After technical malfunctions in Ithaca Tompkins County Regional Airport’s ground control landing system forced the airport to cancel more than 20 flights since Friday, airport officials said Tuesday that they expect the problems will be solved by the end of the week.
According to airport manager Bob Nicholas, the breaking of navigational equipment called frequency crystals, which prevented the airport from properly guiding planes during landings.
Nicholas initially expected the problem to last for several weeks while the airport placed orders for new equipment. But on Tuesday, he said that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) precipitated a more aggressive search for replacement equipment by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing the airport to find equipment from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
“As a result of Senator Schumer’s involvement and concern –– which brought some pressure to the right places –– we were able to find replacements for the crystals that were malfunctioning,” Nicholas said. “They will be installed by the end of today.”
After the new equipment is installed, the system must be checked and approved by the FAA, Nicholas said. He said this will likely be completed by the end of the week, which will allow the airport to resume a normal flight schedule at that time.
“This probably saved weeks of hanging around and lots more cancelled flights,” Nicholas said.
Nicholas said while this is the first time the airport has experienced such problems, the incidents opened new debates about updating its crystal technology, which is between 30 and 40 years old.
“We’ve never had the words ‘frequency crystals’ come up before,” he said. “It was our good fortune that Newark’s equipment used the same frequency we do here. But, long term, we are looking into the possibility of upgrading the instrument landing system to something that has backups, in case of another malfunction.”