Runway lighting malfunction at Machias airport forced plane to divert

Posted Aug. 16, 2013, at 2:30 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — An airplane seeking to land at Machias Valley Airport was forced to divert to Bar Harbor recently because runway lights were not working.

Town officials have remedied the situation, but about 18 lights at the airport still do not work and are in need of replacement, according to Town Manager Chris Loughlin.

The repairs that were made provide sufficient lighting to allow night landings, said Loughlin, who briefed the Board of Selectmen on the airport at its regular meeting Wednesday night.

The incident with the diverted flight occurred last week. Only two lights on the end of the runway were illuminated at the time, according to Loughlin. The people traveling to the area were forced to rent a car and drive from Bar Harbor.

The repairs cost $3,200 and exhausted the town’s budget for airport repairs, Loughlin told the selectmen.

There are still about six runway lights that need to be replaced, six to eight taxiway lights, and another half-dozen other lights, he said. Replacing all the lights would cost an estimated $100,000 to $160,000.

“It’s not like we get used a lot,” Loughlin told the board. Five aircraft are based at the airport, and there is only about one night landing per month, he said.

When asked Thursday how long the lights have been inoperable, Loughlin said, “I have no idea.”

Airport lighting suffered some damage during the winter, according to Loughlin. The concrete base of an illuminated taxiway section cracked because of freezing temperatures. When the concrete separated, wiring broke.

Loughlin told the board he would look into whether the town has any monies in a reserve fund for airport expenditures.

The airport does not have a tower and is unattended, and it is not normally illuminated at night. Pilots seeking to land are able to use a radio frequency to turn on the lights.

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