Another big upgrade for the Sumter County Airport is in the books.
A new LED lighting system surrounding the 5,500-foot runway and taxiway was made possible through a $1.265 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The S.C. Aeronautics Commission and Sumter County each contributed five percent of the funds while the FAA funded 90 percent of the project.
The new system includes two sets of PAPI lights (Precision Approach Path Indicator) and ODAL lights, or Omni-Directional Approach Lights, and replaces outdated incandescent bulbs.
Jeremy Bauer, one of the owners of On Eagle’s Wings, the Fixed Base Operator that contracts with the county to manage airport operations, said the new LED lights are more energy efficient and replace a system that was actually several different systems installed at various times and suffering from wear and tear.
“The system that was in place had been in the ground over 20 years and was beginning to have issues with the cabling,” he said. “So it’s an amazing upgrade that will last for a long time.”
The FAA conducted several flight checks and signed off on the system in early January, he said.
In layman’s terms, the PAPIs show pilots the proper glide slope during the approach to landing, while the ODALs guide the pilot to the centerline. New blue LED lights mark the taxiways. Along the runway are new green, yellow and red LEDs to let the pilots know which part of the runway they are on – green for landing, yellow for slowing down and red for stopping.
The new lighting system upgrade – which also included installation of a lighted windsock – follows a rejuvenation of the asphalt runway, taxiway and tarmac. In the fall of 2017 a proprietary substance was applied to those areas and the centerlines and markings were repainted.
The rejuvenation was a $350,000 project with same funding mix as the lighting system and was done to extend the life of the runway, taxiway and tarmac another 10 to 15 years.
“Sumter County Airport is a key component in our economic development efforts as executives often fly in to inspect development sites or meet with folks and then fly out the same day,” said Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon. “Investing in our airport, especially when the FAA funds 90 percent of the project, is an investment in our continuing effort to bring jobs to Sumter and grow our tax base.”
When Continental Tire the Americas was considering locating a new facility here, the company’s leadership team used the Sumter County Airport many times, said Jay Schwedler, president of Sumter Economic Development and TheLINK.
“It’s all a matter of takeoff and landing performance when it comes to corporate flight departments,” Bauer said, as the new lighting system has made the airport more accessible to companies interested in Sumter County.
Ken Holt of Columbia-based Holt Consulting Company, the engineer on record, said the FAA’s final flight check was Jan. 8, 2019. The project got underway in November 2017, he said, and also includes new airfield signage.
Bauer and Jeff Knauer own On Eagle’s Wings, the Fixed Base Operator at the Sumter County Airport, and provide flight instruction, fueling and run the facility’s day-to-day operations. The FBO’s website is www.sumtercountyairport.com
(Aerial photos and video courtesy of Ty Duke.)