GILFORD — Earth Day is celebrated in numerous ways throughout the nation, and at Laconia Municipal Airport in Gilford, “going green” is a just normal part of conducting daily business. If anyone thinks that the airport that lies in the heart of the Lakes Region isn’t constantly working toward making sure its operations are earth-friendly, they are in for a pleasant surprise.
The airport’s green initiatives begin with Laconia Airport Manager Diane Terrill, who explained, “We believe that environmental stewardship is everyone’s responsibility, and here at the airport we take that responsibility very seriously.”
“We’ve created and are constantly reevaluating our operating policies and every infrastructure and drainage improvement is designed with the philosophy of balancing the need for public safety with minimizing environmental impacts,” she added.
Over 140 acres of the airport property are part of a conservation easement that ensures the open space will remain in a preserved state. As part of that continued preservation, the removal of trees occurs only when it is absolutely necessary for the safe operation of aircraft within the airport environment. Additionally, airport personnel actively participate in a strict recycling program; however, the airport’s green initiatives go far beyond preservation and recycling.
Student pilots are quickly made aware of environmental guidelines at the airport, starting with their first flight lesson. As part of the preflight inspection that student and licensed pilots perform prior to a flight, a sample of fuel is taken from the tanks of an aircraft, which allows the pilot to see if any water is mixed in with the fuel. In days gone by, after the samples had been checked, they were simply thrown onto the ground. Today, the airport has special containers in which pilots can deposit those samples. The fuel is then dealt with appropriately.
All fueling of aircraft when on airport property is performed only in locations protected by oil/water separators. If an airplane is washed, any of those fluids are captured and are then processed accordingly. Winter presents its own challenges for the airport, but no urea, salt, sand or de-icing chemicals are ever used on aircraft operating surfaces. This often creates more intense work for the crews that clear snow at the airport, especially when surfaces become icy. However, unnecessary impervious surfaces have been removed during infrastructure improvements without compromising safety and operational efficiency.
Terrill watches these initiatives closely, but the airport property is closely monitored for any pollution. Fourteen water test sites are located on airport property, and quarterly sampling and annual inspections are conducted by a team of consultants as part of the airport’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, commonly known as SWPPP. The plan, created in 2000, identifies potential sources of stormwater pollution, and if any are found, a plan is created to eliminate the problem. To date, no stormwater pollution has been identified at the airport.
Terrill is fully aware of the airport’s commitment to preserving the environment. “We live and work and raise our families in this community, and we’re committed to being good neighbors in addition to supporting the economic, social, and public safety fabric of our region, ” she explained.