Governor’s “Leading Idaho” funds Nezperce Airport runway widening

Earlier in August, $357,340 in Leading Idaho funds created runway widening improvements at the Nezperce Airport in north-central Idaho. The runway was widened from 30 feet to 50 feet, addressing a width deficiency identified in the 2003 planning study, while also providing a strong, smooth pavement surface that should last 20 years.

Three agricultural crop spraying businesses currently operate out of Nezperce Airport and this project will provide a sound runway for them to continue, while also providing future aviation growth opportunities. The runway widening and overlay will improve safety for the flying public operating out of the facility.

“Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative has provided the Division of Aeronautics the opportunity to provide funding for worthy aviation projects that may have never been accomplished due to funding shortfalls,” Division of Aeronautics’ Jennifer Schildgen said.

“This project is a great example of how the aviation community is working together to provide the safest aviation system possible. The city of Nezperce has waited 17 years for this project and it is a great honor to have been a part of it.”

As part of Governor Little’s “Leading Idaho” initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one-time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. Construction on this project is paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

Leading Idaho initiative funds Bonners Ferry Airport improvements

Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiatives recently funded snow-removal equipment improvements of $200,000 at the Bonners Ferry Airport in Northern Idaho.

Improvements were completed last week. Improvements included updating an Automated Weather Observing System computer at the facility, purchasing a 135-horsepower tractor, buying equipment for the new tractor (loader, blade, snow blower and rotary mower), and buying materials to build s lean-to to add to the existing snow-removal equipment shed to provide cover for these new items.

“This has helped our airport more than you could ever guess,” said Airport Manager Dave Parker. For instance, Parker said that the airport had not been able to keep up with heavy snow in recent years, but the new snow blower and tractor will enable them to do so now. Parker also said that “having a cab to spray weeds, mow in dusty conditions, and keep warm in the winter has been a dream come true for our crew.”

As part of Governor Little’s“Leading Idaho” initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one-time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. Construction on this project is paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

Leading Idaho funds Rigby Airport Taxiway

Rigby Airport Plane

The latest small community airport in Idaho to benefit from Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiative is the Rigby Airport. The $373,000 improvements included a new taxiway. Leading Idaho enables the Division of Aeronautics to make these worthwhile projects possible financially.

The Rigby Airport’s economic impact includes 66 jobs, $5.4M in GDP, and $11.5M in total output, according to the 2020 Idaho Economic Impact Analysis Update Report.

“It was imperative that we installed the parallel taxiway in the name of safety and constantly increasing traffic every year as the airport became appealing for a growing and vibrant aviation population,” said Rigby Airport Manager Mike Byers.

Byers added that the new taxiway was a long time coming.

“The taxiway was originally planned to be installed in 1977, but due to budget constraints, we had to shelf the project year after year. Thanks to the Idaho Division of Aeronautics, Rigby airport is now safer and able to bring sustainable growth to the city.”

The new taxiway had been identified again in the airport’s 2010 Master Plan.

As part of Governor Little’s “Leading Idaho” initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one-time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. Construction on this project is paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

Airplanes pictured at the Rigby Airport, above.

Prepare for takeoff! Hoodoo Meadows to become next backcountry airport

Map of Hoodoo Meadows location &

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip, located in Lemhi County in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, will become part of the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics (Aero) stable of backcountry airstrips this summer, bringing the number of remote airstrips throughout the state to 32. (See chart, right).Idaho Backcountry Airports Map & Hoodoo Meadows

Idaho’s main aviation user groups — Idaho Aviation Association (IAA) & Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) — will fund and hire a contractor to clear the existing runway area of vegetation and tree in-growth in preparation for use by pilots and recreational user groups. The runway has become overgrown with vegetation during the last four decades due to the lack of a formal maintenance program.

There are some significant benefits to maintaining Hoodoo and designating it as a backcountry airstrip available to the public:

  • It allows the public to access public lands.
  • It serves as an entry point into the backcountry for sportsmen and hikers to streams, lakes and trails, taking pressure off other areas.
  • It is a safety benefit, allowing access in an emergency landing/forced weather landing situation, and allowing for better response to emergency rescue or recovery situations.
  • It increases accessibility to all including the disabled, medically limited population.

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip was originally built in 1936 and abandoned in 1985 due to lack of maintenance and unpredictable afternoon winds at a high elevation (8,200 feet). Despite this, there were no accidents recorded during the nearly 50 years it was in service and open to the public. The runway is 2,200 feet long and about 150 feet wide – more than sufficient to accommodate takeoffs and landings.

Idaho Department of Fish & Game, Idaho Division of Aeronautics, and the United States Forest Service started the process of re-establishing maintenance at the airstrip in 2016. Efforts to maintain Hoodoo were shelved as the project was embroiled in budgetary discussions and scope-of-work questions. In early 2020, Aero renewed efforts to address Hoodoo and maintain it as an Idaho backcountry airstrip. The Division of Aeronautics will provide continuing maintenance to the Hoodoo airstrip.

Approval to move forward with adding Hoodoo to Aero’s backcountry stable of airports was granted by the Idaho Transportation Board in April 2021 following recommendation by the Aeronautics Advisory Board. A Special Use Permit granting the go-ahead on the project was signed by the Forest Service on March 3 of this year. A follow-up request to Dept. of Environmental Quality to determine if a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit was required was answered on May 11, stating that it was not needed to re-establish maintenance.

See the Hoodoo Meadows webpage for details, FAQs and a list of project supporters.

Tom Mahoney takes reins as new Idaho Aeronautics Administrator

BOISE – Tom Mahoney, an Idaho pilot with more than three decades of aviation experience in the Gem State, takes over May 15 as the new Idaho Division of Aeronautics Administrator. He replaces Jeff Marker, who is retiring in early June after nine years with the department and four years as Aero’s Administrator.

In leaving, Marker stated he is incredibly honored to have had the opportunity to work for ITD

“This is an extraordinarily professional group, and I feel privileged to have been at least a small part of the team,” Marker explained. “Aero and ITD will be in great hands as Tom takes over as Administrator.”

Mahoney brings enthusiasm and a wealth of Idaho experience to the new position.

“I am thrilled to be selected,” Mahoney said. “I am glad to continue to contribute to air commerce and safety in Idaho, a state that benefits tremendously from aviation.”

Mahoney has been a military aviator, aircraft owner, small-business owner, flight instructor, and air charter pilot in Idaho for the past 30 years.

“I will use all of those skills as I serve the team members in the Aeronautics Division,” he added. “I look forward to continuing Jeff Marker’s legacy and supporting the vision and mission of the Idaho Transportation Department.”

Aviation runs in Mahoney’s blood. “Aviation has been a passion of mine since winning an art contest for United Airlines when I was eight years old,” he said. “My father was a United Airlines employee, so I had early exposure to many great people in aviation.”

Like Marker, Mahoney has an Air Force background. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (Physics), Air Force Test Pilot School, Master of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle University, and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After a decade of flying fighter aircraft, Tom served for four years as a budget officer in the Pentagon.

Carter Hickey provides improvements to Smiley Creek Airstrip near Galena Pass

In mid-October 2022, 16-year-old Carter Hickey of Hailey (he’s part of Scout Troop 100 in Boise) completed an Eagle Scout project at the Smiley Creek Airstrip just over the Galena Pass in south-central Idaho, building a picnic pad area and campfire pit for the facility’s caretakers and the pilots camping there to use.

He had originally planned to build a picnic bench at the Indian Creek Airstrip with backcountry pilot, Galen Hanselman, but before he could do the project, Galen died from liver cancer. The cancer was caused by complications from Hepatitis A, which he had contracted many years before without knowing.

“I tried to continue the project in his name but couldn’t build where the Indian Creek Airstrip is located because it’s in a Wilderness area,” Hickey explained. “I wanted to stick with a project that would benefit backcountry pilots to honor Galen, so after being unable to build at Indian Creek, I decided on an airstrip closer to home that Galen used frequently – the Smiley Creek Airstrip.”

Hickey then reached out to Aero’s Airport Manager, Dan Conner toward the end of June 2022, and Carter and his father met on-site with Dan to share ideas on how to improve the airstrip.

Hickey prepared a detailed proposal for Conner on the project details and intent, an estimate on what supplies would be needed, the phases of the project, and the basic logistics needed to execute the project. It was approved by Conner, the scoutmaster of his troop, a project advisor, the troop’s committee members, and a representative from the counsel overseeing all the troops in the area.

Hickey then began the project. Most of the supplies needed were excess materials already at the airstrip, leaving Hickey to acquire the metal ring for the fire pit and other random supplies. The metal ring was graciously made and donated by a close family friend, Shay Doll, who welded the ring herself.

Hickey then ran up against another problem in early September – Mother Nature.

“Before I could begin the project, the Ross Creek wildfire started near the airstrip and it became inaccessible,” he explained. “The fire burned for a month and winter slowly grew closer, shortening the deadline for my project. Once travel to the airstrip was allowed again, it was closing in on mid-October and snow was forecast for the beginning of November. This forced me to reschedule rapidly and make some last-minute adjustments.”

Aero’s Sr. Utility Craftsman, Joe Fleck and his colleague, Mark Pfeifer, came to Smiley Creek on October 14 to start the project and help with the heavy loading for the pad. The next day, the Spring Family from his troop came up to Smiley Creek and helped finish the picnic pad and dig the campfire pit.

Thanks to Conner’s cooperation and flexibility, along with the help of the Spring Family, Hickey was able to complete the project on October 15!

“The project was a great success and ran without any hiccups, despite the rushed timeline,” Hickey said. It also was finished just in time, as the week after the completion of the project, Smiley Creek got 6 inches of snow.

“I’m glad we were able to expedite the completion of the project before the ground froze which would have prolonged it until late spring,” Hickey said. I am thankful I was able to work with so many talented individuals who made this possible and to work on a project that follows the path Galen and I set out on,” he said.

Conner told Hickey, “I have no doubt that you will be back one day as a pilot yourself and will be using these very spots that you built and telling your kids the stories of how you did it.”

Idaho students show talents in annual Aviation Art Contest

Idaho students age 5 and up competed under the theme “Aviation Gets You There” in the annual Aviation Art Contest through the Idaho Division of Aeronautics.

Age-group winners (categories listed below) received the following awards/recognition:

  • First place winners:
    • Invitation to ride in an airplane
    • Copy of their artwork signed by our Governor
    • Congratulatory letter
  • Second place winners:
    • Receive $25 in art supplies
    • Congratulatory letter
  • Runners-Up:
    • Runners-Up and winners are featured in the 2023 Aviation Art Calendar

Artwork Categories by Age:
Age Group I: 5–6 years old WINNER
Age Group II: 7–9 years old WINNER
Age Group III: 10–12 years old WINNER
Age Group IV: 13–15 years old WINNER
Age Group V: 16–18 years old NO ENTRIES

See all of the winning artwork on the art contest webpage under the “Safety & Education” tab.

Applications for next year’s contest will be available in January 2023 from the Aeronautics webpage.

Leading Idaho funds runway improvements to St. Anthony Community Airport

Grant funds in the amount of $1.7M from Gov. Little’s Leading Idaho initiative helped repair and replace sections of badly damaged runway at the small community airport in St. Anthony in October. The funds were used in conjunction with Idaho Airport Aid Program funding to complete the runway reconstruction and eliminate a significant safety hazard.

The consultant who managed the project, T-O Engineers, worked with the City of St. Anthony to help them reconstruct their only paved runway and build a new partial parallel taxiway for additional hangar development. The existing runway pavement was rated in “poor” condition in 2021 and was projected to drop to “very poor” within the next five years. The new partial parallel was constructed to provide access to the runway for existing and future hangars as well as improve safety at the airport.

Aviation Program Manager for T-O Engineers, Jared Norton, reported that the design included utilizing a CRABS (Concrete Recycled Asphalt Base Stabilization) process on existing runway pavement that was still in good condition and could be salvaged, which reduced construction costs and time, while providing a high-strength pavement section.

The project was not without its challenges, Norton said.

“During construction, we encountered unanticipated subsurface conditions that impacted the CRABS process. T-O Engineers worked with the city and contractor Depatco to quickly modify the design and allow the project to continue moving forward on schedule. In the end, the city was able to complete the full project on time and under budget. “

The new runway will better serve the agricultural spraying needs and general aviation operations at the small East Idaho airport.

“The Division of Aeronautics is honored to have the ability to collaborate with airport sponsors to ensure the safety and economic viability of the statewide aviation system,” said Aero’s Airport Planning Manager Jennifer Schildgen (pictured  left). “It is wonderful to see project completion and the amazing work being done through partnerships that helps the communities. It is one of the reasons I look forward to work every day.”

“Leading Idaho” funds used for critical runway improvement in Malad

TECM Program

Idaho Governor Brad Little’s “Leading Idaho” funding initiative paved the way recently for badly needed runway improvements at the Malad City Airport.

Leading Idaho funding supplied 100% of project costs, to the tune of $1.6M.

The project began in September 2021 and finished in late July. It was managed by local airport officials and Idaho’s Division of Aeronautics. The airfield at Malad City is one of 48 community airports statewide that are managed by Aero, which is part of the Idaho Transportation Department.

Malad’s City Airport was at the top of the list for funding due to a runway that only scored a 37 (of 100) in the most recent Pavement Condition Index (PCI) – a rating that translated to “Very Poor.” The PCI is the primary rating tool to determine the level of pavement distress and subsequent need for improvement.

The Malad City Airport is just the first of many small community airports across the state that will utilize these Leading Idaho funds to tackle needed repairs.

“A huge thank you to Governor Little for his Leading Idaho Grant and for the State of Idaho Aeronautics for trusting in Oneida County – Malad Airport with the grant funds to rebuild our runway,” said Malad City Airport Office Manager Roxanne Albretsen.  “We are beyond grateful and will maintain and keep it in beautiful condition for years to come!”

Airport Board member Mike Hess, in comments made to the local newspaper, The Idaho Enterprise, said the biggest beneficiaries of the runway improvement would include “Life Flight first and foremost; saving lives as Malad relies on medical transport in many life-threatening cases.”

Without a well-maintained runway, critical patients must be taken by ambulance to the nearest trauma center, which can often make a significant difference in their medical intervention.

Hess continued, “Firefighting would be next. Almost every year the Forest Service will set up a fire-fighting base there.”

This year’s fire season has not been as extreme as last year’s, but the recent Lemhi County and Yosemite fires suggest the season may have quite a few surprises left, especially as high temperatures and winds are in the forecast for much of August.

Hess also mentioned some less-visible benefits.  “Each year, Agricultural spray planes base their operations at the airport for the local agricultural community. There were over 2,200 landings here last year.  Many of these will take the Courtesy Car into town and buy lottery tickets and a meal. Many people fly in for other business purposes and/or family visits. Many visitors are flying cross-country and stop to purchase gas, which benefits the county.

The Idaho Department of Commerce has indicated that having a community with rail service, freeway access and an airport are three of the most important considerations new businesses look for when selecting a site.”

As part of Governor Little’s “Leading Idaho” initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one-time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. Construction on this project is paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

ACE Academy helps turn Nathan Johnson’s aviation interest into passion

We often don’t realize the impact our actions can have on others. Complementing a stranger, giving friendly advice and other seemingly insignificant things can change the trajectory of a person’s day. Those kindnesses can sometimes change the path of someone’s life as well.

Dan Conner, ITD Airport Manager with the Division of Aeronautics, was lucky to experience this when a friend’s son had an interest in aviation.

“We were sitting around a campfire on a hunting trip in 2019 when I learned that my friend’s son, Nathan, was interested in a career in aviation,” said Conner. “I recommended that he enroll in the ACE Academy to learn more about what he can do in the industry.”

Nathan attended the the Division of Aeronautics’ ACE Academy that year. That experience turned his interest into passion.

“I received Nathan’s high school graduation announcement this past June and learned that he is attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to continue his education,” said Conner.

Nathan’s father, Brett Johnson, said that Nathan still talks about what he learned in the ACE Academy.

The ACE Academy is held in Boise early each summer. For more information about the program or to apply, please contact tim.steffen@itd.idaho.gov or call 208 334-8780.

Nathan (second from right) at the 2019 ACE Academy.
Dan Conner
Nathan at Embry-Riddle.