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Yeager Airport’s approach lights system still offline

Kenny Kemp
Yeager Airport's approach lighting system (foreground) remains out of service, more than one year after its runway extension project was completed.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although Yeager Airport's runway extension project has been complete for more than a year, its approach lighting system, which was taken offline during the construction process, remains out of service, contributing to a number of canceled and diverted flights.

The approach lighting system, mounted on towers and extending into neighboring Coonskin Park, is owned and operated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Yeager's Facebook page, officials at the Charleston airport are urging the FAA to "make the operation of these lights a priority," since "this has been an issue for quite some time and [we] are as dismayed as we know our customers are" about the delay in recertifying the system.

"It's not like you can just flip a switch and turn everything back on again and have it ready to go," said Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson. The FAA "had to replace the transformers and controllers, and after testing them, they found that the system's intensity controller had seized up, and they needed to have a new one built."

Atkinson said the FAA ordered a new controller, one which makes it possible to adjust the lighting system's intensity into five levels, in November. He said he was told on Monday that the new controller and the components needed to connect it to the system should be arriving soon. "We're within a couple of weeks of having everything we need to be back in service," he said.

Adding to Yeager's navigational system woes, the airport's glide slope system, also owned and operated by the FAA, went out of operation last week.

"Any time the approach lighting system or the glide slope become inoperative, our approach minimums go up," said Tim Murnahan, Yeager's assistant director.

With both systems operational, pilots can complete their approaches to the Charleston airport at 200 feet above runway level, with a half-mile of visibility. "Without the glide slope, you need 700 feet above ground level and a mile and half of visibility," Murnahan said.

With the glide slope operational and the approach landing system offline, pilots need one mile of visibility to land.

"We don't usually have fog issues at this time of year, but the weather we had this past weekend and Monday made it seem like we were having a late-October rainstorm," said Atkinson.

"We lost several flights over the weekend, this time mainly due to the glide slope being out," Murnahan said. "The FAA's working on it now, trying to get it up and running as quickly as possible. But then it has to be checked out by an FAA aircraft that executes approaches to make sure everything's doing what it's supposed to."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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