Helena runway repairs done just in time for fire season

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Helena Regional Airport has been accommodating 10-20 firefighting flights some days. 

Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com Phil Drake

Within hours of reopening June 14 after being closed eight days for a $10.8 million runway upgrade, the Helena Regional Airport was being used by air tankers taking off to fight the Deep Creek fire east of Townsend.

“We got it done, just in the nick of time,” said Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper, who oversaw the project.

He said shortly before the airport reopened, the U.S. Forest Service asked him if it would be ready as planned.

He said it would.

Since then, the airport has seen plenty of planes refueling and taking off for firefighting activity, he said, adding there are some days with 10-20 firefighting flights a day.

He said some of the bigger air tankers, such as the DC-10, can weigh about 400,000 pounds. And the pavement can handle it.

Wadekamper said the project was scheduled for as early in the summer “as possible” so that the runway would be ready for fire season.


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