Forney Field, located on Fort Leonard Wood, will receive a slew of improvements, including a new taxiway and an overhaul of existing lighting structures.
Dave Robinson, airfield safety officer and interim airfield manager said that this will involve a transition from incandescent bulbs to LEDs, making the facility more energy efficient. “We’re also getting all of our signage lit,” leaving behind the reflectorized ones to act in accordance with current FAA regulations, he said.
While LED lights are important for energy conservation, there were other factors that went into this decision. According to Jose Palapi, manager of the air traffic control tower, “it saves energy and costs, but it’s also more visible to pilots.”
“The whole civilian world is going to that and we’re a little behind,” he said. But one of the problems preventing a faster transition lies with the military’s need for night vision goggles.
“LEDs really affect those,” Palapi said. “Normally, we’d shut off all the lighting, but there’s certain things they couldn’t see.” So while the military works to design an LED bulb that avoids blinding pilots using the goggles, the only fixtures receiving that lighting are on the signage and taxiway, he said.
The regional airfield has also been in desperate need of an additional taxiway, as it currently hosts just one. “Usually airfields have (more) taxiways,” Palapi said.
With a new taxiway, congestion and waiting times would be alleviated, Robinson explained. “This is very proficient when it comes to A10s and the other jet fighters that come in on a pair.”
Upgrades to Forney Field could also serve to make Fort Leonard Wood more accessible, bringing in bigger passenger airplanes through the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport. This airport has been serving the Fort Leonard Wood Region for more than 50 years. It provides air transportation for the region, including Soldiers and their families who make the trip to Fort Leonard Wood every year for basic training graduations and other military-related events.
With these additions, the future for Forney Field looks bright. Improving the airfield “is like anything else,” Palapi said. “We’re trying to move forward and stay ahead of the time.”