The Bethel Regional Airport was recently certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as an instrument approach and nighttime operations airport. Samuel Wheeler/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — A few weeks ago, the Bethel Regional Airport was certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as an instrument approach and nighttime operations airport.

New procedures ensure safety by providing pilots with a safe transition from high altitude to where they can visually continue their approach for landing, Airport Manager Tony Milligan said.

“The approach procedure is also often used by pilots to safely approach and land during nighttime operations,” he said.

Before certification the airport made changes that involved cutting trees and improving the runway markings and lighting to FAA standards, “including the installation of a rotating aerodrome beacon,” Milligan said.

He said this part of the process alone took a couple of years.

Milligan hopes that this can attract more air traffic, which would mean more businesses and tourists coming to the Bethel area.

“One of the biggest attractions will be for visitors flying in from away,” Milligan said. “We expect to see more traffic and use of the airport, which means more revenue for the airport as well as more revenue for area merchants.”

The airport remains an important piece of the transportation infrastructure in the area. For the 2018 fiscal year, 3,642 arrivals and departures by local and itinerant aircraft were documented. This number increased by 15 percent from the previous year, Milligan said.

Despite the changes, Milligan said the airport will not have an increase in the size of aircraft flying in and out. He said the runway length and terrain make it challenging for larger aircraft to land. The largest plane the airport will see is a King Air B200.

The new procedures will give planes a safe route from the “en route structure of the airspace all the way to a point near the runway,” Milligan said. This will ensure that terrain and obstacles will be avoided, no matter the weather conditions or what time of day it is, he added.

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