FORT KNOX, Ky. — Small blue lights lining the edge of the taxiways point the way for pilots flying to and from Fort Knox’s Godman Army Airfield.The unassuming LED lights are also pointing the way toward the future of military airfield lighting.“This is a really huge deal,” said Rickey Webb, airfield manager at Godman. “The LED lighting is moving us to the 21st century.”Webb said the original project was designed to upgrade the airfield’s electrical grid. The addition of LED lighting has made them the recipients of some excellent timing.Considered the oldest active runway in Kentucky dating back to its wartime establishment in October 1918, Webb said Godman’s wiring was likely last updated sometime in the 1940s. Time and deterioration began to take an ever increasingly high toll roughly seven years ago.“When it rained hard, the manholes and raceways that hold the airfield lighting wiring would fill up with water, it would cause a short, and it would blow circuit breakers,” said Webb. “So we would lose power to the airfield facilities. It would knock out our approach lights and runway lights.“Without runway lights we’re done at night; you can’t land.”Based on 1940s technology, the wiring, to include all the controllers, transformers, regulators and breakers, was not housed in protective conduits but rather buried directly, some of it in the covered drainage ditches.Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works energy manager R.J. Dyrdek said rain water would often gather in the 8-feet deep ditches.“Even if the lights were working, there was steam coming out of the manholes where the electricity would actually boil the water,” said Dyrdek. “That’s a bad day. There weren’t very many parts that were any good.”The replacement project had been on the annual work plan for the past seven years, according to Dyrdek. In the meantime, they continued to expend funds in an attempt to keep the airfield open until the project could be funded.“The maintenance costs of keeping it running while we were trying to replace it were steadily going up,” said Dyrdek. “Every time we would have a blackout, we would spend a quarter of a million bucks to get it back up and running. That was just patching it over and over, and when the patches got to where they weren’t working, we wasted a lot of money.”The airfield lighting system falls in the lap of DPW for maintaining it. When the project came up for funding by U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the cost neared $5.3 million, significant because the airfield normally doesn’t see that kind of money earmarked for just one project, said Webb.Because the lighting system was also antiquated, Webb said he and DPW decided to take advantage of the green light and also request state-of-the-art lighting.“We got into this project to replace the wiring, but we received very clear understanding from suppliers that incandescent lightbulbs are going to go away soon,” said Dyrdek. “Even if we made our system new and we went back to that technology, we would just be moving ourselves up from the 1950s to the 1990s.“Everybody agreed we had to go to LED lights.”Because of this understanding, DPW officials received a waiver to replace the lighting on the secondary runway and taxiways.“Without runway lights we’re done at night; you can’t land.” ~Rickey Webb, Godman Army Airfield managerWhen completed, Godman will be the first military airfield in the Department of Defense with LED lighting. Webb said the reason for the waivers is because DoD regulations don’t approve of LED runway lighting, although there is no training requirement affected by the modern lighting.After construction started, Fort Knox received a waiver to install the entire airfield with LED lighting when the Federal Aviation Administration in March approved LED lighting for approach lights, runway edge lights and system lighting.Construction is expected to be completed around the first of September.“At that time, we will be the only fully LED airfield in the entire DoD system,” said Webb.He said Godman will likely become the focal point for the future of LED lighting at Army airfields because of its unique position, which should also lead to a change in the Unified Facilities Criteria — considered the bible for airfield design. The criteria currently disapproves of LED lighting at airfields.Dyrdek credits the innovative leap forward to two things.“We indeed had timing on our side,” said Dyrdek, “but this has also advanced Army airfields as a result of Fort Knox’s efforts.”