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"Idaho airport attorney denies jet owner's claims"



Monday, December 9, 2002

Airport attorney denies jet owner's claims
By Pat Murphy
The Twin Falls (ID) Times-News


HAILEY -- The attorney for Hailey's Friedman Memorial Airport has
responded with sweeping denials to a California mega-millionaire's
federal lawsuit that charges his constitutional rights are being denied.

Denver attorney Peter Kirsch, whose firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer &
Feld specializes in aviation litigation, filed a 16-page response filled
with terse denials of the allegations jet owner Ronald Tutor set forth
in his lawsuit.

Tutor's 25-page lawsuit, filed in early October in U.S. District Court
in Boise, alleges that the airfield's refusal to allow him to land his
large plush jet there violates his rights to travel freely. Tutor is
demanding the right to land his Boeing Business Jet -- a luxurious
customized version of a Boeing 737 jetliner that normally carries more
than 120 passengers -- as well as damages of at least $75,000.

In addition to rejecting Tutor's claims, the airport attorney made a
counter demand for a judgment against Tutor to cover the airport's costs
of defending itself. Kirsch also asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Kirsch also contended that Tutor hasn't exhausted administrative
remedies, such as challenging the weight limit before the Federal
Aviation Administration, and hasn't proven why he's being harmed by the
rule banning aircraft weighing more than 95,000 pounds.

Both sides will now take depositions and submit motions to the federal
court. A final ruling is at least months off, perhaps longer, Kirsch
told The Times-News.

Tutor's jet, valued at an estimated $60 million, has been showcased on a
cable TV documentary about luxury private jets. The BBJ, however, isn't
Tutor's only jet: According to Friedman airport officials, he also owns
a Gulfstream III his crew flies in and out of Hailey on vacation trips
to Tutor's Ketchum home.

Tutor's lawsuit challenges Hailey's 95,000-pound limit. Tutor's jet has
operating weights as high as 170,000 pounds, and a larger fuselage and
wingspan than other executive and private jets operating out of Hailey.

Tutor maintains that the airport allowed 737-type aircraft to land and
take off in the early 1990s, a fact the airport acknowledges. But the
95,000-pound limit subsequently was enacted to protect runways from
damage, according to statements by airport manager Rick Baird.

In letters to the airport, the FAA has obliquely sided with the airport,
writing that Friedman Memorial Airport has not violated any of its
accords with the FAA by enforcing the 95,000-pound weight limit.

The dispute surfaced late last year when Tutor, CEO of the
multi-billion-dollar heavy construction Tutor-Saliba-Perini Corp.,
demanded permission to land his BBJ, and the airport refused. 

Through his Santa Monica, Calif., attorney Patrick Bailey, Tutor
originally threatened to defy the rule and land the jet. The airport
vowed to file complaints with the FAA that might lead to sanctions
against Tutor's flight crew. The airport said it might also be forced to
close the airport to other traffic because of the BBJ's size.

The BBJ is 110 feet long with a wing span of 117 feet, whereas the
largest of the popular Gulfstream jets operating out of Hailey, the G-V,
has a wingspan of 93 feet and is 96 feet long, and has a maximum takeoff
weight of 91,000 pounds and maximum landing weight of 75,300 pounds.

Several groups are following the lawsuit closely: operators of smaller
airports with weight restrictions; the National Business Aviation
Association, which represents 6,300 corporations that operate aircraft;
Boeing, the maker of the BBJ; as well as other aircraft manufacturers
whose planes exceed 95,000 pounds.

A ruling favoring Tutor might open up a long list of airports now
enforcing weight restrictions that ban aircraft such as the BBJ. This
might help sales of the new generation of heavier corporate jets whose
owners need access to smaller airports, but would also force smaller
airports to absorb expenses of new ramp space for larger aircraft,
servicing and fire fighting equipment in addition to runway surface
maintenance.

Tutor recently made news in a California court, where a judge ordered
Tutor-Saliba-Perini Corp. to pay $63 million in damages to Los Angeles'
Metropolitan Transit Authority. Tutor is appealing the decision.


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