Power failures black out airport systems

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Power systems failed twice at the air traffic facility at Stevens Anchorage International Airport that guides planes via radar.

Larry Lescanec, Alaska vice president of the air traffic controllers union, says the blackouts came at about 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Lescanec said in the first instance an Alaska Airlines jet to Seattle was outbound and control was transferred to another center in Anchorage. In the second, a small cargo plane was landing and the pilot guided the plane in visually. Lescanec said the complete blackouts at the radar facility were unprecedented.

Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said the power problems caused nine departure delays, one of which was for an hour and 39 minutes.

Lescanec accused the FAA of not maintaining batteries in the emergency backup power system that would have restored power right away. The batteries are intended to maintain power until a generator kicks in.

Bob Lewis, a Federal Aviation Administration regional administrator, said the batteries failed in the first blackout and the generator failed a couple of hours later. But he said the situation was handled safely.

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