Broken equipment cancels flights into Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport
Navigation aid helps pilots land in cloudy weather
11:05 PM, Apr. 23, 2012 |
Ithaca -- Broken navigational equipment at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport has caused 11 flights to be canceled since Friday, Airport Manager Bob Nicholas said, including 10 flights Monday.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer wrote the Federal Aviation Administration to urge it to quickly fix what failed March 28.
"This broken equipment has left flights grounded at Ithaca, and that's simply unacceptable -- especially with graduation season right around the corner," Schumer said.
The repair of the vertical navigational part of the system requires the installation of new frequency crystals. The crystals are grown by the manufacturer and take four to six weeks before they can be delivered.
"That's upsetting," Nicholas said, "to tell people if the weather continues the way it is, to try and use another airport."
The frequency crystals are a 30-to-40-year-old technology that about one-third of U.S. airports use, according to Nicholas, but airports do not store spares.
The instrument landing system for runway 32 gives vertical and horizontal guidance to planes landing in less-than-clear skies. The FAA's published approach for the runway provides a plane guidance to go as low as 250 feet above the ground, but with the equipment out of service, the vertical guidance takes a plane to an altitude about 1,000 feet above the ground. At that altitude, the pilot must be able to see the runway in order to land.
With the weekend's foggy weather, the clouds were well below 1,000 feet, so airline flights into Ithaca had to cancel or divert.
More modern navigational equipment has redundant systems to ensure usability. Nicholas said he applied to the FAA for a replacement of the aging equipment, but even if approved, it wouldn't be installed until next year.
Until they can change the dilithium crystals we'll continue to see flights cancelled to Ithaca in bad weatherIthaca crystals
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