Controllers Work Through Quake At Anchorage

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Air traffic controllers at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage were off the air for less than a minute when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered the morning routine at the busy polar route crossroads at 8:30 a.m. local time on Friday. “FedEx go around! FedEx, go around,” an agitated controller shouts as the shaking starts on recordings supplied by LiveATC.net. The pilot first inquires if the order is for his particular aircraft and then complies. Then other controllers chime in that the TRACON is being evacuated because of the quake. There’s a short pause and a controller gives the surprised FedEx crew and all other traffic a common frequency to use to sort out their own separation but that only lasts a minute. With a calm “We’re back,” active control resumes at 8:32 a.m. but it was far from normal operations.

The runways needed to be inspected for damage and that meant sending all arrivals into holds, which the controller started doing within a few seconds of resuming his post. Meanwhile, the facility itself was heavily damaged by the quake, according to social media posts issued by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association late Friday. “Anchorage Center NATCA Facility Representative Rob Kindred reports today’s earthquake caused significant damage to the facility. ‘Traffic is moving but we have a lot of damage inside the facility,’ he said. ‘Two different water lines broke on the second floor; one directly above a couple sectors and the other above the (training lab). There are tarps hanging to divert the water to the floor and try and save the equipment. Our staff support area is in pretty rough shape from all the water damage and ceiling tiles that fell out.’”

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