The FAA has instituted a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) along the Texas and Louisiana coast area to support relief and recovery operations.
FAA damage assessment teams checked damage to radars, navigational aids, communications equipment and FAA facilities over the weekend and are repairing and restoring equipment and buildings today. Some facilities still have no water or commercial power.
The FAA opened its air traffic control tower at Beaumont-Port Arthur Airport at 7 a.m. this morning, for visual flight operations only. Beaumont is in theTexas-Louisiana coast TFR, and is open only to emergency and recovery aircraft. FAA technical operations teams are working to restore the navigational aids, but the airport is not expected to have commercial power for another two weeks.
Houma Terrebonne Airport, which flooded over the weekend when the levees there were breached, has also reopened. The airport in Galveston has also reopened.
The FAA has replaced broken windows in the air traffic control tower at Lake Charles Regional Airport and expects to be ready to provide air traffic services by tomorrow. The airport is still closed, however and has no commercial phone service available. Lake Charles is also inside the current TFR.
The FAA’s Communications Support Team delivered satellite communications equipment to airports in Houston before the storm. On Saturday, the team delivered satellite equipment to Ellington, Galveston, Beaumont and Lake Charles.
FAA airport assessment teams are also working with FEMA to identify and prepare any airports designated to support relief operations. Restoring service at Beaumont-Port Arthur and Lake Charles is a top priority.
Commercial operations resumed Sunday at George Bush Intercontinental Airport at 50 percent capacity. Foreign air carrier service is expected to resume today. Houston Hobby is back to normal operations.
Before Rita hit land, FAA air traffic facilities in Houston and Beaumont-Port Arthur moved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) evacuation flights carrying several thousand people to other cities in Texas and to Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
Early Friday morning, September 23, air traffic controllers from San Antonio relieved co-workers who had been working overtime at the Beaumont Air Traffic Control Tower to help the military evacuate citizens. The Beaumont Tower crew helped the military airlift 4,000 people out of danger, many of them sick and elderly. Despite having worked long hours, these employees initially refused to leave the tower, even though they had families and homes to evacuate. They agreed to step aside only when the San Antonio volunteers arrived at 1 a.m.
In preparation for the hurricane, the FAA set up a staging area in Austin, Texas to pre-deploy teams and equipment that would be needed after the storm. The FAA’s Houston Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and the Continental Airlines Certificate Management Office (CMO) reopened today at 8 a.m.
Airports in Marathon and Key West, Florida that were closed when Rita passed through the Florida Keys earlier in the week have re-opened. The air traffic control tower at Key West re-opened on Thursday, September 22.
The Southeast Texas Regional Airport in Beaumont and the Lake Charles Regional Airport in Lake Charles, La. will receive funds to restore service.
People continue to work around the clock to staff air traffic facilities, repair navigational aids and infrastructure, and provide safety oversight to support ongoing evacuation and relief efforts.
Authorities still have no firm timeline for reopening the main terminal of the airport that the county owns and operates.