ITD considering partnership to reinitiate maintenance of backcountry airstrip in Lemhi County

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip corridor and borrow trench - Photo taken near entrance facing North.

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics (ITD) is seeking public comments as it considers restoring and managing a backcountry airstrip in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The Hoodoo Meadows airstrip (as shown in image above) is the highest in the state at an elevation of 8,200 feet, and provides access to the Frank Church – Wilderness of No Return. The airstrip is located just south of Yellowjacket Lake and near the popular Bighorn Crags area. It has not been used since the 1980s.

The site was managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) after its construction in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and traditionally used to gain recreational access for alpine lake fishing, wildlife viewing, and big game hunting. Although there were no reported accidents, in the early 1980s the airstrip was rated marginal for safety, and by 1989 trees had encroached the site and made it unusable.

In 2016, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) initiated the effort to restore the Hoodoo Meadows airstrip, due to repeated public inquiries about recreational accessibility. Together, USFS, IDFG, and ITD, with support from the Idaho Aviation Association and the Recreation Aviation Foundation, are working on an agreement that would open the site for air travel and provide for future maintenance.

“This effort has been underway for several years. Our role would be making the airstrip safe for pilots to land again, by clearing vegetation and installing safety features like runway markers,” Aeronautics Administrator Jeff Marker said. “It would take about a month of initial cleanup work on our part, but would provide more access for those who wish to explore some of the most remote places in Idaho.”

Visit itd.idaho.gov/aero to review the proposed partnership, then please provide ITD your feedback on the plan. Public comments will be accepted March 15 to March 29 through the following options:

  • Email jillian.garrigues@itd.idaho.gov
  • Record verbal testimony by calling (855) 785-2499
  • Send your written comments by mail to
    ATTN: Jillian Garrigues
    Idaho Transportation Department
    PO Box 7129
    Boise, ID 83707

The USFS sought comments in 2018 on reopening the Hoodoo Meadows airstrip. Now, the public can voice their support or concerns regarding ITD’s involvement in the partnership.

Airports across Idaho benefit from nearly $53M in federal and state grants

Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants of about $39.5 million will help seven primary (commercial) airports across the state with needed improvements to their passenger and aviation facilities. In addition, AIP grants of almost $10 million will help 18 medium and small General Aviation airports across Idaho maintain and improve their aviation facilities.

A local match of $3.2 million is also included in the total.

“Idaho has a somewhat larger FAA program this year than previous years, with a few notable improvements,” explained Idaho Division of Aeronautics Airport Planning and Development Manager Bill Statham.

The Idaho Airport Aid Program (IAAP) will benefit 7 primary, 18 General Aviation, and 5 community airports throughout Idaho with $1 million. Here is a list of Gem State airports that received those grants:

– 4 primary airports (with commercial passengers) received 1 FAA grant each, totaling $10,159,682
Boise, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, and Twin Falls
– 2 primary airports (with commercial passengers) received 2 FAA grants each, totaling $2,355,315
Hailey and Pocatello
– 1 primary airport (with commercial passengers) received 3 FAA grants totaling $27,036,892 of which one was a supplemental FAA grant.
Moscow-Pullman
– 16 General Aviation airports received 16 FAA grants totaling $9,093,423.
Bear Lake County, Blackfoot-McCarley Field, Caldwell Industrial, Cascade, Challis, Coeur D’Alene -Pappy Boyington Field, Council Municipal, Gooding Municipal, Jerome County, Mountain Home Municipal, Nampa Municipal, Orofino Municipal, Priest River Municipal, Rexburg-Madison County, Salmon-Lemhi County, and Weiser Municipal
– 2 General Aviation airports received 4 FAA grants totaling $2,552,569 of which one was a supplemental FAA grant.
Driggs and McCall
– 25 primary and General Aviation airports got Idaho Airport Aid Program (IAAP) grants, totaling $646,426.
All listed primary and General Aviation airports
– 5 community airports received 5 IAAP grants totaling $223,471
Midvale, Rigby, Payette, Downey, and Mackay

Here is a complete list of airports receiving a grant, the amount of the AIP and IAAP grants, and the improvements that received funding.

Several Idaho airports are in the running for additional federal grants through a second round of FAA Supplemental Funding.

ITD’s Hinen assists in saving lives in aviation search and rescue

On Aug. 17, the quick thinking and decisive action of Division of Aeronautics Search-and-Rescue Coordinator Jim Hinen resulted in two lives being saved. Hinen was responding to a near-fatal crash near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Bill Sperling and his friend, Tom, crashed around midday in the heavily wooded area northeast of McCall as they flew out after breakfast that morning at the Flying B Ranch. A second plane, flying nearby, said he saw Sperling’s Cessna 182 try to climb out of the canyon, struggle to do so, then crashed as he attempted to turn back.

When the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was activated by the crash, Hinen was involved as the SAR Coordinator for Aeronautics.

Hinen took the data, contacted air-traffic control and family members to obtain information on the flight path, and arranged for rescue assets to be deployed to the site. During that time, Jim worked with family members to answer questions and provide information.

Hinen’s speculation is that either the aircraft was unable to climb out, and during the turn around, slowed too much and stalled, or had engine/mechanical problems which affected his performance and during the turn around, slowed too much and stalled the aircraft.

“During the summer when the temperature gets hot at high altitudes, aircraft performance is degraded,” Hinen explained. “There is a higher-density altitude.”

“Pilots should be checking aircraft performance charts during preflight to determine if they have enough power available to take off and climb out. ”

They were taken to University of Utah’s burn center in Salt Lake City to recover from second- and third-degree burns sustained in the crash. The response happened within two hours of the crash, likely preventing much different outcome.

“Due to the quick response by Jim, both pilot and passenger are expected to recover,” explained Idaho Aeronautics Administrator Mike Pape.

The Krassel Helitac Crew of McCall performed an emergency short-haul mission to extract one of those involved in the crash who would not otherwise have been able to receive further treatment.

“Short-hauls are when we secure one of our medical providers at the end of a rope who in turn secures the patient,” wrote Anthony Botello, District Ranger with the Krassel Ranger District of the Payette National Forest. “Once secure, both our responder and the patient are hauled under the helicopter at the end of the rope to a place where Life Flight or other responders can take over.”

The Forest Service only has a handful of crews in the nation that are trained and capable of performing short-haul missions.

It is believed to be the first-ever short haul of a member of the public by a Forest Service helicopter and crew.

Hinen maintains he was just one moving part in the rescue. “There were many people involved in the recovery efforts from many agencies and we all assumed a different role in the recovery effort.”

“Fortunately, the people all survived,” said Hinen. “It doesn’t always work out that way.”

Improper decision-making was common thread in Idaho’s recent aviation accidents

Idaho’s Division of Aeronautics, in its Idaho Aviation Accident Score Card, found faulty aeronautic decision-making was the common thread for most of the state’s 22 general-aviation accidents. There are numerous aviation safety teachings in the coming year to combat this trend.

Most of the accidents — 68% — occurred during the takeoff or landing phase of flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) categorized 73% of the accidents as “pilot error.” Another 9% were listed as “mechanical/maintenance” accidents. Five percent were “environmental,” another 5% were “unknown,” and 14% are still under investigation.

The report excludes scheduled commercial-airline flights and flight activity performed by the uniformed armed services.

General aviation flying in Idaho can be challenging. Statistics indicate Idaho has traditionally experienced a higher per-capita accident rate than neighboring states. In 2013, the division set a goal of reducing the state general aviation accident rate by half over a five-year period.

The goal is being accomplished through airport standard operating procedures, welcome packets for visiting pilots, fly-in safety briefings, safety seminars, and the annual safety standdown event.

View the 5-year accident bar chart.

The report analyzes aviation accident data from two years prior, in this case 2016. The data comes from the NTSB database. It takes a couple years for investigations to be completed; thus the reason for the two-year lag.

The report includes yearly comparisons and summaries, total number of general aviation accidents, fatal accidents, fatalities, pilot qualifications, and class of aircraft.

“With this data, we can identify a particular area of emphasis when planning workshops and trainings for the next year,” said Idaho Division of Aeronautics’ Jim Hinen, who leads the safety/education unit.

Here are a few of the findings:

– Aircraft accidents decreased from 28 in 2015 to 22 in 2016
– Fatalities resulting from aircraft accidents decreased from 9 in 2015 to 1 in 2016
– Fatal accidents decreased from 4 in 2015 to 1 in 2016

The mission of the Idaho Division of Aeronautics is to promote and foster aviation within the state of Idaho. The Safety/Education unit of the Division supports this mission by providing relevant, high-quality safety information, and education programs for the benefit of stakeholders.

Calendar of coming Idaho Division of Aeronautics safety events
Here are some upcoming safety events:
May 5: Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) Rusty Pilot Seminar in Boise
May 9: AOPA Collision Avoidance Seminar in Coeur d’Alene
May 16: Pilot Safety Seminar in Twin Falls (with FAA Safety Team)
May 18-19: Pilot Safety Seminar at the Idaho Aviation Expo in Idaho Falls (with FAA Safety Team)
Oct. 26: Certificated Flight Instructor Roundtable in Boise
Oct. 27: Annual Safety Standdown in Boise

The number of general-aviation accidents occurring in neighboring states from highest to lowest:
– Nevada 32
– Washington 31
– Oregon 23
Idaho 22
– Montana 18
– Utah 18
– Wyoming 10

Idaho receives nearly $37 million from federal Airport Improvement Program

BOISE – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded nearly $37 million in grants to Idaho airports from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

In all, 23 recipients received 32 FAA-AIP grants to maintain and improve Idaho’s airport facilities. This is the culmination of a joint federal, state, and local airport process to address air transportation in Idaho.

“Idaho’s quality airport system requires regular investment,” Idaho Division of Aeronautics Administrator Mike Pape said. “With that level of interest and commitment, Idaho will keep and improve a world-renowned airport system that services the citizens of Idaho to meet goals for mobility, safety, and economic opportunity.”

Some highlights:
– Idaho’s six primary (passenger) airports received grants totaling $28,961,834.
– Idaho’s federally eligible General Aviation airports received grants totaling $7,619,553.
– The Idaho Division of Aeronautics received a grant for $410,000 to update their Airport System Plan.

The state of Idaho, through ITD’s Division of Aeronautics, has provided an additional $1 million to assist airport owners in meeting the matching-funds obligation that is part of the FAA-AIP funding and to provide funding for small community airports that do not qualify for federal funding.

The list includes grants for these major projects:

McCarley Field/Blackfoot 
Rehabilitate Taxiway
$1,155,863

Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field
Rehabilitate Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Building
$3,560,586

Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field
Rehabilitate Taxiway & Improve Safety Area
$3,922,633

Friedman Memorial
Rehabilitate Runway, Snow Removal Equipment & Expand North Terminal Apron
$2,624,098

Idaho Falls Regional
Reconstruct Taxiways & Install Guidance Signs
$7,813,597

Jerome County 
Rehabilitate Apron & Reconstruct Taxiway
$1,137,390

Lewiston-Nez Perce County
Construct buildings for Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting, Snow Removal Equipment
$4,368,551
Acquire Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Vehicle
$598,275

Magic Valley Regional
Construct Taxiway, Acquire Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Vehicle
$1,228,658
Rehabilitate Taxiway & Reconstruct Taxiway
$3,460,768

McCall Municipal 
Reconstruct Apron
$1,250,797

Mountain Home Municipal 
Reconstruct Apron
$1,050,267

Pocatello Regional
Rehabilitate Runway 03-21, Reconstruct Taxiway, Rehabilitate Runway 17-35, Rehabilitate Taxiway, Acquire Snow-Removal Equipment
$998,437

Idaho’s young artists invited to enter state 2017 Aviation Art Contest through May 15

Aero art paratroopers

BOISE -Young Idaho artists are invited to submit their creative artwork through May 15 in the Idaho Aviation Art Contest sponsored by the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics. “Aviation Recreation” is the theme for the contest, for young artists ages 5 to 17.

Aero Art Heartbeat
One winning submission from 2016 competition

Use your imagination — the sky is the limit! What types of recreation have you witnessed taking place in the sky. Drones, planes, helicopters, hot air balloons, perhaps? Beyond that, what can you envision?

Submitted art must not exceed legal size (11” x 14”). Two-dimensional watercolor, acrylic or oil, colored pencil, felt-tip markers, ballpoint pen, pen and ink, and crayon are permitted. Pencil, charcoal, computer art, clip art or collages using photo images and photocopies are prohibited.

Artwork will be judged in four categories – Beginner (ages 5-6), Junior (ages 7-9), Intermediate (10-13), and Senior (ages 14-17) – and will be based on originality, design and relativity to the theme.

First-place winners from each category will be invited on an airplane ride, in addition to participating in an award’s ceremony. They will also have the option to have their art signed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, along with a framed congratulatory letter. Winning artists will be announced in the state aviation publication, Rudder Flutter, and each will receive a subscription. In addition, these accomplished artists will be invited to participate in our Ace Academy in mid-June, regardless of their age.

Second-place winners will receive $25 worth of art supplies, a congratulatory letter signed by the governor, and an announcement in the Rudder Flutter along with a subscription.

To obtain a copy of the 2017 brochure and the official entry form with the certificate of authenticity, please visit the Division of Aeronautics website at itd.idaho.gov/aero. The art contest coordinator may be reached at Idaho.aeronautics@itd.idaho.gov or (208) 334-8775.