The federal government will provide more than $1 million to help improve safety at the Saratoga County Airport.
Most of the money will pay for a precision approach path indicator for pilots and new taxiway lights, but there is also money for an assessment of how to deal with the hazard of wildlife that appears unexpectedly on the runways.
The money is being awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration’s airport improvement program, which pays 90 percent of the costs. The grants were announced Monday by U.S. senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The state and county will split the remaining 10 percent of the cost.
The $92,000 wildlife hazard study will look at what can be done to reduce the number of incidents where wildlife runs onto the runways from nearby tall grass.
The grass is left long in the summer to protect habitat of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, but one consequence is that turkey, deer and rabbit loiter in the grass. When they leave the grass, they are sometimes struck by planes.
“It happens more often than you think,” said county Public Works Commissioner Keith Manz. “We’re trying to protect the Karner blue, yet we have the possibility of wildlife strikes and possibly human injury.”
The grass is left uncut under a Karner blue management plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to award a contract award for the wildlife hazard assessment to the McFarland-Johnson engineering firm at a meeting today in Ballston Spa.
The work will start this fall, Manz said.
The larger grant, totalling $1,058,309, is for replacement of the current taxiway lighting system, and installation of a precision approach path indicator for both airport runways. That work should also be done this fall. The PAPI system — lights that provide pilots about to land a visual indication of whether their final approach is good or bad — is an upgrade in technology from the instrument approach system the airport now uses, Manz said.
The Saratoga County Airport is a general aviation facility located in the town of Milton. It is used by small private planes and some corporate or chartered small jets, with much of the jet traffic tied to the summer thoroughbred racing meet in Saratoga Springs.
“Saratoga County has been working to improve the safety and operation of our county airport,” said Alan Grattidge, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “With the ongoing economic activities at our tech campus and with all of Saratoga’s summer entertainment attractions, our airport is being used for a variety of purposes.”