Airport flight rules changed, more planes now able to utilize Sanpete
EPHRAIM—A change in the flight rules at Manti-Ephraim Airport has the potential to create a positive economic impact on the valley, says Airport Board Chair Ted Meikle.
According to Meikle, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented a set of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) for the Manti-Ephraim Airport.
Nearly five years in the making, the new flight rules expands the capabilities of the airport, allowing planes to land and take off that would not be able to before the IFR were established.
“The bigger planes such as business jets kind of expect this in an airport,” Meikle said.
The purpose of IFR, says Meikle, is to give aircraft such as corporate jets a set of instructions to fly into the airport through cloud cover. With the previous rules, Visual Flight Rules (VFR), if the valley was covered in clouds, an aircraft was essentially not allowed to use the airport.
“An airport needs to have procedures—basically maps in the sky,” Meikle said. “If there are clouds over the valley, a pilot uses these procedures to fly down through the clouds and get to the airport. Without them, it’s basically no-fly with clouds above the valley.”
Now that the VFR are established and published by the FAA, it opens up possible opportunities for businesses to utilize aircraft for the consistent transport of people and cargo, even if the weather has caused clouds to obstruct a visual reference of the airport.
“There are a lot of businesses that use aircraft,” Meikle said. “We saw this when investors flew in to negotiate with Moroni Feed. Bailey Farms also uses the airport so they could benefit from this. It allows companies to do more business here because they can come and go more consistently from the airport.”
Meikle says the airport put in a request for the new flight rules back in 2012 when the airport board began making improvements to to make it a more valuable resource to the area.
He said, “The FAA took it on, but they had to do a very detailed survey of the runway and the valley, so they know exactly where all the obstacles are.
“The FAA was very happy to do it, but it took a long time due to their technical research, and they also had to wait for us to resurface the runway.”
According to Meikle, after the survey, FAA experts applied all the restrictions and limitations to the procedures and figured out what the best flight paths in and out were.
Under the new IFR, the runway has one approach, or landing direction, which is the south end. Departure, or take-off, is possible at either end of the runway, he said.
Another benefit to the IFR is giving emergency helicopters a path through the valley if it’s clouded over, improving the ability to have a fast medical transport available to and from the county.
Kevin Christensen, Sanpete’s director of economic development, says this is the final phase of the plan to upgrade the airport. The upgrades began with the lengthening and resurfacing of the runway, the addition of fuel services, a pilot’s lounge and an Automated Weather Observing System.
“These upgrades, including the instrument flight rules, basically get our airport up to snuff for corporate jets,” Christensen added.