Alaskans use their cars to light up the dark runway so a medevac flight can land safely

Residents were told to park in a safe place near the runway lights and point their lights in one direction.

People working together for a good cause is the best thing that can happen. In December 2022, people in a small town in Alaska decided to work together for one of these causes. ABC News said that they used their cars to light up a runway so that a medevac flight could land safely and take a patient to a hospital.

In the Northwest Arctic Borough, there is a city called Deering. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says that gravel and ice got into a light fixture at Deering Airport and made it stop working. Because the lights on the runway were broken, workers at the Deering Clinic asked people in the community for help coming up with a way to light up the runway so that a medevac flight could land safely. Residents of Deering used their ATVs and trucks to light up the runway, which helped the medevac plan not only land and pick up the patient from the Deering Clinic, but also take off later. A community health worker at the Deering Clinic said this about the inspiring event: “It was very heartwarming. We all came together to make it possible and then it was so cool when the medevac landed; the Northern Lights came out.”

Daisy Weinard, who helped out, told the Anchorage Daily News: “It felt really good for all the community to just come together. When they said people needed help, you know, we’ve always done this, we’ve always helped each other when we are in need.”

The clinic said that people showed up at the airport with more than 30 cars. After a few calls back and forth with the medevac operator, Guardian Flight, the pilot got permission to land. Residents were told to park in a safe place near the runway lights and point their lights in one direction. “That way the pilot from one direction can see their headlights and then in the other direction he can see everybody’s tail lights,” said airport worker Calvin Moto, who along with Alvin Iyatunguk Sr. gave instructions to the community members.

Even though it was -8 degrees and the wind chill was -20, Weinard said that the community was “committed to helping the plane land.” “It was kind of heartfelt, you know, seeing all those other people up there to support the patient that needed to go out,” Weinard said. “It’s kind of emotional.”

John Perreault, an information officer at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said that the runway’s lights have been out since December 14, 2022, but that they are now back on. Perreault said, “We’re terrifically proud of the community spirit that Deering showed and the bravery of the pilots of the medevac who were able to work under adverse conditions,” Perreault said. He added that this is not the first time the Deering residents have helped with lighting up a dark runway, they did it in 2020 as well. “This was a remarkable event,” he said.

In 2020, the same thing happened in Igiugig, which is in Southwest Alaska. People drove their cars, trucks, and ATVs ahead to light up a runway so that a medevac plane could land and save the life of a child. At the time, about 20 vehicles came to help, which meant the plane could land, load the patient, and take off while the community kept the runway lit.