Buckland residents use ATVs and snowmachines to light up runway for medevac flight

Buckland residents came together this weekend to help the medevac plane land safely in the village.

The runway lights at the Buckland airport were not working Saturday, so when the medevac was scheduled to arrive on Saturday evening, the local health aide Eunice Carter announced on VHF radio that she needed volunteers to light up the airstrip, said Buckland City Mayor Patricia Thomas.

Dozens of residents showed up on their four-wheelers and snowmachines, she said.

“There was about 40 or a little less machines that were up there for at least an hour and a half, with the wind at their backs,” Thomas said. “We are so blessed.”

The plane was expected to land around 10 p.m. at the village of about 420 people. By about 9:40, the vehicles were lining up at the airstrip. Residents Ernie Thomas, Floyd Ticket and Jesse Ahkpuk Jr., as well as the village public officer Garret Ticket, were among the people who led the efforts and helped park four-wheelers and snowmachines, Thomas said.

“It was awesome to see lots of young adults willing to stand out in the freezing weather for about two hours and volunteer,” Ahkpuk said. “Our mayor, before vehicles started coming up to the airport, she gathered us together and held hands and prayed for the safety of the flight and safety of the health aides.”

The plane arrived around 10:20 p.m., and the patient, whose name was not shared by officials, boarded the plane safely, Thomas said.


“Thank you, all residents, whether you were out there or not,” Thomas said. “The prayers of the people are powerful.”

In 2022, Deering residents hopped on their ATVs, trucks and snowmachines to help a medevac plane land on a dark runway and transport an infant to a clinic.

A similar effort took place in Igiugig in Southwest Alaska in 2020, when community members there also used cars, trucks and ATVs to light a runway for a medevac flight.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.