Bridge Lights the Way

WHEELING – Standing 196 feet tall and 400 feet long, at first glance the gray metal structure at the end of the runway safety area looks like a footbridge to nowhere.

But it does have a purpose. Lights attached to the bridge guide aircraft onto the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport’s main runway during inclement weather and at night.

The new light bridge is situated at the end of the runway’s new safety area, which was lengthened because of a Federal Aviation Administration mandate. A large ravine was filled in to create the area. And since additional approach lighting was still needed, instead of spending more money – possibly $10 million – to fill in the rest of the valley the bridge was installed instead.

Airport Manager Tom Tominack said the FAA, along with the project’s engineer and contractor, will have a final inspection Aug. 9. And at a later date, the FAA will conduct its own flight test to make sure everything is in working order.

”The sequence of lights helps pilots see during bad weather,” Tominack said. ”The lights are designed to cut through fog.”

He noted the lights are also used during the day.

Mark Baker, foreman for contractor Cast & Baker of Canonsburg, Pa., estimated about 20 truck loads of steel were brought in to create the light bridge erected by Shenandoah Tower Service of Staunton, Va. The steel was forged at various mills in the United States and fabrication work was conducted by Ohio Valley Steel, Wheeling.

”Officials with the FAA said it’s the best approach bridge system they’ve ever seen,” Tominack said. ”And Cast & Baker did an excellent job in this challenging terrain.”

The FAA will maintain the bridge lighting system. The $6.6 million project began about four years ago.