Blue Lights Special to Neil Armstrong Airport

Friday, August 16, 2002

NEW KNOXVILLE - New blue and red blinking beacons may soon be lighting the way for planes using the airport in New Knoxville. Neil Armstrong Airport Manager Gary Katterheinrich said he likes the solar-powered blinking lights because of the ease in moving them and the cost savings on electricity.

He received approval Tuesday night from members of the Auglaize County Airport Authority to purchase four solar-powered blue lights and four solar-powered red lights from Carmanah Technologies of Canada.

The four blue lights will be added to the airport's main taxiway, bringing the total to eight lights. The four red lights will be placed at the corners of the airport's fueling station for the planes.

With plans being prepared to expand and improve the airport's runway and taxiway, Katterheinrich likes the self-contained lights for another reason.

"The plus side of the new lights is there is no main line to bury," Katterheinrich said. "I figure to do the main taxiway, we would need about 15 on each side. My feeling is we do this taxiway and the taxiway at the old Minster taxiway. We need another 30 lights over there."

The cost for a regulation aviation light is $121, compared to the new solar-powered lights at $159.

The solar-powered lights have not been approved by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), but the lights have been used along railroad tracks for years. Katterheinrich said the solar-powered lights come with a three-year warranty, but he believes they will outlast the warranty noting the lights for the railroad have lasted 10 years.

The lights don't need to be FAA-approved since the airport is not required to have lights along the taxiway. "If we get a grant to do the runway and taxiway, we might be able to use some of that money to purchase the lights," Airport Authority member Gene Will said Tuesday night. "I agree with Gary (Katterheinrich) that it would be nice to have them along the main taxiway at night. The only way to find the taxiway now is with a yellow line down the center of the taxiway."

"It may not be too bad to buy a few now and try them out to see how they do," said Airport Authority President Todd Kitzmiller. "If we like them, then we can purchase more in the future." Katterheinrich said one advantage is it cuts down on the cost of electricity. The airport spends an average of $300 to $400 each month on electricity, mostly to light the main runway during the night. The solar-powered lights require two to three hours of daylight, not necessarily sunlight, and will be powered up for two to three days.

Another advantage to the airport, Katterheinrich said, is there is no need for electrical wire conduit to be run to each light. The conduit typically has to be run underneath the taxiway - and proposed plans call for widening the taxiway in the near future then new conduit would be needed.

"The good thing about them is they are not made of metal and won't conduct electricity during a storm," the airport manager said. "Plus, they are totally sealed and water can't seep in and short them out."

Katterheinrich also likes the ease in installing the lights.

"The neat thing is we just slip the light into another PVC pipe," Katterheinrich said. "Then we just pull them out and mow. It's that easy."