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Group opposes east-side flights

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The Utah Air Travel Commission — an influential group of politicians, businessmen and others — has added its voice to the long list of groups opposed to a plan that could put commercial jets over the Wasatch Mountains.

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed the plan to redesign Salt Lake County's crowded airspace. While there aren't any concerns over safety, the plan would allow Salt Lake City International to maintain its punctual arrival and departure rates even as the Wasatch Front grows, according to air traffic managers at the airport.

The commission voted to formally oppose parts of the FAA's Northern Utah Airspace Initiative, which could put jets in high holding patterns over Salt Lake County and Davis County's eastern cities and bring in jets over ski resorts like Alta and Snowbird. Still, its members said they were interested in other solutions to the airport's traffic problems besides the eastern corridor.

Salt Lake City Department of Airports director Tim Campbell said his department has spent some $300,000 to hire an outside consultant, who is developing alternative proposals to the east-side corridor.

The contractor's report should be available before late winter, Campbell said.

Currently there is only one holding pattern, over Salt Lake County's far west side, that jets use before beginning their final approach to the airport — also on the west side.

This past week, commission members stressed the issue should not divide the county's more affluent east side versus its west.

The FAA is currently conducting an environmental impact study to determine the environmental effects — including noise pollution — of creating a jet holding pattern over the Wasatch Front's eastern benches. The study is also examining the impacts of creating an entryway into Salt Lake County's airspace that would fly jets over pristine mountain canyons where some of the area's most famous ski resorts are located.

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com