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"Crash sheds light on lack of illumination at Massachusetts airport"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2007 03:27:08 -0600
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Crash sheds light on lack of illumination at airport
By BRIAN BOYD
The New Bedford (MA) Standard-Times
Friday's deadly plane crash called attention to the lack of working approach
lights for Runway 5 at New Bedford Regional Airport, a subject of recent
The approach lights, located in the center of the runway and about 40 feet
off both edges, have been off since August because they were blocked by
thick vegetation, according to Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal
Crews are scheduled to begin clearing vegetation Tuesday, according to local
The decision to begin work this week was made a few weeks ago. The city's
Conservation Commission had issued emergency permits to allow the work,
Mayor Scott W. Lang said.
"We agreed we would fast track the de-vegetation plan," Mayor Lang said.
The mayor and the Airport Commission that oversees the city-owned airport
had requested FAA officials to allow them to turn on the lights before the
vegetation was cleared, but the FAA has not agreed to the request, officials
Mr. Peters said the runway itself was safe and lit. "You don't need the
(approach) lights to make the instrument approach."
However, he also said "it could very well be" that the National
Transportation Safety Board investigators say the lack of lights played a
role in the crash.
While Mayor Lang has sought to get the lights turned back on, he cautioned
against speculating on a connection to Friday's accident.
"No one should jump to any conclusions regarding the cause of this
accident," the mayor said. "I have absolutely no idea whether there was any
impact regarding this particular set of the lights that FAA had disengaged."
He also said the airport is safe.
John Karoly Jr., an attorney and the brother of one of the three crash
victims, questioned whether insufficient lighting contributed to the
"The plane could not find the runway on its heading because there were no
lights," John Karoly said.
In December, Michael Josefek, a pilot who lives in New Bedford, wrote the
mayor requesting answers to questions about the lack of lights and reasons
for them being out of service. He included a petition from 12 other pilots.
Mr. Josefek said the airport has been around longer than conservation
regulations complicating the necessary brush clearing and the equipment
should be considered "grandfathered."
"As pilots, we are forced to use higher than would be allowed minimum decent
altitudes due to this condition," Mr. Josefek wrote in the Dec. 21 letter.
"This creates a dangerous condition and makes New Bedford Airport less than
desirable to land at under extreme weather conditions.
"A bent airplane and minor injuries would be the least of potential
problems, whereas total destruction of aircraft and multiple deaths could be
the worse potential problem," he said.
Mayor Lang had spoken with FAA officials after receiving the petition from
concerned pilots. He spoke with the FAA again Friday night and wants the
decision to be further reviewed. He said it will take about a month to
complete the clearing work that begins this week.
The airport had to go through a long permitting process - on the federal,
state and local levels - in order to remove the vegetation, which is located
in wetlands, said James Burgess, chairman of the New Bedford Regional
"It would be advantageous to have the lights on versus not have them," Mr.
The airport needs to clear an area 400 feet wide and 2,500 feet long, said
David Fredette, president of the New Bedford Pilots Association.
The approach lights are in front of the runway and help pilots as they get
closer, Mr. Fredette said.
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