Lighting improvements at Brookhaven Calabro Airport are underway, allowing better visibility for pilots and increasing safety during takeoffs and landings as $1.5 million in federal funds trickle in.
"We're thankful because that money will help improve the safety for pilots and the neighboring residents," said Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico, whose district includes the Shirley airport.
"We knew the grants were forthcoming, and in anticipation of the grants, we have already started the process of replacing the beacon and taxiway lighting system," he said.
Replacing the airport's beacon, a rotating light that helps pilots view the ground at night, could be finished in a few weeks, he said.
Funding for the improvements was part of $5 million in federal Department of Transportation grants, which also included infrastructure projects at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) announced the grants earlier this month.
"We need to maintain runways, lights, structures and navigational aids; everything has a finite lifetime," said Marty Haley, the town's commissioner of general services, which includes the airport.
More than $1.1 million of the $1.5 million for Brookhaven Calabro will upgrade an outdated taxiway lighting system, federal officials said. That will enhance safe airport operations during low-visibility conditions, officials said.
The remaining funds are earmarked for a new runway guidance system to provide improved approaches to the runway along with the cost of replacing the beacon.
Airport officials say the money is much needed and is part of a larger project to fund more taxiway lights and signage. The airport handles more than 135,000 takeoffs and landings each year.
Over the past decade, Brookhaven Calabro has received millions of dollars in Federal Aviation Administration grants for the reconstruction of runways, taxiways and runway lighting and other amenities, town officials said.
The airport was constructed during World War II, providing support for U.S. Army Air Corps operations, according to town officials.
Later, the title was transferred to New York State. Brookhaven Town acquired the airport in 1961.
Brookhaven Calabro has two runways and stores more than 200 aircraft. It has four employees and costs $600,000 to operate annually, Haley said.
Islip Town-run Long Island MacArthur Airport will use its approximately $3.6 million in funding to reconstruct the western part of one taxiway.