Navajo Nation considering upgrading landing strips

Window Rock, Arizona (AP) 9-07

The Navajo Nation is considering upgrades to seven air strips on the reservation.

The tribe wants the strips at Crownpoint, Shiprock, Oljato, Tuba City, Chinle, Kayenta and Ganado to become airports, said the spokesman for the Navajo Department of Transportation, Rutherford Ashley.

“The reservation is a vast place, and airports would make all these areas a little bit more accessible,” he said. “We could start a shuttle service open to the public to fly from Tuba City to Crownpoint, and the airports would generate funds that would benefit the tribe.”

An airport at Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation, is the only air strip on the reservation with a terminal, hangar and navigation systems, Ashley said.

In Shiprock, for example, the air strip is powered by a generator and has no running water, said Wilfred Brown, airport program supervisor for the Navajo transportation agency.

On average, five planes land in Shiprock each week, Brown said. Most flights are emergency medical evacuations.

“There are no runway lights, water or sewer,” he said. “There are no buildings except for a shelter where patients wait for emergency flights.”

The department plans a meeting Wednesday in Window Rock to discuss air travel on the reservation.

Ashley said the transportation agency hopes to use grants from the state and the Federal Aviation Administration to eventually improve the strip and build a terminal.

“People don’t know there’s a landing strip out there,” Ashley said. “This could be the beginning of a better quality of life, better access to health care, more tourism and private businesses. This is going to generate revenue.”

Information from: The Daily Times,