Weiser airport to receive new beacon atop historic tower

The beacon at the Weiser Airport has been repaired several times and needs to be replaced. It sits atop an historic tower that was brought in from another location near Weiser. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
The Weiser City Council on Monday approved the purchase of a new beacon that will sit atop the historic tower located at the Weiser Municipal Airport.
 Used for visual identification and navigation purposes, the beacon will come at a cost of $11,383.13.
 “We’ve had a beacon for years, but about a year ago it quit and we’ve had it repaired multiple times,” said Weiser Airport Manager Jim Metzger. “It’s getting old, so we are going to replace it and we will have a brand-new beacon.” 
 For clarification, the tower will not be replaced, just the beacon that sits on top of it.
 The history of the beacon tower itself, which stands about 50 feet high, dates back to the 1920s or ‘30s. By then, the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), the precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), had established airmail routes all across the U.S. 
 One of those routes stretched through the Weiser area. According to historical maps, the mail route appears to have started in Portland, Ore. and made a stop in Pasco, Wash. before continuing on through Weiser on its way to Boise, and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah.
 There was also a northern route connecting Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. to Portland, and a southern route that extended from Portland to San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif.
 “It’s a little piece of Idaho history,” Metzger said of the tower at Weiser’s airport.
 He noted that before the days of electronic navigation, pilots in biplanes used large, concrete arrows poured on the ground at various points along the route to confirm their location and direction. At night, when the arrows were not visible, they navigated using the beacons.
 “You could see those arrows from the air; they would point the way,” he said. “I understand there is still one that exists somewhere north of Weiser. Several people say they have seen it, but I haven’t been able to find anyone that can take me to it, or I would go and take a look. The claim, though, is that it’s still there.”
 According to Metzger, the tower that now stands on airport property is thought to have come from that site. 
 “It was disassembled and moved to the airport and re-erected when electronic navigation came into play and they didn’t need beacons along the route anymore,” he said.
 Airports still use beacons onsite. They can be thought of as aeronautical lighthouses, which mark location at night or in low visibility.
 “Originally, when they installed ours, it had a Fresnel lens, with a light in the middle,” Metzger said.  
 The setup was very similar to historic light houses that dot the east and west coasts of the U.S. They were once used for maritime navigation and had Fresnel lenses. In the early days, oil lamps were the source of light before being replaced with electric bulbs.
 Most common today are rotating airport beacons that use different color combinations, usually with two separate opposite-facing lights, which specify a particular airport. 
 Weiser’s beacon uses a white and green light. 
 The beacon should be onsite by the end of February, with installation complete sometime in November, according to Metzger.
 “It should be fairly quick,” he said of the installation. “The wiring is there and everything is ready; it’s not a big deal to install.”


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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