More than two years after a lightning strike left Neosho’s Hugh Robinson Memorial Airport in the dark, the runway lights are coming back.
Work on the $399,763 project began in mid-August and is expected to be complete in September, with weather permitting.
Steve Herrin, Neosho airport manager, said the age of the old lighting system, paired with a strong storm in 2011, resulted in the airport operating from daylight to dusk for the past two years.
“A lightning storm hit and shorted them out and after that with all the water we had they just kept shorting out,” Herrin said.
The work is being performed by crews with Strukel Electric and overseen by engineers from H.W. Lochner.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is funding the majority of the project, at $371,439, with the total cost to the city at $28,324, according to information provided by Dana Daniel, the city’s director of development services.
Daniel said the project will mean more accessibility for the Neosho airport.
“What it means is night service is going to return,” Daniel said. “Our air traffic will now be able to come in during the night hours as well as during the day hours.”
Both Daniel and Herrin noted that among that added traffic are medical flights, which currently cannot land without the runway lighting.
“The most important traffic I can think of that we’re going to get are med flights,” Herrin said. “The fixed wing versions can’t land here right now because we don’t have lights. Once we get lights, they’ll be able to come in here and pick up patients.”
Herrin said the airport also draws travelers, both those visiting Neosho and those who stop for fuel and restroom breaks.
“We’ll run anywhere from, on a slow day, four or five to 25 or 30 on a big day,” Herrin said of the current airport traffic. “Some is local but most of it has been transit, we have really good reviews on some of the aviation websites.”
However, while work is underway, Herrin said the airport has been closed, though he has been trying to open the airport to local pilots for a few hours in the evenings once crews finish their work for the day.
Some aspects of the project have already been completed; the beacon tower received a fresh coat of paint, and the taxiway has all new reflectors, which Herrin said will help to save money on the city’s electric bill.
“When the lights of the airplane hit them, they light up,” Herrin said. “They work real well with the aircraft lights.”
Herrin said the new lighting will also draw charter flights and will allow the airport to be used for nighttime training.
Herrin said the runway will have white colored lights, while the mid-connecting taxiway will have blue colored lights, and the end stretch of the runway will have red lighting to warn pilots that only 1,000-feet of runway is left.
Herrin said the airport is also getting a new windsock, which helps pilots to know which direction the wind is blowing.
“They’re going to put us up a new one that’s a lot nicer and it’s internally lit so it’s better visibility at night from the air,” Herrin said.
The project also includes the addition of new runway end identifier lights and new runway signs.