Runway lighting project won't start until early summer
December 16, 2022
A project to replace runway lighting at the Alva Regional Airport won’t start until early summer, according to engineers. Currently the airport has no lights for night landings. This poses a safety issue for pilots wanting to land after dark. It definitely means no jet traffic and no landings by air ambulance aircraft after sundown.
Alva Airport Commission members discussed options for getting the runway lights operational temporarily until the spring project. Airport Manager Derrick Courson said having Williams Electric, the company familiar with the situation, work on the problem would cost around $20,000.
Williams Electric is booked up with another project so commission members discussed bringing in a different company. The concern is that any new company would have to repeat all the preliminary mapping of the issue already done by Williams. That would cost more in money and time.
A couple of commission members suggested old-fashioned temporary fixes. Paul Kinzie said a cable could be strung along the ground between the lights to replace the broken circuits. Dale Logsdon talked about equipment that could dig a shallow trench for the cable. While those might have worked in the early days of flying, they aren’t compliant with current safety standards. They quickly agreed that the Federal Aviation Administration would not approve, and without FAA approval the air ambulance aircraft still could not use the runway. In the end, the commission members told Courson to talk with Williams Electric about when they come to Alva to work on the runway lights.
Mayor Kelly Parker, a member of the airport commission, set up a call with Toby Baker and Craig Boyer from Parkhill, the airport’s engineering firm. They provided a memo explaining the scope of the runway lighting and PAPI lighting rehabilitation. Commission members agreed the memo answered most of their questions, but they wanted clarification of the project schedule.
The plan is to advertise for bids the second week of January. Contractors say materials are taking 120 days to be delivered so that would mean starting in early summer. If the base cans that house the lights can be obtained earlier, it’s possible the three foot diameter concrete pads for each new light could be poured earlier so lights could be installed when they arrive. Boyer said contractors tell him there’s a six to eight week lead time on getting the base cans. Baker said the main delay is with the lighting manufacturers. It’s hoped the project will begin before the end of the current fiscal year which is June 30, 2023.
The project memo explains the problems with the current lighting system:
• Currently, the airport has two separate airfield lighting circuits. One powers the runway lights, taxiway lights, hold signs, and ODALS (approach lights). The second powers the PAPIs for both ends of the runway.
• Each circuit is powered by a separate constant current regulator (because the PAPIs are always on).
• Both circuits are direct buried (not in conduit). The light fixtures are stake mounted, with their isolation transformers buried in the ground beneath each light.
• When Williams Electric initially explored the loss of the runway lights and PAPIs, they determined the two circuits had shorted together at one point, and the runway circuit was back-feeding power to the PAPI regulator and has damaged it.
• Williams determined there were multiple shorts within the runway/taxiway circuit. When they finally got the runway lights back on, they had disconnected most of the taxiway lights, as that portion of the circuit also had shorts. Of the areas repaired, most of them appeared to be gopher damage, but one may have been lightning damage.
• Considering that the quality of the circuit was still not good after repairs (current is still being lost to ground), in order to reduce the load on the regulator and the voltage required in the circuit, they also disconnected the ODALS.
For a time, Williams was able to get enough runway lighting working to allow smaller planes to land at night. Currently, the lights are not working at all. Engineers described the scope of the project planned for early summer next year:
• Install LED runway light fixtures, base mounted with a 3 ft. diameter concrete pad, with each isolation transformer housed in a base can below the fixture.
• The new runway circuit cable will be installed in PVC conduit that will run from light base to light base. No portion of the circuit will be direct buried.
• The ODALS (whose cable is already in conduit) will be reconnected to the new runway circuit.
• The regulator that powers the runway/taxiway circuit currently was installed new during the ODALS project. Williams did not believe it sustained any damage, so it will not be replaced.
• The existing taxiway lights will not be connected to the new runway circuit (having runway lights and taxiway lights on the same circuit is non-standard). The taxiway lights will not be operational at the end of this project. (Because of taxiway circuit conditions, it is possible reconnecting them to the runway lights would mean the runway lights would not work.)
• Base mounted LED taxiway lights will be installed on the west parallel taxiway during the 2024 taxiway rehab project and powered by a new dedicated taxiway regulator.
• New LED PAPI fixtures will be mounted on the existing PAPI foundations. New power cables in conduit will be run to each of the PAPIs. A new constant current regulator to power the PAPI circuit will be installed.
The memo explains about grounding wire installation for lightning protection. During construction, the runway will be closed any time the contractor is working. To mitigate this, Parkhill expects to use a temporary runway threshold so that 3,000 ft. of the runway will be usable. The location of that section can be moved as work is done. They believe they can restrict full closure of the runway to ten working days. It’s estimated the construction will take approximately three months.
Mayor Parker said the airport will probably need a mid-year budget adjustment. The airport has already spent almost all the amount budgeted for fuel purchases, but they have also taken in almost all the revenue for fuel sales in the current budget.
Courson reported fuel and oil sales of $46,015.90 in November. The airport sold 1,646.43 gallons of 100LL for $8,561.44 and 7702 gallons of Jet A for $37,375.80 with $78.66 in oil sales. In November 2021, sales totaled $22,355.80. He said the amenities such as the ice machine, concessions and GPU are all being used quite a bit by pilots.
Courson provided some quotes on painting hangars, the hay barn and the roof of the south Share hangar. He thinks the roofs of the buildings need to be painted professionally to stop leaks. It can’t be done until temperatures are warmer, probably in the spring. The information was received too late to be put on the agenda for any action but will likely be addressed at the next meeting.
A video of the meeting may be viewed at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com.