacement maintenance and operations levies on the August ballot. Both districts get a significant amount of their annual budget from the levies. The ballots should begin arriving in the mail this week and must be returned by Aug. 7.

The Spokane Valley City Council got its first look this week at draft goals and policies for the shoreline plan that have been recommended for approval by the city's planning commission. There will be a lot more dicussion on this at future meetings.

Lisa also wrote about new West Valley School District assistant superintendent Jean Marczynski, who most recently worked for the Central Valley School District for many years.

Spokane International Airport traffic increases

Spokane International Airport handled almost 3.2 million passengers last year, an increase of 4 percent from 2009, which had the lowest total since 2004.

December traffic also rose about 4 percent, to 137,820.

Freight and mail rose more than 10 percent for the month, to 5.4 million tons, and 1.76 percent for the year, to 46,863 tons.

At Felts Field, operations fell 5 percent for the year, to 63,496, and 38.3 percent for December, to 2,372. But freight tonnage was up for the month, to 36.6 percent to 3.6 tons, and for the year, 8.1 percent to 44.7 tons.

Felts Field to get more services

A long-time tenant of Felts Field will take over responsibility for fueling planes, and plans to add other services under a contract approved today by the Spokane International Airport board of directors.

The five-year agreement with Western Avionics Inc., doing business as Western Aviation, will bring continuity to Felts operations, which have been hampered by inconsistent service, said Interim airport Director Skp Davis.

Owner Tim Gump said Western has been located at Felts for 35 years. He bought the company  after moving his aircraft electronics business to Spokane from California in 1997, he said.

Besides fueling, Gump said he will provide maintenance, tie-down and other pilot services, possibly including the construction of a new building if another agreeement can be negotiated.

“He’s adamant about customer service,” Davis said, who added that visiting pilots have been put off by the lack of a fixed-base operator at Felts they can turn to for help.

    

A lot of people helped start the Spokane Turbine Center

A few bits of information left out of a Wednesday SR story about the Spokane Turbine Center deserve some mention in the Office Hours blog.  (To see a short video about the three-week course offered by the STC, it’s here.  The full story is here.)

For one, the building the STC has moved into, at the intersection of Rutter Parkway and Fancher, is the renovated former home of the 116th Observation Squadron, which was created and first stationed at Felts Field in 1924. STC Executive Director Jeff Turcotte noted that an anonymous benefactor covered the cost of renovating the stately brick building that is the STC offices.

The 116th eventually evolved into the 142nd Air Defense Group, which became the Air Force refueling wing based at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Second, the training offered by STC is focused on the Kodiak, a small, powerful turboprop aircraft designed by Quest Aircraft Co., in Sandpoint.

The Kodiak was designed by Tom Hamilton, who resides in the Newport area. Paul Schaller, CEO of Quest, said the initial capital to launch the company came from about a dozen U.S. mission aviation groups.


 

Airport traffic off slightly in February

Boardings at Spokane International Airport declined slightly in February, but numbers for the first two months of 2010 remain above 2009 totals.

In February, 106,314 passengers embarked at SIA, off 2.71 percent from February 2009. The total for January and February was 441,092, up less than 1,000 from 2009.

Freight tonnage at SIA and Felts Field decreased for the month, and the year so far.

Other Felts Field operatons increased more than 16 percent for February, and so far in 2010