Federal Aviation Administration Approves Lake Winnipesaukee for Plane Landings | NECN
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Federal Aviation Administration Approves Lake Winnipesaukee for Plane Landings

It's the only ice runway in the lower 48 states approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

On Monday, pilots battled tough winds as they navigated the frozen waters of Lake Winnipesaukee; but Saturday, the calm winds and mild temperatures brought more than 100 planes into the Alton Bay Seaplane Base. (Published Monday, March 2, 2015)

There is only one FAA registered ice runway in the lower 48 states and it's open right now in New Hampshire.

Monday afternoon, pilots battled tough winds as they navigated the frozen waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. But Saturday, the calm winds and mild temperatures brought more than 100 planes into the Alton Bay Seaplane Base.

"There were at least 200 spectators here," said Bob Burton who helps plow the runway.

The influx of people was a much-needed boost for local businesses like the Olde Bay Diner.

"Saturday it was crazy, we were busy with a lot of pilots, it was really neat," said employee Jen McCollough.

McCollough says this winter has been "off" due to the unprecedented amount of snow in southern New England.

"Many people haven't been able to get up to area from Massachusetts because they have been digging themselves out," she said.

Local resident Paul LaRochelle is responsible for maintaining the runway with a few other volunteers, including Burton.

"Let's face it- everyone starts to get really tired of the snow and the cold and not being able to do anything, so it's just fun for people," LaRochelle said.

He says maintenance has been extremely difficult and time consuming with all the snow in February.

"We were out here every three days, plowing, and plowing, and plowing," he said.

Pilot Tim Campbell flew in from Lawrence, Massachusetts, Monday.

"This is my eighth time here this season," he said laughing. "It's one of the best landings you'll ever make."

The ice runway has been open every winter since 2009. It usually closes around this time, but LaRochelle says thanks to the extreme cold temperatures this year, the Seaplane Base will be open well into the middle of March.

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