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Navajo Nation Plans To Upgrade Airport System

Shiprock Airport entrance signage written in Navajo.
(Arlando Teller with the Navajo Division of Transportation)
Shiprock Airport entrance signage written in Navajo.

Officials with the Navajo Division of Transportation will be meeting with tribal members this month to begin developing a capital improvements plan for the tribal airport system. Five of the tribe’s seven airports will are being considered for upgrades.

Navajo transportation officials say tribal airports are in dire need of maintenance.

"Currently the airports are underutilized and underdeveloped," said Arlando Teller of the Navajo Division of Transportation.

Right now, the airports are mainly used for medical evacuations, but if maintained properly the airport could be a crucial component for a neighboring community's economic and toursim development.

Teller said the plans for this effort have been in the works for about four year. But adds, getting to this point was no easy feat, as conditions for obtaining the needed FAA funding required the tribe to amend two Navajo Nation Laws which, he said, tribal council was hesitant to do.

"But they also knew at the same time that these airports provide crucial services, " he added.

According to Teller, the planning should be completed in a year and tribal members can expect to see work begin within two.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.