Tragedy leads to safer conditions, economic development at Slidell airport

Tragedy leads to safer conditions, economic development at Slidell airport

SLIDELL, La. (WVUE) - In 2016, two pilots from the St. Tammany Mosquito Abatement died when their plane hit transmission lines on the north end of the Slidell Municipal Airport. While investigators ruled the accident pilot error, Slidell Councilman Val Vanney and Slidell Airport manager Richard Artigue led efforts to have the lines moved.

Three years after Wayne Fisher and Donald Pechon’s deaths, Vanney and Artigue got it done.

“Moving the power lines not only addresses a public safety issue, but it allows for expansion of the Slidell Airport,” Vanney said. “More runway means that we can accommodate larger aircraft, which is important for anyone who uses the Slidell Airport.”

In July, the Louisiana Public Service Commission voted to allow Slidell, Cleco and Entergy to move the power lines almost 3 miles out of the path of air traffic. The move puts almost 1,000 feet of runway back into use that went dormant when the transmission lines were installed, and allows for a possible runway expansion by another 1,000 feet.

Moving the power lines cost approximately $20 million, shared between Cleco and Entergy. But, Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer said it’s worth the price to keep people safe.

“This will save lives. It will also have a large economic impact, not just for the city of Slidell, but for St. Tammany Parish, the State of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region,” Cromer said.

Cromer went on to thank Vanney and Artigue, as well as Senator Sharon Hewitt, the public safety commission and it’s commissioner, Eric Skrmetta, Cleco and Entergy.

“Without this team we wouldn’t have gotten any of this done," Artigue said. "This has been an effort that [Vanney] and I started right after that accident. I’ve been here for 20 years, and I tried to get these power lines moved 20 years ago and couldn’t get it done. We finally got it done. Thank you very much.”

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