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 any time soon. That’s because the runway lights are out, and the tribe is trying to figure out what to do.
Patrick Cleveland just returned from checking out the airstrip lights at Quinhagak’s airport.
"There are some that are pulled out or have popped out, and there is one that is, that was looked like it was pulled out and the wires are showing," Cleveland said.
He’s not 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 says that the man who maintains the runway denies damaging the lights.
"There was another source of damage that caused that, you know," Cleveland 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.
Shannon McCarthy is the spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation. She says the tribe can collaborate with DOT, but they need to apply for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"In the meantime, 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 says that one contractor has expressed interest so far.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Council President Darren Cleveland says that the state DOT promised emergency lights so that medevacs can land.
Correction: An earlier version of the article mistakenly said the tribe can apply for FAA funding through the state Department of Transportation.