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So the Internal Combustion Engine is still good for something as cars, trucks, all -terrain vehicles head lights illuminate a Airport runway in Alaska to save the life of a little girl


Mark Gregory

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It takes a village: Residents of Alaska town with a population of 70 rally to illuminate a runway with their car headlights so sick girl can be airlifted to hospital 280 miles away in Anchorage

  • Residents of a remote Alaska village lit up a runway with light from their cars on Friday night so a child could be airlifted to hospital
  • The Department of Transportation has been out trying to fix runway lights at the small airport several times this year and last week they didn't work
  • A resident heard the medical transport plane circling overhead the Southwest Alaska village of Igiugig and rallied her neighbors to help out
  • Another neighbor made 32 calls, gathering almost every household in the village
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Residents of a remote Alaska village scrambled to help save the life of a child, jumping into their vehicles to light up a pitch-black small airport runway as a medical transport plane struggled to land.

The pilot circled overhead the Southwest Alaska village of Igiugig while neighbors desperately tried to switch on runway lights but it took an entire village to illuminate the area at the mouth of the Kvichak River on Iliamna Lake.

Ida Nelson said she had just gotten out of a steam bath when she heard the sound of what she initially believed was a truck. However she realized it could be an emergency plane because it was after 11pm. 

 

Nelson noticed that the runway lights weren't on so she took her ATV to the runway a few hundred yards from her home and another neighbor made 32 phone calls requesting help.

'That's pretty much almost every household in this village. Pretty much every cell phone here,' Nelson said.

People were running around in pajamas to help out while Nelson and others on the ground coordinated via phone and radio. 

 

They staggered cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles down the length of the runway, using their headlights to show the by LifeMed Alaska pilot where to land Friday night, Alaska's Energy Desk reported.

'Normally if you push the button like 10 or 15 times the lights will just light up,' Nelson said. 'But they didn't and so the medevac plane flew over the village.'

LifeMed Alaska posted a photo on social media showing a straight line of lights in the distance. 'What appears to be a blurry, dark photo is actually a view of what an amazing community can do with a lot of determination,' the company wrote.

The child was safely evacuated to Anchorage and has since been released from hospital.

 

I was anxious and nervous and I was like what if that was my baby [waiting for that] plane,' Nelson told KTOO

'And so, once she was able to get the patient on the plane, everybody still stayed in their positions and he was able to taxi out, taxi down the runway and take off.'

Department of Transportation spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said on Sunday that crews have been out to the airport multiple times this year repairing lights that had been vandalized and run over during winter maintenance and were out there as recently as last week to fix a wiring problem.

'They will be returning soon to repair the damaged lights and make sure the system is operational,' he said in a text message, adding: 'We're glad the community was able to safely guide the medevac flight in.'

'Vandalism on Alaska’s small airports does occur every year,' spokeswoman Shannon K. McCarthy said in an email to the New York Times on Sunday. 

'And the state has been working to educate all Alaskans as to the importance of protecting the infrastructure, particularly the role it plays in emergencies, such medical flights. 

'We respond to any reports of damaged runway lights and repair them as quickly as we can.'

 

Residents of a remote Alaska village lit up a runway with light from their cars on Friday night so a child could be airlifted to hospital

 

 

A resident heard the medical transport plane circling overhead the Southwest Alaska village of Igiugig and rallied her neighbors to help out

 

 

The King Air flight was sent to the state-owned airport from Kodiak which is 30 minutes away as a little girl had to be rushed to the nearest hospital 280 miles away

Edited by Mark Gregory (see edit history)
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  • Mark Gregory changed the title to So the Internal Combustion Engine is still good for something as cars, trucks, all -terrain vehicles head lights illuminate a Airport runway in Alaska to save the life of a little girl

The real story is people working together for the common good, something I think is overlooked way too often.  When I was seriously injured in a crash in 2012 the number of people, many of whom did not even know me, came to the aid of me and my family.  This story is all about that good that is inside all of us, we just need to bring it out and use it when the call is made.  

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Here’s a story along a similar vein that’s much less inspiring but possibly more amusing.

 

I used to fly out of a small local airport, long since converted to condos.  The manager was a young man, the scion of a major Republican family.  The family had a significant estate in western NJ, with a serious mansion.  Also on the property was a colonial era house in which the young man lived alone.  He had bulldozed a private airstrip next to his house.  It had no runway lights.

 

The young man’s personal airplane was a Piper Comanche, quite a serious machine in its day.  When he was finished for the day at the airport, he would fly the Comanche home.  If it was after dark, he’d call his mother to tell her he was leaving.  She would drive her Mercedes through the woods of their estate and shine the headlights down the grass runway.  The young man would land and go to his home, and Mom would go back to her home.

 

The young man went on to become the first head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Back in the day I had a weekend farm in North East PA. So naturally I had local friends. One winter night with a full moon I was flying an empty twin Beech 18 from Buffalo to Allentown. As we cruised along VFR at maybe 3500' I could clearly make out the farm and neighbors homes. Just as a lark I dropped down to 1000' and circled the farm and neighbors a few times. I flashed the landing lights just to say hello before climbing out for home.

I later found out it caused quite the stir. The phones were abuzz trying to get everyone together to use their cars, and mostly trucks, to light up a field with headlights because an airplane was in trouble trying to land.

That my engines sounded just fine and I was only about 15 miles from Binghamton airport I guess didn't occur to them.

Good friends and people.

I miss them.................Bob

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