Several upcoming changes at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport will hopefully prevent its runway lights from malfunctioning again.
A faulty regulator in the basement of the main terminal caused early-morning and nighttime flight delays from Jan. 29 to 31, creating havoc for travelers trying to get to and leave Idaho Falls.
Maintenance crews borrowed parts from other electrical equipment to get the lights working Feb. 1, and the city of Idaho Falls has since ordered a $15,000 backup regulator to have on hand in case another problem arises.
It should arrive in a couple of months, said the airport's interim director, Craig Lords, adding that small airports such as Idaho Falls don't usually have an entire backup regulator on site.
If the main regulator fails again, it should only take 10 to 15 minutes to install the backup, he said.
Communication with travelers needs to improve, though, Lords said.
""We think we did the best we could,"" he said. ""(But) maybe we could have communicated better with the public. The problem is when you're in the water with the alligators, you're not thinking the best you can.""
The city has ordered duplicates for all its electrical equipment, hoping to fix any future problems more quickly. These parts will complement the others the airport already has on hand.
In the summer, crews will rewire the entire runway light system, which has more than 100 bulbs and four miles of wire.
The copious amounts of wire gave the airport's maintenance crews and three other local contracting companies - hired by the city to help fix the problem - a lot of trouble, Lords said.
One of those contractors has been hired to do preventative maintenance on the airport's electrical system year-round.
In all, the city lost about $10,900 in landing fees during the three-day fiasco.
One flight bound for Idaho Falls from Salt Lake City had to turn around Jan. 30 because the runway was dark, and some SkyWest flights were rerouted to Pocatello.
""This is the first time something this serious has happened,"" Lords said.
What you can do
Local officials say travelers should give airlines their cell phone numbers or e-mail addresses in order to receive important information about their flights' status.
Did you know?
The city of Idaho Falls charges a fee for every commercial aircraft that lands at the airport. The fee is based on how much each plane weighs.
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Lights began malfunctioning last Thursday evening due to frozen groundwater that disturbed the underground wiring.
The airport's main runway has been closed for repairs, so pilots have had to use a secondary runway, which is about 2,000 feet shorter and farther from some of the hangars.
The reconstruction project was scheduled to be completed by next Tuesday.
It was unclear Monday just when the pilots might have realized they were on a runway too short for their plane.