Bellefonte Airport lands grant for runway lighting upgrade

The Bellefonte Airport runway will be getting some safety upgrades thanks to a $225,000 grant from the state.

In total, 19 counties shared $2.1 million in funding to provide safety upgrades and operational improvements. The grants are completely funded by the state’s jet fuel tax.

To get the funding, airports applied to the state, detailing their planned projects. The grants are distributed through PennDOT’s aviation development program.

The Bellefonte money will be used to install runway lighting and a visual glide slope indicator to enhance visibility for approaching aircraft.

Airport manager John Elnitski said it will be important to upgrade the lighting that was installed in the 1960s and phase out the incandescent light bulbs.

“The state recognizes that we’re very viable,” Elnitski said.

The airport runs a pilot training program that teaches about 15-20 people at any given time, Elnitski said. The program pulls people from other areas such as Altoona, Bedford and Lock Haven.

He said the program is open to anyone from teenagers to senior citizens and has an experienced teacher.

The airport is also used as a safe shelter for the Benner Elementary in case of emergency.

The lighting upgrade will enhance the reliability of the lighting system, he said, helping aircraft to land more safely.

“When someone is coming down at night, if the lights are out that makes it less safe,” he said.

Other projects at the airport that could warrant future grants are repaving the airport apron, purchasing new equipment, constructing a new fence and upgrading the hangars.

The grant money is designed to improve safety and operations at the airports and is distributed in phases when it becomes available.

“Airports contribute to our communities’ economies and create thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a news release. “This state support will help the airports continue operating safely and ensure that they can continue to meet business demands.”