Runway lights problem causes flight delays and cancellations

Inbound flights to Saipan were either delayed or cancelled after the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport experienced some problems with its runway lights. The problem began last Friday as the lights at runway 7/25, the Saipan airport’s main runway, were not working at full capacity.

The problem continued the entire weekend with a number of employees from the Public School System and Saipan residents being stranded in Guam after their connecting flights were cancelled because the runway lights were not working.

Runway 7/25 is the Saipan airport’s main runway and was last renovated in 2009 after more than 25 years of operations.

Commonwealth Ports Authority acting executive director Christopher S. Tenorio, in a statement released also last Friday, said the lights at Runway 7/25 were working but not at full capacity. He added that they already asked the help of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

“CPA coordinated with CUC to provide an electrician who is familiar with the airport’s electrical system to conduct an assessment of the airfield lighting. The assessment is ongoing at this time,” Tenorio said.

He added the CPA published a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, at around noon last Friday advising all carriers servicing the Saipan airport of the lighting situation at runway 7/25 and left it to airlines if they would want to go on with their flight schedules to Saipan.

“CPA is not closing the airport nor its runway but with the NOTAM issued to the public, it is now the airlines’ discretion in coordination with the Air Traffic Control Tower whether to continue service to Saipan, divert or cancel their flights,” Tenorio said.

CPA officials also met with airport tenants at 1pm last Friday to inform them of the current situation and that they already released a NOTAM.

“Once more information is provided based on the assessment or when the runway lights are again working at 100 percent intensity, CPA will again advise all concerned,” Tenorio added.

Press Secretary Ivan Blanco, in a text message to the Saipan Tribune, said they are now coordinating with CPA and are also asking for updates.

“We’re still checking with CPA. We can’t release any statement until we get the full report from CPA. We’re trying to know the cause and find solutions to these kinds of problems,” added Blanco.

In July last year, a massive network communications blackout happened after IT&E’s fiber optic cable was damaged causing flight cancellations by major airlines. On Aug. 17, 2015, and almost two weeks after Typhoon Soudelor, more than 300 passengers were stranded on Saipan after eight flights going to Guam were diverted to the Saipan airport due to Typhoon Goni.

Late last year, the Saipan airport only allowed daytime flights to operate for almost a week after the runway and taxiway experienced blackout caused by a fire that broke out in one of hand holes.

Last December, the Saipan airport’s runway lighting system also suffered similar problems with an Airbus 330 failing to land after only 30 percent of the runway’s lights were lit. Rats were to blame for that problem.

Hong Kong Airlines, Philippine Airlines Express, and Jin Air are the latest air carriers that began their operations to Saipan in the last two months. Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Asiana Airlines, and Jeju Airlines are the other airlines that offer flights to Saipan.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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