The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given its approval for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding eligibility for the rehabilitation of Runway 26 at the Port of Port Angeles’ William R. Fairchild International Airport. Maintaining the runway’s usable length of 5,000 feet will preserve the airport’s ability to support emergency medevac flights to trauma centers and hospitals in the Puget Sound region. The project will now be eligible to compete for FAA discretionary funding.
Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA) worked closely with the Port during the FAA’s review process. “I am glad the FAA listened to our community. This airport sustains jobs and provides our region with a vital link to emergency services,” Congressman Kilmer said. “I look forward to working with the Port and community to make sure our region has the infrastructure we need to grow our economy.”
The recent interlocal agreement between the Port and the City of Port Angeles for the maintenance of the runway’s approach path was critical in providing assurances to the FAA that the Port, City and community would work together to keep the Runway 26 approach path clear of encroachments. Port Executive Director Karen Goschen said, “The Port and City have memorialized our joint commitment to keep the approach path clear through our interlocal agreement, and we have demonstrated the effectiveness of this partnership in clearing the most obstructive trees in Lincoln Park, as well as developing an annual plan for maintaining a clear approach.”
In a meeting last July, the City Council unanimously voted to remove 74 trees obstructing the flight path to the airport runway. Citizen testimony at the meeting described how medevac airlifts had saved the lives of family members, demonstrating the critical need to maintain emergency air service during bad weather when critical care patients cannot be airlifted from Olympic Medical Center.
“By maintaining the 5,000 foot runway, not only does it ensure lifesaving resources are available to citizens when they need them, but it also offers the potential of expanded air service which increases our areas quality of life and can also contribute to the economic success of current and potential businesses,” said City Manager Dan McKeen. “We are thrilled that the collaboration between the Port Commissioners and the Port Angeles City Council provided a foundation for FAA approval, and we look forward to realizing the benefits it can bring to Clallam County.”
The medevac flights are provided by Airlift Northwest, and flights out of the airport average about one per week. Eric Lewis, CEO of OMC, said, “This is an important emergency medical service for our community. These flights will save lives.” The Port Commission believes that a top priority of airport operations is to ensure that the residents of Clallam County have access to emergency medical services regardless of weather.
Port Commission President Colleen McAleer stated that “the Port is fully committed to maintaining a clear approach path for life-saving medevac flights and emergency response. We are grateful for the FAA’s recognition of our commitment by approving the rehabilitation project for the full 5,000 feet. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of our Executive Director. Without Karen’s exceptional execution, this would not have been achieved.”
The Port has participated in emergency preparedness exercises with Federal, state and local agencies (Click here for a fact sheet about these efforts.) Penelope Linterman, Emergency Management Program Coordinator for Clallam County, had this to say: “A full 5000-foot runway will be able to accommodate large emergency response aircraft filled with supplies, equipment and personnel to land directly in Port Angeles without diverting to Central Washington or to an airport in the I-5 corridor. That deconflicts the airspace for everyone, and it saves time and saves lives.”
“The Port of Port Angeles appreciates the FAA’s decision and the efforts of Congressman Kilmer, who listened to the community and conveyed its concerns,” said Commissioner Steve Burke. Commissioner Connie Beauvais added that “Our airport is vital to the safety and well-being of all county residents and visitors, and we look forward to working with the FAA and Representative Kilmer to protect this important regional asset into the future.”
For further information, please contact:
Karen Goschen at (360) 417-3424
Port of Port Angeles