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We believe that Coeur d'Alene Airport manager Mr. Steven Kjergaard is the wrong manager for our airport.


Despite KCOE being classified as a general aviation airport, he actively dismisses the general aviation pilot. He is quoted as stating that most of the airport tenants are a “bunch of gray-haired old guys with an expensive hobby. People in my own age group spend their money on things other than airplanes." This is the person overseeing our local airport full of small aircraft pilots.


We refuse to support a manager with this attitude and call for his termination. We advocate for an interim manager to be appointed until a suitable replacement, who can demonstrate an appreciation for the average pilot and tenant, can be hired.

After three tenuous years under Mr. Kjergaard's leadership, it is clear that his management style reveals his disdain for the average airport tenant. His use of harrassment, disrespect and bullying of tenants is an unhealthy situation for the Coeur d'Alene airport and community. That is unacceptable behavior for a person in this position.

Furthermore, Mr. Kjergaard has managed to align himself with at least one of three Kootenai County Board of Commissioners. Bill Brooks and Mr. Kjergaard demonstrate an alliance that has become increasingly troublesome. Mr. Brooks has shown himself to be of the same ilk as Mr. Kjergaard as he demonstrates some of the same attitudes toward pilots and tenants as manager Kjergaard. As long as Mr. Brooks is the official laison to the airport, considering their "good ol' boys allegiance", nothing will change. Commissioner Leslie Duncan has shown her concern for the numerous airport issues presented to her, with Chris Fillios, so far, aligning himself with Mr. Kjergaard and Mr. Brooks. Guaranteed the next election will find many members of this organization personally and actively campaigning against the relection of Mr. Brooks.


Recently Mr. Brooks was overheard saying "the government shouldn't support the airport so pilots can enjoy their hobbies." This is an absurd attitude for a public official. Where does he think new pilots are trained? Where are the next generation of professional pilots going to come from? They're starting in little airports, in little airplanes. Even more absurd is knowing that Mr. Kjergaard is quoted as voicing the exact same opinion. If Mr. Kjergaard feels such contempt for a large number of the Coeur d'Alene aviation community, what is he doing running our airport?

The Problem
  • The lack of communication and positive engagement of manager Kjergaard with customers and clients (pilots, tenants, businesses) has been an ongoing issue since he arrived on the job in Coeur d'Alene. He has been described by individuals as vindictive, sneaky, arrogant, uncooperative, intimidating, untrustworthy, and aggressive. There are documented examples of this bullying behavior. He negatively represents the Coeur d'Alene community.

  • There is huge concern about the plan to decouple our most actively used runway. In the name of extreme safety, this calls for removing 1,000 feet of runway 2-20, which is used 75% of the time, with no real benefit to the community or to pilots. It would even leave our airport without an alternate runway which is needed in certain conditions. The estimated cost to taxpayers is $5 million. For more information, contact Keith Lang at

  • Mr. Kjergaard blocked access to privately held assets. Boulders, jersey barriers, and fencing have been placed, without notice, to block hangar door access to taxiways and runways for aircraft. For more information on this issue, contact Jim Walsh at


This privately held aircraft access has been there for numerous years and allowed under previous management until Mr. Kjergaard decided to block it, without notice to the owners. This is an example of how he interacts with GA pilots and hangar owners.

  • The required document "Rules and Regulations & Minimum Standards for Operations at Coeur d'Alene Airport" was drafted by an outside entity, Trillion Aviation. This was done contrary to Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Because every airport is unique, the FAA requires this document be written locally. For more information contact Mike Kincaid at or Frank O'Connell at

  • With no apology, Mr. Kjergaard pushed through a 22% increase in ground lease rates. For more information, contact Murdo Cameron (208) 640-1620 or

  • There has been a high sewer rate increase on hangar owners. Although it amounted to "only" $8/unit per month, many hangars with a restroom are considered to have three units. So given the relative rarity of use in many hangars, a toilet flush can now amount to $50 a month. For more information, contact Murdo Cameron (208) 640-1620 or

  • It is being suggested that Kootenai County purchase the two current Fixed Base Operators (FBO's) and consolidating them into a single FBO operated by the County. This would eliminate competition and potentially drive up fuel prices. Many pilots already avoid buying gas at KCOE because of price and instead fill up at Kellogg, Sandpoint, or other FBO's in the area.

  • Mr. Kjergaard has implemented a plan to "lock down" the entire airport with proximity badges/IDs that must be worn at all times. This is unneccessary, expensive, and inconvenient for pilots. It is a result of a plan from 40 years ago to attract commercial air traffic to COE. The vast majority of people familiar with the airport recognize this as a boondoggle will never become reality because of the close proximity of Spokane International Airport. Meanwhile the lockdown taking place is not a requirement for current operations. It causes honest people to have difficulty entering the airport grounds, including businesses with deliveries, or difficulty responding to an emergency on the grounds. We are a general aviation airport, not a commercial airport. The general public is denied access to the airport which their tax dollars built.

  • Mr. Kjergaard rules with intimidation and perceived threats of retaliation over those who dare question his decisions. He is known to harrass hangar owners with threat of inspections or citations. 


Letter to Mike & Sholeh Patrick, Bill Buley at the CDA Press

Subject: Events at KCOE coming to a boil

by Mike Satren

Dec. 13, 2020

Hi friends,


Friend Rich Sugden, former Navy and KJAC pilot, sent this out just now and it reflects how everyone, who I know at KCOE, feels about the dictator Steven Kjergaard, who is the current manager of KCOE. From the first, Kjergaard showed himself to be a bloviating hater of general aviation and the antithesis of a friendly local airport manager.


With his actions at Williston, ND, he left a trail of grandiose plans (closing the existing Sloulin airport to build a new international airport nearby on the promise of greater need based on the North Dakota oil boom, which never materialized) which resulted in stranded Sloulin Field hangar owners, FBOs and hotels and a local debt load that is staggering. Traffic at the new airport is minimal contrary to Kjergaard’s prognostications. When he saw the writing on the wall, he used up all his remaining vacation time and resigned the day he got back.


I like our local politician Marc Eberlein personally and agree with his conservative positions most of the time. But because as KC commissioner he was the chief instigator in the hiring of Kjergaard and a huge supporter, I have told Eberlein that I will never vote for him again, even for dog catcher.


KCOE has gone from a mostly user-friendly general aviation airport (although it could have been better) to a locked facility. Go through the locked gate, fly, and go home is what Kjergaard’s actions brought us. One shouldn’t visit friends and hangar talk, so commands the warden.


While pilots and hangar owners and renters pay their fair share of operating costs, the financial benefits of this well laid out airport to the community at large far outweigh additional costs to run the airport.


Should Kootenai County wait to fire its erstwhile dictator-in-chief until Kjergaard puts us into overwhelming debt and forever changes the nature of KCOE, just to stroke his ego?


Ask Bill Brooks and Chris Fillios.





Letter to the Coeur d'Alene community 

by Cynthia Marlette

November, 2020

When one person complains about a situation, it can be written off as a personal ax to grind. When two or three people complain about a common situation, it might be slightly more believable. When more than 50 pilots gather together, as they did in a hangar a while back, despite the threat of coronavirus, and agree about an intolerable situation, it’s time for those in charge to sit up and listen.  


This is the case with the Coeur d’Alene Airport (Pappy Boyington Field, or COE) manager Steven Kjergaard. Since Mr. Kjergaard was hired in 2017, he has done an excellent job of proving he is the wrong person to manage this airport. 


My husband and I are among the newest hangar tenants at the airport. It hasn’t taken long to hear a steady stream of unsolicited discontent from a myriad of pilots and hangar owners. Our observation is that the situation is becoming untenable. While Mr. Kjergaard is quoted in the newspaper as working on improving relations with pilots and hangar owners, his actions do not follow.


An airport is a public domain, supported by taxpayer dollars. First and foremost, the airport manager should be there to serve and advocate for those who use it. This includes corporate entities, fire fighters, airport businesses, small aircraft owners, visiting aircraft, and hangar owners. Instead he demonstrates a personal disdain and disrespect for general aviation (private pilots). Rather than support the pilots, he tries to use the Federal Aviation Administration as a convenient hammer to bludgeon them. GA impedes his grand vision for the airport, and his aggressive actions toward pilots and hangar owners prove this. 


Story after story from unrelated pilots confirm not just his unwillingness to communicate, but his outward hostility toward those who try to convey their concerns. Based on numerous interactions with various pilots, our airport has the reputation as being the most unfriendly in the region. We’ve traveled to other airports and visited with random pilots. When they hear we are from Coeur d’Alene, the response is almost always a negative comment about our airport. The responsibility for this reputation falls squarely on the shoulders of the CDA Airport Manager, Mr. Kjergaard.


After hearing disturbing second hand stories regarding interactions with Mr. Kjergaard, I spoke directly with some of those involved. They each told a story of appalling interaction with a manager they described as arrogant, uncooperative, intimidating, unwilling to listen, untrustworthy, vindictive, sneaky and aggressive. 


An 85-year-old hangar owner of 25 years felt sufficiently harassed by management to feel that she was being manipulated into abandoning her hangar. She believes it was targeted for takeover by the airport because of its location. Although she ultimately fought back and prevailed following a bogus accusation of a missing fire wall between her hangar and a connected business, this incident remains deeply troubling.


Beneath the group who will openly speak up is a larger group of discontented hangar and business owners who whisper about issues privately among themselves. Hangar owners who dare cross Mr. Kjergaard have been known to suddenly be targeted for extra hangar inspection scrutiny. So that group intentionally flies below management’s radar. 


There are currently several pressing airport operations concerns. One is decreased access to the airport grounds, accomplished by fencing and a new access card system at the gates. A temporary restraining order (TRO) was just issued regarding the fencing, and mediation of this dispute is expected. This means a court has determined, at least on a preliminary basis, that the complaints are not just the grumblings of disgruntled owners or critics, but are real and genuine.


For several years, the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners, Chris Fillios, Leslie Duncan and Bob Brooks have seemingly wiped their hands of these pilots’ concerns, although Ms. Duncan has been much more open to discussion. Bob Brooks has been openly hostile toward those who bring issues about Mr. Kjergaard to his attention. Last spring the BOCC discounted a plethora of pilot surveys indicating no confidence in Mr. Kjergaard’s management. Some concerned airport stakeholders report unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails to commissioners regarding airport issues. While Mr. Kjergaard bullies the pilots and hangar owners who are supposed to be his customers, he turns around and romances his bosses, the Commissioners. He is a master manipulator.


Meanwhile, any concern brought before the BOCC is blithely discounted by Mr. Kjergaard, as reported in the Coeur d’Alene Press. The failure of the BOCC individually and collectively to respond in any meaningful way to these numerous concerns has recently led to a lawsuit filed by a number of airport hangar owners/tenants. That in turn is costing the county taxpayer dollars for the legal costs of defending the lawsuit. Even if done by county attorneys and not outside counsel, it is time taken away from more productive work by the County Attorneys and staff.  


Perhaps Mr. Kjergaard is a nice person in his personal life, but his professional management style is toxic and detrimental to our airport, and ultimately, our community. By all accounts, he is a classic bully with a lust for control and power. Bullying isn’t acceptable on the playground, and it’s not acceptable in a public employee. It’s time for the BOCC to step up and replace him with a suitable manager with whom Coeur d’Alene can be proud. We need someone willing to serve not only those with big jets ferrying celebrities and business executives, but also those with a two-seater Cessna who live and work in our community and fly as a hobby. We need someone who advocates for those who call the Coeur d’Alene airport their home. We need someone who actually respects the general aviation community. 


Imagine building a reputation as the friendliest airport in the region. That’s the most important improvement our airport can possibly make right now, and it’s never going to happen with Mr. Kjergaard at the helm. 

AIRPORT: All about the customers

October 23, 2020 1:00 AM


Hayden/Auburn, Ala.

Coeur d'Alene Press

I am a junior at Auburn University pursuing an Aviation Management degree who grew up in Hayden and spent the majority of my leisure time at the Coeur d’Alene Airport. As my education progresses, it appears the B.S. in marketing with a minor in aviation management Airport Director Kjergaard obtained from Minnesota State University has let him down.


Although the curriculum at both universities is very similar, I learned some things in the Management Foundations course which it seems his professors never bothered to teach. One is customer satisfaction should be a high priority, but this doesn’t seem to be a concern of his. I’m only 22 years old, but I still question if he was taught this very basic management aspect. 

Fortunately for me, Auburn University has amazing, thoughtful, and hands-on professors. To share with you a glimpse of what I have learned in my aviation management courses, one is that respect is a very prominent aspect of your job. This includes, but is not limited to, having open, honest and flexible relationships with your customer base, such as communicating with the hangar owners. Another thing I believe Minnesota State University failed to teach Mr. Kjergaard is establishing connections, which would greatly benefit his career in the aviation world.


If Mr. Kjergaard considers taking this advice and talking with the hangar owners, he’ll find the aviation community of the Coeur d’Alene Airport is full of the most amazing and inspiring individuals. The tenants deserve respect, as they have put their hearts into our local airport. Additionally, as you may have already learned, they will not stand for being disrespected.

There's more to airport story

By FRANK O'CONNELL/Guest Opinion 

October 17, 2020 1:00 AM

Coeur d'Alene Press

Should Kootenai County taxpayers be concerned about the possibility of higher taxes to fund unnecessary future airport modifications and expansion? Many of us at the Cd'A airport (KCOE) certainly are.

After reading last Friday’s article (Airport, Critics Far Apart on Policies), we “critics” agreed that more was unsaid than said in the story. Though it gave voice to our AD (airport director) and his defense of current policy and plans (the FAA is in full control, taxpayers not so much), in no way did it come close to fully explaining the extent of the issues facing KCOE.

First, who are the critics? We comprise a wide spectrum of general aviation (GA); small aircraft owners and pilots, as well as commercial operators, current and retired airline pilots and airport business owners with a broad range of age and experience. This community has become increasingly concerned about the direction KCOE has taken since this AD was hired in 2017; sporadic/poor communication and an autocratic, undiplomatic management style has become the norm. All decisions are top down, with no apparent need for any other viewpoints; tenants are treated with a mix of disdain and condescension.

Our paramount concerns are with the Airport Master Plan which calls for the decoupling of our most actively used runway. This stems from an FAA diktat (we’re told) that all such co-joined runways should be removed or separated after a 2006 accident whereby a jet departed an incorrect, shorter runway in fog. While tragic, the accident was due to human error and was an outlier. Runway numbers painted on the approaches, compass/GPS instrument readings and highly visible signage marking the runways are free or inexpensive and properly used, guarantee safe operations; tearing out 1,100 feet of perfectly usable runway provides no practical benefit to aircraft or the community and could create safety hazards and increased noise pollution to area residents. In addition, this would leave KCOE without an alternate runway for larger or jet aircraft when the longer runway is not usable due to maintenance or high cross winds. Strangely, decoupling was not the preferred alternative in the master plan; why then was it chosen over lengthening (preferred)?

There are other possible long-range implications. Our current AD left his previous position as the director of the Williston, N.D., airport after growing criticism of his plan to abandon their existing airport to build a brand new one. Originally quoted to cost less than upgrading the current airport, he abruptly terminated his position (after commitment but before construction) to fill the AD position here.

Williston ultimately spent $300 million (original estimate $150 million) for an airport they really didn’t need as the oil boom came to an end and their commercial traffic reverted to pre boom levels. Could our AD have similar plans for KCOE? Given the push to develop the north side of the airport, is passenger service the ultimate goal? By adding 1,200 feet to the longer runway in the plans, we suspect that it is his, if not the BOCC’s intent to attempt to re-introduce passenger air service (with its large aircraft) to KCOE. For the record, this has been tried and failed several times in the past as Spokane International had no intention of losing business to KCOE and have simply priced new competition out of business.

If this is the future of KCOE, do we want such traffic over nearby neighborhoods at all times of the day? If we build this, will any airline even consider using it, given competition from Spokane? Do we know what the final price tag might be? Williston was not built with all FAA “free” money, state and local governments chipped in. Could we find ourselves with increased taxes to support a facility we never needed?

We “critics” know KCOE is one of the premier small airports in this region and believe that we should be working toward our strengths (continued, cost effective development for GA utilization), not a known weakness (reinstituting passenger air service). As Coeur d'Alene continues to grow, the GA community is growing with it and bringing more financial opportunities that can be exploited, for Cd'A’s benefit, with only the proper leadership and planning.


Whatever your interest, full disclosure and a more in-depth examination of all these issues should happen before any construction begins.

• • • 

Frank O'Connell is a 31-year private pilot, aircraft and hangar owner in Cd'A who's passionate about all things aviation and KCOE.


The decoupling project at the Coeur d’Alene Airport/Pappy Boynton Field would decrease their 2/20 runway by 1,000 feet. Photo courtesy Mike Kincaid.

Airport, critics far apart on policies


Staff Writer | October 9, 2020

CDA Press

Plans to decouple the two runways at the Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field are sparking opposition by hangar owners for the safety of pilots, residents and their wallets.

A recent lawsuit filed by hangar owners Dr. John Huckabay, Murdo Cameron and Jim Walch has brought pilot concerns to light after the men felt unheard by county commissioners. In conjunction with the suit, the Coeur d'Alene Airport Association plans to meet Oct. 16 to address what they believe is the airport's misuse of taxpayer dollars.


In a CDAAA email, the association identified several projects, like decoupling the runways, that pose severe problems to hangar owners.

Steven Kjergaard, airport director, said the decoupling project is part of a 20-year master plan to bring the facility up to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. Disconnecting the two runways, he said, has been a national FAA initiative since the Comair Flight 5191 crash in 2006 killed 41 people due to coupled lanes.

The airport started the project's design process in September, Kjergaard said, but plans won't be complete until early 2021. The project could be completed in 2023.

Members of the CDAAA and the lawsuit participants contend that this large-scale project is expensive, unnecessary, and unsafe. Hangar owner Mike Kincaid is not part of the litigation, but he is concerned for airplane safety and nearby properties.

Most airports install control towers that relay pilots' messages and mitigate possible collisions, but Kjergaard said the FAA dismissed a tower in Coeur d'Alene anytime soon.

"We've asked that question to the FAA, and their comment is as long as everyone follows FAA guidance, then everyone will be safe," Kjergaard said. "Typically, what we find is people are not following the correct procedures, and then others are, and it creates conflict, but the airport has no control over the planes in the sky."

Another concern is the increasing airplane noise around the surrounding area.

"If the airport is shortened, traffic will be in a tighter pattern over adjoining neighborhoods," Kincaid said. "That means a lot more airplane noise."

Hayden, Coeur d'Alene, and Rathdrum are all within the airport's area of impact, and the flight path of runway 6/24 extends out to the Washington-Idaho state line. Around the property is a spread of commercial and residential properties that already experience noise, Kjergaard said, and that isn't going to change.

Kincaid believes there are options other than removing a portion of the runway that the airport should have considered. One example he has is in Sonoma County, Calif., where a local airport installed signage and lights on the adjoining runways.

When developing the plan, Kjergaard and the airport's advisory board considered the Sonoma County plan and 21 others. Data from the Sonoma plan dates back to 2011 before the FAA increased restrictions, Kjergaard said, so implementing this design would no longer qualify.

"We looked at reorienting the runway to be true north-south, but we'd have to do that without FAA support," Kjergaard said. "We also looked at extending both runways, but the FAA told us we would have to have 500 operations per year that required that kind of length, and we had no justification."

Decreasing the runway's size, Kincaid pointed out, would also limit commercial jets' ability to land at the airport.

Currently, the plan calls for tearing up 1,000 feet of the 2/20 runway, which is roughly 5,400 feet. While this is drastically shorter than needed for larger commercial planes, the 6/24 runway that is 7,400 feet long is available for those flights.

"Most large aircraft use it, and the FAA considers it as our primary runway," Kjergaard said. "The whole thing everyone seems to forget is that the 2/20 runway is not designed to handle a lot of the traffic that uses it today."

Estimated costs for the project are around $5 million, Kjergaard said. About 90% of the decoupling is expected to be funded by FAA grants, leaving the remainder to the county and the state. Kjergaard expects $3.5 million to $4 million will come from FAA grants.

Since September, the CDAAA says more owners have come forward concerning the information they plan to address at their meeting next week. Kjergaard said the airport is trying to improve relations with property owners as the litigation continues.


Airport hangar owner James Walsh addresses Coeur d'Alene Airport Association at meeting on decoupling. (MADISON HARDY/Press) 

"We built this airport"


Staff Writer | October 17, 2020

CDA Press

Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field hangar owners are circulating a petition and preparing to take action on several grievances after feeling unheard by county and airport officials.

In a Coeur d'Alene Airport Association meeting Friday night, members of the association expressed their disagreement on a number of issues they believe will negatively impact their ownership at the airport as well as the airport itself. More than 50 pilots who house their planes at the airport gathered at the meeting to collectively determine their next steps in communicating their concerns.

The primary issue, decoupling the 2/20 and 6/24 runways, has been part of an ongoing airport administration process for several years. While design plans for the project have only just begun, airport director Steven Kjergaard has said, hangar owners hope to negotiate the plans to suit the airport's Class 1 pilots better.

"There are so many reasons why we don't want to see runway 2/20 shortened," Keith Lang said during the meeting. "That runway gets used quite a bit, actually about 75% of the time for all the GA aircraft mainly but also midsize jets."

Kjergaard said the decoupling project is part of a 20-year master plan to bring the facility up to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. Disconnecting the two runways currently in a v-shape has been a national FAA initiative since the Comair Flight 5191 crash in 2006 — an incident involving a plane taking off in Lexington, Ky., that killed 41 people due to coupled lanes.

Removing a portion of the runway is one solution to minimizing collision risks at airplane take off. However, the hangar owners said there are other alternatives they feel the airport should have considered.

"There are so many reasons not to take away pavement it's hard for me even to justify doing it," Lang said. "You shorten a runway and cause a real economic impact on that side of the airport. From a safety aspect, you shorten that runway and there are still going to be airplanes taking off from it. Runway excursion is the No. 1 accident that there is in aviation; this ups the challenge."

Kjergaard said the current plan would shorten the 2/20 runway from approximately 5,400 feet to about 4,442 feet. Class 1 Category 1 pilots, which are most airplanes on Pappy Boyington Field, would be most affected by the change, hangar owners said.

"We built this airport. All of the people who built their hangars, invested in the airport, we built this airport," James Walsh said. "Our voices are not being heard by an individual and a commissioner. They need to get the pressure from us all together as a group."

Moving forward, the CDAAA plans to approach the issues collectively, addressing their concerns to the Airport Advisory Board, Airport management, and the Kootenai County board of commissioners.

"The key right now is to stay together, and let's get the change," Walsh said. "We have a problem; we don't like the direction the airport is going. Hopefully, now they get the word."

Airport nearly out of hangar space


Staff Writer | September 29, 2020

CDA Press

In a little over 10 years, Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field added over 100 airplanes to the field. Now with spaces filling up, the airport is considering whether to expand or become exclusive.

Steven Kjergaard, the airport's director, posed the question of growth to the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners on Monday after projecting the property to be filled by next year.

"We're running into an issue in the near future where we are going to run out of hangar space development lots," Kjergaard said. "We have 10 lots left, and we average about 10 hangar developments a year, meaning we have about one year left."

While the airport has plans to make space for airport hangars, construction could be delayed based on grant assistance from the Federal Aviation Association, Kjergaard said. There is an available property in the airport's extension of citation area, Kjergaard said, but receiving FAA grants could take two to five years.

"So it comes to the question of whether this board wants to say we are full, or if we want to go down this process of actually developing asphalt that we may or may not get reimbursed for," Kjergaard said.

The airport is hoping to add 12 to 20 hangars to the property, Kjergaard said, but that would only allow for another two or three years of hangar installations.

"We are running out of space faster than we ever thought we would have," Kjergaard said. "We planned to develop spaces, but those are long-term plans, not a couple of years down the road."

He expects that if the airport and board of commissioners do nothing, the airport will be turning away applicants in about a year.

According to the state's most recent transportation study, if Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field continues on its current trajectory, it would have 350 airplanes housed there by 2030.

Commissioner Leslie Duncan pointed out that Idaho has seen the number of pilots slow down in recent years, which may cause a natural slowdown in hangar construction.

"It may reverse itself and go down, but we also continuously have an influx of new people," Kjergaard said.

David Callahan, Kootenai County's director of community development, is working on a white paper on growth issues in the area and measures to mitigate them. Commissioner Chris Fillios recommended that Kjergaard present his concerns to Callahan to include an analysis of the airport's needs.


John Huckabay speaks to Kootenai County board of commissioners about airport lawsuit. From left John Huckabay, Commissioner Bill Brooks, Commissioner Leslie Duncan. (MADISON HARDY/Press)

Airport tenants sue county

Staff Writer | September 16, 2020

CDA Press

Several Coeur d'Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field hangar owners confronted the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners Tuesday about an ongoing lawsuit regarding airport management and operation issues.


John Huckabay, Jim Walch, and Murdo Cameron spoke at the commissioners' business meeting about access control, fencing, fee increases, and expenses they think negatively impact airport tenants. 

Huckabay, a tenant at the airport for about five years, said dissatisfaction with the administration had been slowly building over the last few years. It peaked earlier this summer when airport tenants received a letter regarding the airport's plans to install fences that would isolate airport hangars. 

"What it amounts to is you can't easily get to the back of the hangar where the airplane comes out," Huckabay said.


"The manager has been known for retribution against us, even putting a couple of concrete blocks on the taxiway so that one side of the hangar couldn't be used to get the airplane onto the runway." 

The fencing and access control measures resulted from Federal Aviation Administration guidelines to maintain certification at the airport. The certification allows the airport to support scheduled air carriers' operations, which Huckabay said haven't used the airport in decades. 

"The FAA and the airport manager have both stated there is no pending action or demand for this from the FAA. It is a total waste of money, our money," Huckabay said. "Part 139 [of the certification] needs to be dropped from the long-term plan for the airport. It is a vanity project now."

Steven Kjergaard, the Coeur d'Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field manager, said the fencing is necessary due to the airport's FAA Part 139 Class 4 classification. The classification permits the Forest Service and Empire Airlines to use airport services, he said.


The Forest Service has had a lease with the airport since 1970 but started ramping up flight operations within the last 10 years, Kjergaard said. Empire Airlines has also used the airport as its headquarters for multiple years. 

"Empire Airlines doesn't fly any passenger-operating aircraft, but they do heavy maintenance and fly some of their commercial operations here," Kjergaard said. 

To limit the number of people on the airport field, the airport began designing fence layouts and access control. 

"We've found delivery people and runways, and we've had reports of damage from people who shouldn't have been on the airport property," Kjergaard said. "We've had quite a few instances."

Huckabay and the tenants also opposed the airport's plan to decouple the two runways at the facility due to the lack of necessity. Huckabay said he has never seen a runway that doesn't touch other than the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. 

The decoupling project has been part of an FAA project for over 20 years, Kjergaard said. After the Comair Flight 5191 crash in 2006 killed 41 people, the FAA had determined coupled runways are no longer acceptable. As of September, the Coeur d'Alene Airport-Pappy Boyington Field has started the project's design process, but it won't be completed until 2022 or 2023.


"There have been many other airports in the country that have done the decoupling," Kjergaard said. "Every airport built in World War II had similar runways."

During the presentation, the tenants said they felt these projects weren't in the airport's best interest or its lessors', and was a waste of taxpayer money.


"We would like to have an economical airport," Huckabay said. "There's a lot of people hurting right now, and I hate seeing the county going into foolish projects instead of talking to the people."

Kjergaard said the FAA typically funds 90% of airport projects through grant allocations; the county then finances the remaining 10%. 

Another point of contention was an updated lease clause that would require the structures on the property to be gifted to the county upon contract termination. Huckabay believes that would negatively impact the airport's expansion and revenue by driving out potential interest.


"Who wants to spend their money building a hangar at the airport if they are going to lose their lease in 25 years?" Huckabay said. "We know people who have tried to sell their hangars who have now lost their sale because new people are not going to continue to build here." 

The present leasing agreement was adapted recently to provide different options at the end of the term. Kjergaard said airport properties are usually leased for 50 years, with renewal options at the 25-year mark. Options include continuing the lease, removal of the construction, or the property is reverted to county holdings. 

"There are a couple of options at the end of the 50 years," Kjergaard said. "We can negotiate a new lease, but as an airport, we can't guarantee that location forever. Eventually, we do need that property returned."

Huckabay also raised his issue against the recent 50% increase in the airport's sewer fees. The fee increase brought private hangars up from an average of $37.50 to approximately $54 to $55, Kjergaard said. Huckabay said none of the affected parties were informed or asked for public comment.


"It has been the policy of the county in the past to notify the affected parties of actions individually. There was no reason it should not have happened this time," he said.

Due to a large amount of land and the low number of users, the airport's previous rates did not cover the cost, Kjergaard said. After discussing the fee increase with the airport advisory board and the county commissioners multiple times, Kjergaard said the airport felt action was needed.

"Realistically we have between 50 and 70 users. When you look at what we have to maintain, our density of users, unfortunately, isn't high enough to cover our very large system," Kjergaard said. 

Unrelated to the filed lawsuit, among the other various items of their upset, Huckabay and the lessors claimed a current airport staffer had been manufacturing AR-15 style gun parts in the airport and county facility. Kjergaard said this was incorrect, as an employee of the airport had rented out a facility to drill out his receiver with airport equipment. 

"There has never been any manufacturing of anything. We had an employee who rented out one of our facilities because they could not do so on their own property," Kjergaard said. 

Other discussion points included the purchase and resale of equipment by airport staff and the alleged improper use of county funds. Kjergaard denied these points.

"The above failures of the manager to properly assess the risk and value of projects. He is failing in his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers," Huckabay said. "There are other areas that show that he is incapable of managing the airport properly."


Both the lawsuit and requested temporary restraining order, which Huckabay said was filed over one month ago, have had no action. The county was scheduled to respond to the lawsuit last week, but so far, Huckabay noted, there had been no conversations. He said the next step would be for the lessors to ask for court judgment based on failure to respond.


Due to the lawsuit's current nature, county commissioners were unable to respond to the lessors' complaints during the Tuesday meeting. It will be up to county legal counsel to determine a response to the lawsuit and comments made by the lessors.


"The Board of Commissioners makes every effort to be responsive when members of the public share questions or concerns about any aspect of our county operations. The concerns that were shared earlier today regarding the airport are no exception and had previously been brought to the board's attention by the Airport Director and staff," said a statement from the board of county commissioners communication manager, Nancy Jones. "Unfortunately, we are not able to provide any additional information until pending litigation is no longer a factor."

A long-awaited discussion


Staff Writer | December 4, 2020

Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field administration and hangar owners sparred in a meeting Thursday evening over the necessity and futility of decoupling the airport's two runways. 


Since becoming aware of the decoupling project, which was finalized in the Airports 2017 and 2019 Master Plan, hangar owners have expressed apparent defiance to the pavement removal. In addition to general aircraft pilots dissent, companies that house their multi-engine and jet planes at the airport felt their abilities to operate would be cut short. 


Keith Lang, aviation director for the Hagadone Corporation, led the protesting pilots Thursday with a presentation highlighting the project's adverse impacts on safety, economy, and operation. One point, he noted, was that if runway 2-20 is shortened by the proposed 1,000 feet, medium and large size jets would be severely limited. 

"While it is true that many airports only have one runway to utilize, this airport is fortunate enough to have two," Lang said. "If for any reason 6-24 is closed, no large jet aircraft will be able to operate in and out of Coeur d'Alene during the time of closure." 


When the Airport Master Plan was developed several years ago, Steven Kjergaard, the airport director, said a survey was distributed among stakeholders for their opinion. Lang, who has worked with the Hagadone Aviation Department since the early 2000s, said he never received the survey. 


"We consider ourselves a major stakeholder, even if the airport management does not see it that way," Lang's letter said. "I've heard more times than I can count directly from my principal, that if it was not for this airport, the Hagadone Corporation and all of its properties would not be based here."


Multiple other hangar owners said they had not received a survey or were aware of public hearings on the decoupling. Kjergaard, as well as the Kootenai County board of commissioners communications manager Nancy Jones, pointed out that the meetings were published online at the county website and the airport Facebook page, among other avenues. 


Despite hangar upset, Kjergaard and FAA administration have repeatedly said the decoupling project is necessary for the airport. Disconnecting coupled runways like 2-20 and 6-24 have become a national initiative for the FAA after it was linked as a direct cause to the Comair Flight 5191 crash in 2006, which killed 41 passengers. 

Without redesigning the runways in a way accepted by the FAA, the airport would not receive Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for other site developments. 


Much of the pilots' complaints stem from their belief that the Master Plan's other alternative extending the two runways would be a more viable improvement for developing the runway instead of cutting 2-20 to 4,400 feet. 

Unfortunately, J.R. Norville, an engineer with T.O. Engineering, said that option was not likely to be eligible for the FAA funding because of the wind coverage and airport use.


"We have to follow FAA design standards," Norville said. "The likelihood of AIP eligibility is very low, with the exception of shortening runway 2-20."


In a letter sent to Commissioner Bill Brooks by Steve Engebrecht, the acting manager of the FAA Helena Airports Direct Office, Engebrecht said this project is supported for many safety reasons expected under the FAA Advisory Circular (A.C.). Furthermore, because the airport had used over $500,000 AIP funding to draft its Master Plan and the county has already accepted more than $460,000 in grant funding this year for the planned improvements, it is expected to be completed. 


"FAA is supportive of the County's plan to address these safety issues and has planned substantial AIP funding in the next five years to address these safety issues as reflected in the Airport's capital improvement program," Engebrechts letter said. "There has been significant time and effort into planning the safety improvements realized from decoupling the runway ends and reconfiguration of related taxiways at COE." 


As the conversation came to a close, many hangar owners expressed their difficulty supporting the airport's decoupling project and leadership. Though the project will continue to move forward as planned, with a tentative break ground date in 2022, Lang believed this kind of discussion was a step in the right direction. 


"This is probably the most engaging meeting we've had with airport management," he said. "I think it warrants more of this. I think we may have been a little asleep at the wheel but now out eyes are wide open."

Moving forward, Kjergaard said he is committed to working with the pilots and the county commissioners on airport issues.

October 17, 2020

Kootenai County Board of Commissioners

451 Government Way

Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814


Dear Commissioners:


Recently, October 16, 2020, concerned clients of KCOE attended a meeting to discuss the activities and concerns with regards to the current plans at the Coeur d'Alene Airport. This meeting came about as a common concern over the potential wasteful spending at this facility and the difficulties that have been placed upon the users by the current management. We seek to address three of the most important agreed upon Concerns, specifically:


1) The plan to decouple the two runways. This 20-year-old plan was suggested by FAA, not mandated. From our research this project has the potential of costing nearly $5 million, and FAA will not be paying for it. In opposition to information you may have received from the airport manager, this project will do very little to improve safety, is not required under rules by the FAA, and will cause significant operational difficulties to large and small aircraft users, especially for the heavier aircraft that will be severely limited by the shortening of preferred runway 2-20.


2) There has been significant work to decrease access to the airport. This includes restrictive, internal fencing and a new access card system at the gates. Apparently, this is being forced upon airport users by a 40-year-old plan to accommodate commercial-scheduled air-carrier traffic. There is no such air-carrier service at KCOE, and no potential for same. Hence, there is no reason to limit user access and spend taxpayer money doing it. Recent changes have already had a negative effect on airport usage by the community at large.


3) The current Management has provided little attempt to communicate with the airport users. Various rules have been applied that reduce the effectiveness of aircraft operations for no discernible reason. Communication from Management is most often in the form of threats. A simple case is the recent sewer increase. Management should have notified the affected parties of the proposals to provide for a balanced input before a decision was made. At the approval of Viking Homes development, there was an agreement that Viking would adjust the sewer costs.. Why should airport tenants be assessed additionally? The change in lease conditions requiring hangar owners to transfer title of their structure to the County at the end of lease, is unconscionable. This will most certainly represent future cost to the County, as it will be considered "takings" under the US Constitution and litigations will be significant.


Along with the County, it is our desire to have an airport that is self-sufficient by providing maximum usage to the airport clients and a welcoming environment to the community at large. With fair tax and lease rates, greater access and safety on KCOE, the economical benefits to the Airport and to the taxpayers can be achieved to everyone’s satisfaction and enjoyment. Current activities are contrary and a detriment to both. Please provide an opportunity for us to meet with you and place our concerns on the record. 


Thank you.

(individuals were asked to sign their own letter copy. To date, 80+ signed letters have been sent.)


Letters sent to the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners regarding KCOE concerns
Newspaper Articles
Letter sent to Kootenai County Board of Commissioners by Keith Lang concerning the decoupling issue
  • Taxpayer funds should be used to improve safety (actual safety, not “feel good” measures like creating access issues for users) and to promote use of the airport. If the FAA doesn’t feel the decoupling of the runways warrants federal funds, then the minor safety issue that remains is left to the local users to mitigate…but there’s no need to spend millions of taxpayers dollars on it. Comment By JT

  • This is an unnecessary waste of tax payers money. This director seems to think that this airport is LAX. In the long run he is going to get the county in debt! All he is doing is getting all the federal funding he can from the FAA & this is taxpayers money as well! The county commissioners haven’t done their research on what this airport Director is proposing! Ultimately they are failing the taxpayers! Comment by Anyms

  • Definitely need personnel change for the sake of the airport and public good. Thank you, comment by TN

  • Have been interested in building on the airport grounds but when talking to other owners about their experience and the need for me to take a driving test and get credentials and taking out 02/20  section of asphalt just doesn’t make sense. I would like to invest in the property but just can’t under these conditions. Comment by TP

  • Please replace this guy, as he doesn’t have the best interests of the airport or the flying community as his priority. Comment by BG

  • This plan is too expensive and not necessary, nor is it local friendly and we are paying for it. Comment by KL

  • Have been through several times the last few years, stayed in town twice, 5 people 3 hotel rooms, dinner, and breakfast and 400gals a fill. Glad you can afford to lose business. Comment by NE

  • Have only spoken to Mr Kjergaard one time asking for assistance in locating a business on the airport. He was far from Welcoming. Not the first impression I would want representing my city. Comment by MC

  • Disappointing to hear about another airport being run in a manner that causes conflict with the users. Please take action before it is too late and tax payers dollars are wasted further! Comment by PD

  • Please save our airport. Thank you and don’t waste public money. Comment by Anyms

  • Why? Why spend the money to demolish that part of the runway? I myself am a pilot (shocker right?) but I’m also a realist and I’m trying to understand what good this would do and I can’t think of a good reason. Comment by ML

  • Spending our TAX DOLLARS to demolish pavement from a very viable and necessary runway to OUR airport community just makes no sense, Economically, FBO’s and the County will loose revenue both during construction phases and in the event runway 06/24 is closed for a prolonged period of time. Operationally this creates a hardship of aircraft trying to gain access to runways or FBO during times of construction or destruction in this case SAFETY. Shortening runway will increase the risk of runway excursions for the small to medium jets or turbo-props that still choose to operate off runway 2/20. Comment by ZG

  • Mr Kjergaard has been non-professional and a narrow minded pain-in-the-ass since the day he started. He needs to go!! As a former full time resident and a seasonal snowbird, I use CDA frequently. Comment by Anyms

  • Keep all the runway length you have for safety. As fast as the area is growing you will need it for business jets. Comment by AS

  • The stated rationale to comply with FAA guidelines regarding decoupling of runways accommodates neither safe conditions nor practical considerations specific to the CDA Airport. It is foolish to implement this policy blindly without regard to ill consequences. Comment by BM

  • This is patently a bad idea. There is not enough of a danger at the runway intersections to risk losing 20% of valid, useable runway, especially at such a cost! Comment by BW

  • The proposed decoupling will do nothing to reduce the chance of midair collision between aircraft departing Rnwy 2 or landing Rnwy 20 and the traffic on Rnwy 6/24. Comment by JD

  • Do not decouple runway 2-20. It will make it more dangerous because it will be shorter. Comment by TT

  • Please don’t shorten or otherwise mess with a perfectly good airport. I use KCOE multiple times a year. It is an exceptional facility. Comment by JH

  • As an owner of property in Hayden and one that visits frequently via airplane from Southeastern WA, I think this is a really poor idea that will limit smaller GA aircraft. Comment by JA

  • I have flown into KCOE on multiple occasions and anticipate doing so in the future. There is no problem with the current runway configuration and no need to remove pavement. Doing so is a waste of resources and limit use of the airport. THIS IS A BAD IDEA! Comment by KM

  • Never give up runway lengths; you will never get it back. Think long term. Comment by DR​

personal comments
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