TWA mishap alters runway

Time will tell if airport sustained permanent damage

— The TWA airplane that inadvertently landed at the general aviation airport in Craig March 14 may have caused damage to the runway, and the extent of that damage is not yet known.

The 180,000-pound DC-80, en route from St. Louis to Hayden, landed safely; however, the

Craig/Moffat Airport runway is constructed to handle planes weighing only up to 40,000 pounds.

The initial inspection of the runway showed an indentation, and a follow-up inspection revealed the indentation had leveled itself. However, Jim Parker, manager of Yampa Valley Regional Airport, said this could be concealing a future problem as the sub-grade material below the runway could still be pushed down. When the runway leveled, a gap could have formed, leaving room for water to gather in the space and begin deteriorating the runway surface, Parker said.

In addition, some damage that may have occurred won't present itself until after the ground thaws, and some types of damage won't show until an entire year has passed, Parker said.

Blaine Tucker of the Craig/Moffat Airport Advisory Board pointed out that on two occasions during the past two years, airplanes headed for Hayden have begun landing at Craig/Moffat Airport but realized their mistake in time to power back and land at the correct destination in Hayden, noting that it "can happen again."

The board agreed that similar approach lines and reference marks for both Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Craig/Moffat Airport contribute to these mistakes.

"The only permanent solution is some sort of radar system so the Denver station could see the planes below 13,000 feet," Parker said.

As the system exists now, the planes are guided by the Denver Radar station toward the appropriate airport, but once a plane drops below 13,000 feet, radar contact is lost and only radio contact with a ground crew and visual guidance land the plane.

Improving the radar system is a financial responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration; it's a matter of getting enough political support to prod the FAA into action, Parker said.

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