RANGELEY — A public meeting will be held Thursday to review an analysis of a proposed runway extension at the Stephen A. Bean Municipal Airfield. 

Some residents have raised concerns over the project.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the town’s airport.

The meeting is on alternatives that have been found through completing the Runway Analysis, airport Manager Rebekah Carmichael, also the town’s finance director, said. One of the options that could come out of the analysis is a “no-build” option. 

Members of the public will be able to ask questions and give feedback. Questions asked at the initial meeting on July 25 and answers to them can be found on the town’s website: townofrangeley.com/269/Runway-Extension.

LifeFlight of Maine, through the Federal Aviation Administration, is proposing a 1,000-foot extension to the municipal airport’s runway to allow LifeFlight’s King Air 200, a medical airplane, to land and depart. LifeFlight is also working with the Maine Department of Transportation.

The runway is 3,201 feet, which is not long enough for LifeFlight’s airplane to land.

LifeFlight’s medical helicopters cannot land at Rangeley airport in conditions involving ice, snow or a low ceiling, among other weather issues. Rangeley is nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. 

The higher the elevation of an airport, the more runway you need, Josh Dickson, a paramedic and LifeFlight’s Aviation Systems coordinator, said. The higher you go, the thinner the air and it affects an aircraft’s performance, he said. 

Rangeley is a long distance from a hospital that provides certain services, including cardiac catheterization, traumatic injury care for a closed head injury, and specialized pediatric services. Hospitals in Bangor and Portland provide the pediatric services.

The majority of trauma patients coming out of Rangeley would go to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Dickson said. If someone had a heart attack there are certain procedures that could lessen the damage done to the heart. The same goes for stroke patients.

Hospitals that have cardiac catheterization labs for heart attack patients are in Bangor, Lewiston and Portland, Dickson said.  

Being one the most rural states in America, “We can’t build hospitals and clinics in every town in Maine,” Dickson said. 

By having the runway lengthened it allows LifeFlight’s airplane, which is like a mobile hospital, to land and take off. 

“Laying a piece of asphalt that is long enough for LifeFlight to reliably land a flying hospital when and where it is needed, is much less expensive than building and staffing a hospital or clinic in every rural town in Maine,” Dickson said.

The project would be paid for by 90 percent from the Federal Aviation Administration, 5 percent from the Maine Department of Transportation, and 5 percent from Rangeley. However, there is an effort underway to find additional funding to cover the town’s responsibility.

“The goal for this project is for the local community to not have to appropriate any funding,” Carmichael said.

A team has been assembled to specifically work on this issue. It includes Daryl Sterling, the town’s economic development consultant, the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development and Maine DOT, who have met several times to discuss possible funding available to cover the local share, Carmichael said.

Discussion on the runway extension started with a conversation Dickson previously had with a representative of the FAA. He was asked what the top three needs were. They were in Rangeley, Jackman and Machias. 

The classification of the airport would not change for planes, Carmichael said. 

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