Thief River Falls Regional Airport (TVF) in northwestern Minnesota is a commercial hub for regional passenger and cargo services, served by Denver Air Connection and IFL cargo flights. With extensive cargo operations supporting local industries like Digi-Key Electronics and Arctic Cat, TVF handles multiple daily flights, including CRJ-200 flights to Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee.
A Master Plan project, initiated in 2018, laid the groundwork for infrastructure improvements, including replacement of the Runway 13/31 lighting, parallel taxiway lighting, and airfield guidance signs. Runway lighting replacement typically requires full runway closure due to work in safety areas. Given that commercial and cargo flights rely on Runway 13/31, its closure would adversely affect daily operations, impacting the local community and economy.
SEH collaborated with the Thief River Falls Regional Airport, local tenants, and subconsultant TKDA for an airfield electrical design to upgrade the Runway 13/31 and parallel taxiway lighting to LED to meet the airport’s long-term needs, all while maintaining day and night all-weather access to the airfield throughout construction.
Essential for commercial service and cargo access, Runway 13/31 is the airport’s primary runway, is 6,400 ft. in length, and has high-intensity edge lighting supporting a precision instrument approach. Impacts on the runway needed to be closely coordinated and minimized to ensure continued commercial and cargo access.
Temporary lighting system keeps airport functioning throughout construction
The SEH team implemented a temporary lighting system, featuring LED high-intensity runway edge lights, ensuring uninterrupted access to the runway day and night during construction. This temporary system was installed during short daytime closure periods and five nighttime airport closures, which allowed commercial and cargo operations to proceed without disruption while the permanent lighting system was replaced.
Complex phasing proves successful
Project phasing included restricting daytime work operations to a five-hour window on the primary runway while allowing additional tasks like Taxiway A lighting and signage replacement to take place outside that window, supporting full-time construction operations for the contractor. This coordination proved successful, as not one flight was canceled or impacted during construction. The phasing included three distinct stages across portions of the airport spanning 120 calendar days, achieving maximum efficiency for the contractor while maintaining operational safety - as demonstrated by the on-time and under-budget project completion.
Careful coordination meets FAA compliance, keeps project on schedule
Effective communication and coordination were vital, especially when replacing FAA-owned equipment and working in critical navigational aid areas. SEH proactively integrated the replacement of FAA-owned REILs into the project schedule, adhering to established FAA standards. The team coordinated with Thief River Falls Airport Operations, coordinating runway closures and daily Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) review and posting to ensure airfield safety. The total project cost, amounting to $2,750,000, was 100 percent funded by the FAA, as the project took place during a year when the FAA provided additional COVID relief funding to cover full project costs. SEH oversaw necessary coordination to ensure compliance with FAA standards and guidance while maintaining the overall schedule and construction phasing.
New lighting systems ensure long-term sustainability
At the end of the project, the runway and associated parallel taxiway lighting systems were replaced with LED fixtures to meet the airport’s long-term sustainability and operational needs – improving safety and positioning the airport to continue providing unrestricted access for the region moving forward.
- Minnesota Council of Airports (MCOA) | Commercial Service Airport Project of the Year 2023
Thief River Falls Airport Lighting Replacement
Thief River Falls, Minnesota
Thief River Falls Regional Airport
- Airport Master Plan
- Complex phasing solution to allow continued operations of commercial air carrier flights and cargo operations during construction
- Installation of a temporary lighting system to maintain night and all-weather access
- Replacement of high-intensity runway edge and threshold lights
- Replacement of parallel taxiway lighting
- Replacement of airfield signage, including new conduit, bases, and layouts
- Electrical vault improvements, including new regulators and equipment
- Completion of a FAA reimbursable agreement and coordination with FAA on FAA-owned runway end identifier lights and impacts to navigational aid critical areas
- Airport planning and design
- Civil engineering
- Construction services
- Mechanical and electrical engineering