Luxury jets vie for runways (Arrogance or What)


Malko In Charge
Staff member

By Laura Parker, USA TODAY

By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY
Heavy load: Ronald Tutor's jet weighs 170,000 pounds when full.

Plush planes

Take a virtual tour through Tutor's 'SUV' jet

HAILEY, Idaho — The airport in this mountain town is so small that when terrorism alerts restrict cars to 300 feet from the terminal, the entire parking lot has to be closed.

Friedman Memorial Airport is a busy gateway to the Sun Valley ski resort that is a magnet for the rich and famous, but only small commercial and private aircraft are allowed to land. Heavier jets, such as Boeing 737s, are banned because they would damage the asphalt runway, local officials say.

That rule is what led to all the trouble.

Ronald Tutor, a California construction mogul, wants to fly his customized Boeing 737 here when he visits his vacation home in Sun Valley. In a lawsuit that has made Hailey's airport the focal point of a debate about the future of small airports across the nation, Tutor is asking a federal court to lift the ban that prevents his 170,000-pound jet from landing here. That's 75,000 pounds more than the runway is built to withstand.

Local officials say that if they are forced to accept Tutor's jet and similar aircraft they fear would follow it here, they would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the 6,602-foot runway and close the airport for three months while the work was done.

Tutor's case, which is set for trial early next year in Boise, is being watched by government and airport officials from California to New York. It essentially asks what obligation small, financially stretched airports have to some of America's wealthiest people, and it comes at a time of tight government budgets and costly new security requirements.

Several general aviation airports — those that primarily handle non-commercial aircraft — are being asked to accept Boeing 737 business jets like Tutor's, which is nearly twice as heavy as the Bombardier and Gulfstream jets that account for much of the traffic here.

Tutor's lawsuit focuses on the technicalities of asphalt strength and weight restrictions, but he finds himself cast as the villain in a local drama that is more about wealth, excess and a small town's desire to remain small.

"These are factual issues, but it's being made into an emotional one," Tutor says. "I've had crank letters, phone calls, you name it. I'm the big, bad rich guy."

The dispute is rooted in the roaring 1990s, when multimillionaires flush with cash began trading in their private jets for ones that were bigger, more luxurious and capable of traveling hundreds of miles farther without refueling.

From 1996 to 2000, the business jet market quadrupled, industry analysts say. Sales also were boosted by the rising popularity of time-share jets. Leasing firms bought luxury jets and then rented them to corporations that wanted to fly executives from point to point, but didn't want to own an aircraft.

Just as increasingly large SUVs became popular on America's roads, business jets became bigger and more extravagant. The Boeing business jet, a luxury version of the 737 commercial workhorse, was introduced in 1996 and sells for about $50 million. It can fly from Los Angeles to Paris without stopping, and it has full-sized shower, a bedroom with a queen-sized bed and a range of comforts that smaller jets can't match.

Lee Monson, president of Boeing's business jet division, says his salesmen expected to sell six or eight the first year. They sold 25. In all, they now have sold 82.

"This was the Hummer of the industry," says Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst in Alexandria, Va.

Boeing jets not welcome

But Boeing business jets often aren't welcome at small airports. Concrete runways that can withstand heavy jets are far more expensive to build than the asphalt strips that most general aviation airports have. Over time, repeated landings by such aircraft can break up an asphalt runway.

The airport in Stuart, Fla., just north of the wealthy island enclave of Palm Beach, faced the issue two years ago. Willie Gary, a personal injury lawyer and philanthropist, bought a luxurious 737 and wanted to bring it home to Witham Field. After threatening to fight Stuart's 105,000-pound weight limit "all the way to the Supreme Court," he modified his jet so it was 500 pounds under the limit.

In Cincinnati, Lunken Airport allows overweight aircraft to land a dozen times a month to accommodate Boeing business jets and other large aircraft. Last December, City Council members considered raising the airport's weight limit from 70,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds. But residents objected, so the council kept the existing limit and ordered a study of the issue.

Other airports make no exceptions. Denver's Centennial Airport — the second-busiest general aviation airport in the country, behind Teterboro Airport in New York City's New Jersey suburbs — strictly enforces its 75,000-pound limit.

Robert Olislagers, director of Centennial, turned away a team of Boeing executives who wanted to land a 737 there in 2001, when they flew to Denver to scout for possible locations for Boeing's new headquarters.

Boeing eventually moved to Chicago, saying it wanted to be closer to more of its customers and to the East Coast. But Olislagers briefly was famous in Denver because of his decision.

He shrugs it off. "If your SUV doesn't fit in that compact parking space," he says, "then it should be parked somewhere else."

Boeing, eager to market its luxury business jets, is pressing for Teterboro to allow larger jets. Teterboro's weight limit is 100,000 pounds; local officials have resisted efforts to expand its operations.

"We're not just talking about asphalt strength, which is clearly inadequate to handle this oversized aircraft," says U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J. He is on the House transportation appropriations panel and opposes efforts to allow big jets at Teterboro. "We're also talking about this massive aircraft flying over the community and landing in the heart of it."

In 1999, Boeing asked the Federal Aviation Administration to grant a waiver that would allow 737 business jets to land at Teterboro. The FAA said no. Boeing has asked the FAA to reconsider and also is negotiating with the airport.

Communities can limit airport growth by restricting jet noise and weight. The FAA provides $3 billion in grants to many of the nation's 3,000 airports and requires airports that accept the grants to agree not to unjustly discriminate against access to their facility, says David Bennett, who oversees airport regulation for the FAA.

In July, the agency announced it is considering a plan that would allow heavier aircraft to land on occasion at small airports, even if they exceed weight restrictions. The proposal is not final, but it has drawn fire from Capitol Hill. Rothman tacked an amendment onto a House spending bill that would ban the FAA from lifting the weight limits at Teterboro.

The Idaho dispute began in late 2001 when Tutor, chief executive officer of Tutor-Saliba Corp., a multibillion-dollar public works construction company, asked to land his new 737 at Hailey.

At the time, Tutor also owned a smaller Gulfstream, which he had used to travel to Sun Valley. Hailey's airport manager, Rick Baird, told Tutor that he was welcome in the Gulfstream but not in the 737.

For six months, lawyers for the men traded letters. Tutor offered to do his own study that presumably would show that the runway's asphalt could withstand landings by his jet. (Boeing has done such a study, which it has supplied to Tutor.) Baird declined the offer.

Then Tutor threatened, through his lawyer, to fly his 737 in anyway, carrying less fuel so it would land at a svelte 115,000 pounds. But Tutor never did.

Tutor's suit argues that because the Hailey airport accepts federal funds, it can't unreasonably deny access to the airport. "It's not their personal airport," he says.

Some residents were offended by Tutor's threat to land in defiance of the ban. He was called a rich Californian, which in the Idaho mountains isn't a compliment. In letters to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, readers asked why his smaller jet wasn't good enough. "A person as greedy and selfish as you does not fit the warm, personable qualities we have in this valley," one reader wrote. A resident of nearby Ketchum noted: "I'm surprised that Mr. Tutor's mother was able to give birth to him with a head that big."

Where the stars are

Residents here have catered to and endured the whims of the wealthy and the Hollywood crowd since 1936, when railroad tycoon Averell Harriman built the resort.

There is a ski run named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who flies in from Los Angeles aboard a small jet. When Tom Hanks got into a legal spat with his builder over work on his home here, no one objected when the local judge sealed the court record as a courtesy.

Former Hollywood couple Bruce Willis and Demi Moore are still friendly, live across the street from each other in Hailey and are admired locally for their efforts to rejuvenate downtown businesses. What sets Tutor apart is that his lawsuit threatens to reignite a long-simmering debate between pro-tourism forces that want development and larger aircraft, and an anti-growth crowd that wants to keep the small-town feel of the communities near Sun Valley.

The pro-tourism forces have long wanted major airlines (with big jets) to come to Hailey and make the area more accessible to tourists from the East.

But the airport, between the foothills of the Sawtooth Range and downtown Hailey, has no room to expand.

Many residents worry that if Tutor wins his suit and is allowed to land his jet, the airport will have to accept other 737s. Residents fear that could lead to big airlines knocking on the door.

The issue "is way beyond Ronald Tutor," says Ruth Lieder, who was mayor of Sun Valley and an airport commissioner in the mid-1980s. "The owner of Sun Valley (ski resort) also would like to bring in planes that are too heavy for the asphalt. But he's not suing."


Well-Known Member
He owns a Gulfstream for goodness sake why doesn't he take that. He's just mad because he can't buy his way out of this one.

Rich people can either be the nicest, generous, and considerate people


the biggest babies out there, just cause that have to that their Gulfstream instead of the 737. Geez he's really roughing it isn't he?


Well-Known Member
LOL Another example of a ridiculous lawsuit. LOL First suing because the coffee's too hot then junk food making you fat. Now, I'm suing because your stuff isn't big enough for my stuff.
-Light Bulb- I should sue Martha Stewart. Some things I still can't bake. LOL


Well-Known Member
What a little whining crybaby.

He probably can't ski worth crap, anyway. When I was out at Deer Valley one time, I saw a bunch of people with a lot of money who had the newest clothes, newest skis and equipment, and you know what?

When they got off the lifts, they often fell right on their asses.

There seems to be a difference between the old money folks and the new money folks. The new money people are like, hey, I got all this money, how dare you tell me what to do. Old money tends to have a lot more class.

My dad is friends with someone who was a CFO for a Fortune 500 company, who has more money than anyone knows what to do with, including him. So you know what he did? He didn't piss it away on buying Gulfstreams and Boeing Business Jets, although he could have.

He donated a boatload of it to charities.

If I ever get that wealthy, that's the kind of person I will be. Not someone who whines because he can't bring his BBJ into an airport due to weight limits.


Well-Known Member
If he's so *ucking rich why doesn't he just build his own airport. If he doesn't want to do that he could pay for them to redo the airport like, here was some guy that couldn't get into one of his summer home airports because of weather, so he paid for them to put in an ILS. I wouldn't be complaining if I had to fly in the back of a Gulfstream instead of a BBJ.


171,000 pound BBJ? Daaayum! So a BBJ is a 737-700 with -800 landing gear, but still a -700 wing ... the thing must be a flying gas tank.

I like Centennial's response, "[Robert Olislagers] shrugs it off. 'If your SUV doesn't fit in that compact parking space,' he says, 'then it should be parked somewhere else.'" That pretty much hits it on the head.

Chumpsy here can just park it in Twin Falls and chopper-in the last 60 miles unless he wants to make like Bruce Willis and dump a couple million into the town.


Well-Known Member
So a BBJ is a 737-700 with -800 landing gear, but still a -700 wing ...

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The BBJ has the -700s fuselage, but has the -800s wing and landing gear. Also up to 9 aux tanks in the belly.


Well-Known Member
Well nobody is in favor of the BBJ owners here huh? Well suppose your boss wants to buy one and is willing to type you in it. I suppose that would change your tune LOL.

Olislager had a chance to bring Boeing to his community, with thousands of hi-tech jobs, and he blew it. Good bye Denver, hello Chicago.

I'm not in favor of either side really, but let me remind you that the news is only showing one side. We haven't heard why Tutor wants to bring in the 737 and not the Gulfstream. Maybe he's doing construction there and needs to bring in more people, who knows?

I've flown a BBJ once and they are really nice. They are not that much more expensive to own and operate than a G-V, but have so much more room and range.


Well-Known Member
We haven't heard why Tutor wants to bring in the 737 and not the Gulfstream. Maybe he's doing construction there and needs to bring in more people, who knows?

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It doesn't matter. The airport says you can't land a plane over x pounds on their runway, so you can't do it, no matter how much money you have and how much whining you do.

Rules are rules, and if it means you have to fly two Gulfstreams in there, so be it.


Well-Known Member
[/ QUOTE ]It doesn't matter. The airport says you can't land a plane over x pounds on their runway, so you can't do it, no matter how much money you have and how much whining you do.

Rules are rules, and if it means you have to fly two Gulfstreams in there, so be it.

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I love it when people stick to the point. Let's take heed


New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
I've got a friend, well two, that lived in Spruce Creek where John Travolta lived.

Apparently, Mrs. Travolta wanted the Gulfstream ready to depart at a moments notice so John ran the APU 24 hours a day...

Day in, day out.

I think you've got to be a good neighbor and be respectful.


New Member
I saw a show on discovery wings about John Travolta's flying career, and he now apparently owns and operates a 717.


Malko In Charge
Staff member
yep, he does. but I believe it is a 707. if it's not that he takes his gulfstream, and if not that he rides right seat in a 747 for qantas I believe.


If specified, this will replace the title that
SDL instructs IFR traffic (i.e. most of the jets they get) to get their IFR clearance before engine start due to noise.


Well-Known Member
and if not that he rides right seat in a 747 for qantas I believe.

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I think that might have been just a one time experience. I don't see how he could swing that with security and whatnot nowadays.

btw...anyone know how his new airport is coming along down in FL? Did he finish it yet?


Well-Known Member
Travolta had a lear 24, then a G-II - he was forced to leave Spruce Creek for noise abatement problems. Funny thing, property values of Spruce Creek have gone down since he left.

And about the airport, those weight limits are usually political, as in this case. They don't want airlines coming in there bringing in "the trash."

Both sides of the story would be interesting. Personally I am not a fan of this "Robin Hood" mentality, lets take the rich peoples money (that they earned) and give it to the poor (who have earned nothing) and then the poor will be rich. Every one I know who favored that philosophy and subsequently earned a lot of money changed their tune in a hurry.


Well-Known Member
Every one I know who favored that philosophy and subsequently earned a lot of money changed their tune in a hurry.

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Like who? Bill Gates? The man redistributes more of his own income every year than all of us on this website combined will make during our entire lives. His father, Bill Gates, Sr., is on a tax policy panel here in Washington advocating progressive taxes on higher income individuals and corporations.

Warren Buffett? Ditto. He is Schwartzenegger's economic advisor and he just advised CA to raise its property taxes because they're too low.

Both of these guys started out upper middle class or poor, made billions, and now advocate giving away some of their fortunes and gently increasing the tax burden on those who can afford it.

As for the airport, it's silliness. Just because Michael Jackson wants to pull his sailing yacht into some smalltown harbor does not mean that the town has to dredge out the bay to fit the keel. Same with the airport.


New Member

Pure weight shouldn't be an issue...surface loading is (lbs/sq inch). And, of course, the physical dimensions of a plane can limit it as well.



Well-Known Member
And about the airport, those weight limits are usually political, as in this case. They don't want airlines coming in there bringing in "the trash."

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The airlines could very easily come in there with an RJ, so that doesn't hold water in my opinion.

Bottom line -- if the airport says you can't land a plane over x pounds there, you can't do it. If you can get them to change their mind without whining to the media, go for it.

However, once you start whining to the media like this guy did, you can forget about things changing. Now you made it public, and now you put their pride on the line. Here's my prediction. It will be a cold day in hell before he lands his BBJ there.