Dec. 20--PITTSTON TWP. -- The Federal Aviation Administration will likely soon decide how to address the out-of-service lighting system that helps pilots land at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport during poor weather.
The system has been shut down since inspectors deemed it unsafe in January, but airport Director Barry Centini said the FAA has decided not to decommission the structure.
"We will have a system here," Centini told the Bi-County Airport Board on Thursday. "At present, they're looking at how to either repair that system or replace that system. We're hoping that decision will be made --next month."
Drivers can see the structure's blinking lights from Interstate 81, but more importantly, those lights provide pilots with a visual reference point when they land at the airport during inclement weather.
Its lights increase visibility from one quarter of a mile to three quarters of a mile, Centini has said.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., expressed concern in October that carriers might start canceling flights to the Pittston Township airport if the FAA does not address the system, creating a drag on the local economy.
Officials have estimated the fix will cost between $3 million and $5 million.
What the FAA decides could be important for the state Department of Transportation's ongoing $41.91 million road project, which will overhaul access to the airport and surrounding communities like Avoca and Dupont.
Carmen Dipietro, assistant construction engineer on airport project, told the airport board he did not anticipate crews getting to an area where the road guide wires from the structure would be in the way until the spring.
Dipietro said the project remained on budget and on track to wrap up in November 2015.
In other business:
n The Bi-County Airport Board formally requested PennDOT conduct a feasibility study on forming a Northeastern Pennsylvania regional transportation authority.
"If we were to join and collaborate with our partners in mass transit, our partners in rail, our partners at the airport here, we would organize the third-largest transportation system in Pennsylvania, which from the standpoint of influence would be significant," Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien said. "We would have a great opportunity here to do incredible things in an innovative way."
Luzerne County Councilman Rick Williams said that increased influence could lead to more grant money.
n The board approved a $149,967 agreement with the FAA to provide engineering design review and technical support to relocate the Runway 22 glide slope and runway visual range navigation systems. Airport officials are planning to extend the taxiway, which airplanes use to travel between the terminal and runway. The move would improve the flow of air traffic. Mr. Centini said the equipment, which tells pilots how far they are from the airport and helps pilots align with the runway, would have to be taken out of service for a year if it was not moved.
n The board awarded a three-year contract to Superior Plus Energy Services to supply gasoline and diesel fuel at $2.97 per gallon.
n Assistant Airport Director Michael Conner reported November enplanements were down 9.3 percent to 17,095 compared to November 2012, which he attributed primarily to the loss of 48 U.S. Airways flights to Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
Copyright 2013 - The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
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