By JOE LoTEMPLIO
PLATTSBURGH — Flights arriving at Plattsburgh International Airport were delayed over last weekend and Monday due to problems with the runway landing lights.
The lights on the south end of the 2-mile-long runway began malfunctioning last Thursday evening due to frozen groundwater that disturbed the underground wiring, Clinton County Legislature Airport Committee Chairman Jimmy Langley (R-Area 7, Peru) told the Press-Republican.
Crews worked steadily from then through Tuesday afternoon trying to remedy the problem. The labor was brutal in the bitterly cold wind on the expansive, wide-open flight line, Airport Manager Chris Kreig said.
"It would take about 15 minutes to fix the wiring, but that was preceded by about three hours of chipping through the ice and frozen ground, and multiply that by about 50 lights," Kreig said.
"We did the best we could, but it was tough."
Langley said the illuminations are similar to Christmas-tree lights, in that when one goes out, several may be affected.
"They have to check each one," he said.
Kreig said other kinds of lights could be installed, but most airports use the same kind Plattsburgh does because of cost.
"You have to do this efficiently," he said.
"Normally, we don't have problems, but it has just been so cold and so much ice this winter."
Overnight flights on Spirit Airlines from Florida on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday were delayed until the next morning.
An Allegiant Air flight from Las Vegas to Plattsburgh Monday night was pushed back to Tuesday morning.
Flights from Boston on Pen Air were able to land at night since only half of the runway lights were out.
"The smaller planes from Boston had no problem, but the larger jets could not land because they need more of the runway," Kreig said.
Allegiant and Spirit fly jets that hold more than 200 passengers, while Pen Air uses 30-passenger Saab aircraft.
Once the lights at the south end of the runway were fixed, a new problem cropped up on the north end on Tuesday. But crews were able to fix that in time for a Spirit Air flight to arrive Tuesday night.
Kreig said there were complaints from passengers regarding the flight delays.
"I understand their frustration, and we apologize for that, but we were out there doing everything we could to solve the problem as quick as possible," he said.
"It's just been a very tough winter and has been more troublesome for airports than usual."
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