Broken lights on Quinhagak’s airport runway leave the village with limited air service

Sign at the Quinhagak airport in the Native Village of Kwinhagak. (Creative Commons photo by IceCreamForEveryone)

No night flights or medevacs have been able to land on the Native Village of Kwinhagak’s runway for the past two months, and it doesn’t look like they will be able to anytime soon.

That’s because the runway lights are out, and the village is trying to figure out what to do.

“There are some (lights) that are pulled out or have popped out, and there is one that looked like it was pulled out and the wires are showing,” said Tribal Administrator Patrick Cleveland.

Cleveland isn’t sure how long the lights have been out. He and others noticed the lights were out around September. As the nights got longer, it was obvious they were not working. Kids have vandalized lights at rural airstrips before, but Cleveland doesn’t know if that’s what happened in Quinhagak.

Cleveland said that the man who maintains the runway denies damaging the lights.

“There was another source of damage that caused that,” he said.

It’s put the tribe in a tough position. The Native Village of Kwinhagak took over the airport from the state in the 1990s, which means that they have to pay for lights and repairs.

For now, Quinhagak has shut down the airport to all night flights until the end of the month, and possibly longer. The tribe is also advertising for a contractor to repair the lights. Cleveland said that one contractor has expressed interest so far.

Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said the tribe can collaborate with DOT, but they need to apply for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Tribal Council President Darren Cleveland said that the state DOT promised emergency lights so that medevacs can land.

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