The Blackout And GA

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Ingenuity, Perseverance And Patience...

What do you do when the power goes out at one of the country's busiest GA airports? You make a paper fan, grab a flashlight and keep on landing, servicing and taking off airplanes. At least that was the story at Teterboro (TEB), near New York City, on Thursday. While Gotham (and its three major area airports) was paralyzed, TEB's generators kept air traffic controllers on the job and everyone else made do. "We stayed open, which was incredible when you consider all the major airports had to close," an FBO employee, who asked not to be identified, told AVweb. "They had no air conditioning and they worked with flashlights. They weren't happy, but they were working." Not all GA airports were able to keep functioning but pilots seemed to be able to find those that were. Mark Russette, an operations worker at Dutchess County Airport just south of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said a generator kept the runway lights on at his field for part of the night, providing a welcome sight for the occupants of a light twin. "We had one come in from Danbury (Conn.) because they couldn't land there," said Russette. He said the power came back on between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. AVweb is unaware of any GA emergencies resulting from the blackout and, although it's bound to have disrupted some flights, it appears the effect was minimal compared to the chaos it caused the airlines.

...Airlines Hit Hard, Tuesday, Thursday, Yesterday

Of course, the blackout virtually stopped airline traffic, and not just in the areas without electricity. Aircraft (and pax) that were supposed to head to the Northeast from all over the country were stuck at their departure airports. FAA officials told The New York Times that more than 700 flights were cancelled across the U.S. Air Canada's whole fleet was virtually paralyzed because its central command center near Toronto was shut down. Foreign carriers, too, turned back flights already over the Atlantic, inbound to the U.S. By Saturday, however, it appeared that most airlines and airports were getting back to normal. Right up until a 30-45 second power outage Sunday at a radar control facility on Long Island translated into a 30 minute ground-stop at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK. Radio contact was not lost, but according to local news, radar contact was. The ground stop led to the rerouting of inbound traffic and the cessation of departures for the full 30 minutes, which then cascaded into delays of at least 3 hours for many flights. All this was (electrically) unrelated to the blackout of Thursday and Friday. Last week's power outage actually created a brief increase of air traffic over New York and Washington as the Pentagon launched two F-16s and put other aircraft on alert, unsure of what had caused the cascading blackout. Even though terrorism was quickly ruled out as the cause, The Washington Post reported that air defenses were bolstered during the blackout as a precaution. And for airport workers and passengers in Charlotte, N.C., the blackout was like déjà vu. Charlotte/Douglas International was partly evacuated Tuesday night because of an unrelated power failure. Generators kept parts of the airport lit and functioning until that outage, most likely caused by a lightning strike, was over.