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Saratoga Airport Board hears runway landing planes despite unavailable lighting, seeks to clarify ‘nonstandard’ classification

 


The Saratoga Airport Board was informed by Dave Schultz of Sage Civil Engineering during their regularly scheduled meeting at 1 p.m. on June 13 at the Saratoga Town Hall that, while the airport was up and running, some of the instrumentation involved in helping flights land was currently not available.

The precision approach path indicators (PAPIs) and runway end identifier lights (REILs) at Shively Airfield still have to be commissioned before they can be put into operation by order of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The PAPIs are a visual aid that help provide guidance for pilots of aircraft in acquiring and maintaining the correct approach to a runway. Using the color of the lights, which are red and white, the pilot can determine the appropriate angle at which to approach.

REILs, meanwhile, indicate to pilots where the end of the runway is with the use of pulsing or flashing lights. This instrumentation is used in cases where the end of the runway is unclear due to lack of contrast with the surrounding terrain or because of reduced visibility.

“The flight check for the PAPIs and the REILs, that’s in progress. We have to get a reimbursable agreement done with the FAA. We’re already in their queue, but they won’t actually do it until they get the agreement done,” said Schultz.

According to Schultz, when last he talked with a representative of the FAA in May, it could take up to four months for the administration to work through their queue and get to Shively Field.

“That’s a safety and flight operations issue, as you kind of know, that’s a big deal. We hear about it all the time that those are out of service,” said Bob Maddox, owner of Saratoga Jet Center and Fixed Base Operator for the Town of Saratoga.

Schultz stated that, in the past, the engineers had been able to commission the PAPIs and the REILs with the help of local pilots. When a representative of the FAA arrived in May to do the final inspection on the recently refurbished runway, however, Schultz was informed that the instrumentation could not be turned on until it was commissioned. He was also informed that while someone else could commission the lights, whoever did so would take on the liability should an incident occur.

“I don’t think it’s something that town wants to take on, that responsibility,” said Arlen Hughes, Saratoga Airport Board member.

Further discussion led to Saratoga Airport Board member Ellie Dana asking Schultz to look into expediting the process of commissioning the PAPIs and the REILs. The motion was made and approved unanimously.

During the report from the airport manager, Maddox informed the board that Shively Field has been busy since opening up after the recent construction to the runway. Saratoga Jet Center has been keeping count of not only aircraft landing, but the number of people arriving and departing from the airport.

“Since we’ve got back open, again, it’s been pretty busy. We’ve started keeping track of people on airplanes and people off airplanes. We’ve had over 200 people since Sunday night,” said Maddox.

Maddox also informed the board that another large aircraft had made the decision not to land in Saratoga after reading that the taxiways were listed as “nonstandard.” As was reported in the Saratoga Sun on April 18, 2018, President Donald Trump’s personal pilot had made a decision not to land in Saratoga following lengthy discussion with both Maddox and Schultz and instead landed at Cheyenne Regional Airport. According to Maddox, a conversation with a representative from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) had led him to understand that the taxiways are nonstandard in that they exceed the width of normal taxiways by five feet.

Maddox asked Schultz if he would be able to write a letter containing the information that could then be used to encourage pilots of larger aircraft to land in Saratoga. Schultz replied3 he would have to do additional research before writing such a letter.

In other business, the dates for the grooving of the runway have been set. Beginning at 8 p.m. on July 6, crews will begin working 12 hours shifts to add grooves that will aid in the landing of aircraft. It is expected that the crews will finish on Friday, July 13. Following the grooving, the sealcoat and striping project will be scheduled for a time when the Saratoga Jet Center will not have a large number of flight reservations and can shut down for a short period of time.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Saratoga Airport Board will be at 1 p.m. on July 11 at the Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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