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Chinle airstrip open while repairs occur

BOULDER, Colo.

The Chinle airstrip, which was closed briefly after the Navajo Division of Transportation found deteriorated asphalt in the runway, has reopened and will remain open, with intermittent closures while repairs are made, NDOT announced Tuesday.

The decision came after meeting with the Indian Health Service, Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility, Eagle Air Med and an airport engineering consulting firm, according to a press release.

Medical transport out of Chinle is critical because it is the only airstrip for miles around.

“The determination to keep the airport open was based on ensuring the continuity of safety and health services for Chinle and the surrounding communities,” reads the release.

According to the press release, most aircraft that use the 6,900-foot-long runway only need 4,000 to 4,500 feet to safely land. The deteriorated portions of the runway are about 200 feet on each end, so pilots should be able to avoid them and safely land their planes.

“The north and south ends of the runway will be clearly identified for non-usage and (that will be) conveyed to incoming aircraft,” states the release.

The entire runway is scheduled for a $5 million overhaul in 2022, according to NDOT Executive Director Garret Silversmith. Some of that amount will be subsidized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

This year’s emergency repair is estimated to cost $900,000, which will primarily come from NDOT general funds, according to the release. NDOT is working with both the executive and legislative branches to secure additional funding.

“As colder temperatures affect the window of opportunity for construction, NDOT is currently working to expedite repairs to the runway,” states the release, adding that NDOT plans to notify the public of any scheduled repairs and associated closures.



About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.