Friday, September 17, 2010

County Takes Measures to Reduce Airport Woes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 10:27 AM

busA month after a long-planned airport construction project began -- a project that has inconvenienced countless local travelers whose flights have been delayed, redirected or canceled outright -- backup measures have finally been provided.

County Supervisor Mark Lovelace yesterday evening sent an e-mail to concerned community members updating them on measures being taken by county officials and airline personnel to alleviate the travel headaches at the Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV). The supervisor's e-mail reads as follows:

I have been working with our Airport Manager and our Director of Public Works to do anything and everything we can to improve this situation. ... Here is a short list of actions we have taken since Monday morning:

* Provided a regular daily shuttle bus service between ACV and SFO and a stand-by shuttle for passengers diverted to Redding

* Obtained assurances from United and the other carriers that they will provide waivers and refunds for passengers whose flights were cancelled

* Posted an electronic sign board at the airport entrance warning travellers to expect flight delays

* Posted notices throughout the ACV terminal informing people of the problem and advising them of options

* Posted information prominently on the County's aviation website, www.co.humboldt.ca.us/aviation, including external links to flight information websites (thanks to all who have provided links!)

* Provided this information and notices to airlines and airports that serve ACV, so that they can inform travellers in other locations

* Recorded radio PSAs for broadcast (thanks to Lost Coast Communications, and to those who forwarded the information!)

* Circulated information by TV, radio, newspaper, e-mail, Facebook, blogs and other means

* Made advance arrangements with the FAA to be on site to fly a test approach of the ILS system as soon as the EMAS project is completed (necessary before they will allow us to turn the system back on)

* Confirmed that this project remains on schedule for completion on September 24th.

I know that many, if not all, of these are things that could have and should have been done in advance of the project. This was a long-planned project and the potential problems were certainly foreseeable. However, the most important task right now is to do whatever we can to mitigate the problems for the airport's customers while we finish the EMAS project. When this project is finished and the current emergency is resolved, we will then have time to examine what went wrong and take steps to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again.

Not long after Lovelace's e-mail, Airports Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey issued the following press release:

If the fog returns, there is a significant chance that incoming flights may be redirected, delayed or canceled. Should the fog return, the Aviation Division has coordinated with the airlines to provide alternate passenger transportation.

Based on airline recommendations, a bus will be staged at the Arcata/Eureka (ACV) Airport each morning to assist passengers if alternate transportation is needed. The bus will depart ACV at 9:00 AM for the San Francisco Airport (SFO), then [depart] at approximately 3:30 PM with passengers from SFO. They will arrive at ACV Terminal around 11:00 PM. This will be a daily routine/schedule until the ILS is back in service.

Also, the Aviation Division has coordinated a similar plan for passengers connecting through Redding Airport. However, this will be an on-call service though the Horizon Station at Redding based on their passenger needs... rather than a set time.

This final phase of the EMAS block installation is scheduled to be completed no later than September 24, 2010.

For further project information, contact the Aviation website above or 707-839-5401 between 8-5, M-F

For ticket information on cancelled flights, contact your air carrier at:

* Horizon/Alaska Airline: 800-241-6522
* United Express/United Airline: 800-547-9308

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

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Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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