Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bremerton National Airport (KPWT) to briefly close for re-striping next month

Photo Courtesy/Credit Larry Steagall 
 Fred Salisbury, director of airport operations for the Port of Bremerton, walks on a runway at Bremerton National Airport on Wednesday. The runway at the airport will close for a day or two on Aug. 19. Stripes and numbers on the runway will be repainted.

BREMERTON — It’s pretty unusual for the runway at Bremerton National Airport to shut down. 

But that’s exactly what will happen next month as new stripes are painted.

After the last corporate jet departs on Monday, Aug. 19 — it’s usually the daily United Parcel Service jet — the runway will completely shut down at 7 p.m.

As night approaches, the airport beacon won’t light up as it customarily does. Nor will the runway lights. The switch on the airport’s instrument-landing system will stay in the off position, too.

Using only the lights on their trucks, workers will fan out across the darkened runway, using giant hoses to water-blast away old paint stripes and numbers used to guide aircraft in and out.

Two giant reflective yellow “X’s,” each 60 feet in diameter, will quickly be painted on the north and south ends of the 6,000-foot-long runway. That’s the universal sign for “Sorry, we’re closed. Come back again.”

Any pilot who didn’t read the memo and shows up anyway will have to turn around.

Re-striping at Bremerton National Airport next month won’t impact helicopters, which will continue to land at a pad next to the terminal.

“Too bad, so sad,” intoned Fred Salisbury, director of airport operations. “Once the airport’s closed, the airport’s closed.”

Some planes are expected to use Tacoma Narrows Airport instead.

Once the old paint is blasted off, the nocturnal workers will step back and drum their fingers until the runway surface dries.

With luck, that will happen by the next morning, when they’ll again fan out — this time with rollers and brushes and some on trucks outfitted to do striping — onto the vacant and silent runway.

They’ll apply some 102,000 square feet of reflective white paint. Then comes a night of watching the paint dry.

Here’s comes the interesting part:

For the first time in many decades, they’ll paint new navigational numbers at both ends of the runway to realign it with magnetic north.

Currently, the south end of the runway has a 60-foot-tall “1” painted on it. That signifies a 10-degree reading on the compass. At the north end, is the giant “19” number, which signifies 190 degrees.

Back decades ago, that was the approximation of magnetic north, important to pilots as they adjusted their navigational gear to land and take off.

But the molten iron at the core of the earth continually shifts, causing true magnetic north to follow along with it.

Today, true magnetic north at Bremerton National Airport is closer to 20 degrees at the south end and 200 degrees at the north end. That means a giant “2” will replace the “1” at the south end, and a “20” will replace the current “19” at the north end.

That change hasn’t happened at least since 1963, when the port took over the airport, according to Salisbury.

“It’s something to get used to,” said Salisbury, who is helping the Federal Aviation Administration notify everyone.

The $127,000 worth of work is required by the FAA, which is footing most of the bill.

Besides the magnetic realignment of the runway, painters will redo stripes that girdle the runway every 500 feet, which serve as markers for pilots. Turn lanes also will be freshened up.

The runway apron next to the terminal will remain open, so helicopters can continue to land.

Barring a rainstorm, the work will be completed by 7 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. That’s when the runway will reopen, 36 hours after it closed, according to the plan.

The airport doesn’t expect to lose much money during the closure, since it doesn’t charge landing fees anyway. Avian Flight Center, which has a fueling facility and offers flight classes, stands to lose a day of business.

The work is being done by Stripe Rite, Inc. which has a location in the port’s industrial park.

The last time Bremerton National Airport closed was in 2009, when the runway was resurfaced. But that was only a partial closure, for the most part.

Come 2014, additional upgrades on the apron and taxiway are slated.

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