Montana Department of Transportation

MDT Meetings and Events

Helena - Aeronautics Division Seeks Input On Airway Beacons

August 9, 2017


Debbie Alke, Aeronautics
Division Administrator, (406) 444-9569 Lori Ryan, Public Information
Officer, (406) 444-6821,

Montana Department of
Transportation Aeronautics Division Seeks Public Input Regarding
Airway Beacon Program

HELENA — The Montana Department of
Transportation (MDT) would like to notify the public and seek
comments on a proposal to decommission airway beacons.	

The 84
airway beacons in Montana were installed by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) in the 1930s as part of a national airway
corridor network to assist pilots with night navigation. As safer
navigational resources became available in the 1960s the FAA began
decommissioning the airway beacons until withdrawing all support by
the early 1970s. 

At that point the State adopted and continued
operation of 17 of the beacons in southwest Montana where radio
navigational aids did not provide night pilots complete coverage in
this area. As navigational technology has advanced, however, the
beacons have become less viable as a navigational aid to night

This spring, MDT Director Mike Tooley executed a charter
that established a working group to assist him with his decision
regarding the future of the remaining airway beacons in Montana. With
the objective of providing information, advice, and recommendations
for Director Tooley, the working group met to consider multiple
issues regarding the beacons, including:

— Whether a network of
beacons can and should be maintained, and the anticipated level of
human and financial resources necessary to do so, which may include a
public-private partnership 
— Long-term funding sources for any
maintained beacons long term 
— How beacons can be regularly
monitored to determine they are working properly 
— Which beacons
have significant maintenance and other issues and whether they should
be maintained or removed from the system 
— Issues surrounding
decommission such as expense, liability, or environmental concerns 
Other currently unanticipated issues that emerge from the group’s
investigation and deliberations

The working group met to discuss
these issues and concluded that only the nine beacons MDT identifies
as operational plus the University Mountain site should be considered
for some sort of future use by MDT. The working group went on to
recommend the following two options for these 10 beacons:

1) MDT
disposes of all the beacons, but offers any public/private
partnerships the opportunity to assume ownership before they are
decommissioned, and
2) MDT continues to maintain the 10 beacons
identified, understanding that MDT has limited funding to put toward
this maintenance and that alternative funding for the remainder might
need to be found through private entities or foundations.

To inform
the public and encourage public comment on the proposal, MDT will be
conducting public informational meetings in the form of an open
house, as follows:

— August 24, 2017, Billings Airport, 1901
Terminal Circle (the meeting will be held at the Airport Operations
Center located on Overlook Drive off Highway 3), 6:00 p.m. to 8:00
— August 28, 2017, Missoula Airport, 5225 Highway 10 West (the
meeting will be held next to the restaurant/bar on the main floor of
the terminal building), 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
— August 31, 2017,
Helena Airport, 2801-2873 Skyway Drive (the meeting will be held on
the second floor of the terminal building next to the administration
office), 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For more information please contact
the Aeronautics Division Administrator Debbie Alke at (406) 444-9569.
Members of the public may submit written comments to the Montana
Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division office at P.O. Box
200507, Helena, MT 59620, or online at:

Please note that your comments
are for the “Airway Beacons Proposal” and submit by September 30,
2017, to ensure your comments are adequately reviewed and considered.
Comments will not receive a response. 

Alternative accessible
formats of this information will be provided upon request by
contacting the Office of Civil Rights, P.O. Box 201001, Helena, MT
59620; (406) 444-9229; fax (406) 444-7243, or e-mail to Those using a TTY may call (800) 335-7592 or through
the Montana Relay Service at 711.