Wednesday, January 9, 2013

‘Typical’ number of flights diverted over holidays

Fog, snow cause diversions, some cancellations

Express Staff Writer

Despite difficult weather conditions right before Christmas and New Year’s Day, diversions of commercial air flights were at a “typical” level during the holiday season, and traffic levels were about average.

“I haven’t seen the numbers completed yet, but we had some very busy days and some very slow days, which is typical of the holiday season,” airport Manager Rick Baird said. “I can’t say yet if it was average or above average, but it was a typical traffic flow.”

Baird said a number of the season’s diversions occurred on the night of Dec. 23 and the morning of Dec. 24 when a storm swept through the Wood River Valley, bringing about 7 inches of snow to the valley floor. He said diversions to Twin Falls carried over into Christmas Eve, as more snow was expected but did not come.

“The air carriers were watching the forecast,” he said. “[But] it cleared up faster than it was supposed to. We had blue skies.”

SkyWest airlines typically makes the decision to divert flights to Twin Falls four hours before departure time, while Horizon Air takes six hours to decide whether to divert a flight. Baird said that sometimes causes diversions to take place even when the weather is good.

“They watch all of the forecasts and they have to make decisions in advance,” he said. “It’s the right decision for the passengers.”

Commercial and private flights were also thrown off course by a fog bank that blanketed the valley for several days around New Year’s Day. Baird said a few flights headed into the airport on New Year’s Day were delayed due to fog—but as Twin Falls was also socked in, the flights needed to be diverted to Boise.

“There have been some diversions and there have been some flight cancellations, both air carrier operations and general aviation as well—typical December operations,” he said. “We don’t like to see it, but air carriers do a good job making sure people get in and get out.”

Baird said crews had no trouble removing snow from runways and taxiways after the large December storms, especially the one on Dec. 23.

“The guys did a miracle job,” he said of the operations crew, including Operations Chief Pete Kramer. “The airport was open at 7 the next morning.” 

Kate Wutz:


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