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System problems upset Yeager official

Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson is frustrated with the Federal Aviation Administration.

He said the FAA failed to inform him that an essential piece of equipment it owns at the facility he oversees was not functioning.

A glide slope, which is a ground-based instrument system that provides precision guidance to a pilot landing a plane, went out of service on Dec. 4. The FAA maintains the piece of equipment, Atkinson said.

A glide slope is a radio beam that brings a pilot down to a certain elevation even if visibility is extremely low, said Tim Murnahan, assistant director in charge of airport operations at Yeager.

The glide slope is not operating on one of Yeager's runways, Murnahan said.  

FAA employees are trying to find the problem with the equipment and fix it, a spokesman said via email.

However, the FAA never told airport authorities about the inoperable piece of equipment until they inquired about something else on Tuesday, Atkinson said.

"It is very frustrating," Atkinson said. "My biggest frustration is this lack of communication about the status of these things."

Atkinson is not sure when the equipment will be brought back online.

The FAA spokesman did not return an email asking about the status or cost of the repairs.

The glide slope isn't the only piece of landing equipment at the airport that is currently not operational, Atkinson said.

Approach lights mounted on towers that extend from the end of the runway to Coonskin Park also are not working, Atkinson said.

Some of the towers are as much as 270 feet tall, Atkinson said.

The approach lighting system is also operated and maintained by the FAA, Murnahan said. The system lines up with the middle of the runway, he said.  

The lights were taken offline about three years ago while the airport underwent a $30 million runway expansion.

However, the runway expansion was completed last year, and the lighting system still is not working, Murnahan said.

The FAA ordered a part for the lighting system in November, Atkinson said.

"The part is supposed to be here in a week or so," he said. "Once it's here, they'll (FAA) be able to install it and bring that equipment back into service."

Of the two systems, the glide slope is much more important to pilots trying to land in inclement weather, Murnahan said.

"If I'm flying into an airport and I have a choice of having lights or a glide slope, I want the glide slope," he said.     

When both systems are working, a commercial pilot can land at an airport when there is a 200-foot ceiling and visibility is at a half mile, Atkinson said.

Without the glide slope, planes need a mile and a half of visibility and a 700-foot ceiling to land, he said.

The loss of both systems caused several flight cancellations Sunday and Monday, Atkinson said.

"We lost our whole flight schedule except for two flights on those days," said Brian Belcher, director of marketing and air service development at the airport.

"If we had the glide slope operational and we still didn't have lights, I think we would have been able to land some of those planes," he added.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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