May 18 – The Portland International Jetport this week began a series of month-long overnight closures to continue repaving its main runway, a project that disrupted normal operations for about a month and caused some inbound flights to be denied low visibility conditions.
Flights are banned from landing at the airport from 10:30 p.m. to 5:45 a.m. until June 13, the jetport said this week.
The overnight closures were planned more than a year ago as part of a $13.7 million rehabilitation of the jetport’s main runway. The airport closure is not expected to impact normal travel, but could cause problems if an overdue flight is delayed, airport manager Paul Bradbury said.
A month into the rehabilitation, several flights were forced to abandon their landing in Portland and fly to another city due to poor weather conditions on the secondary north-south runway.
Bradbury said he did not have immediate access to the total number of denied flights over the past month. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the FlightAware website reported 17 flight cancellations at the airport in the past 24 hours, but it did not say how many were related to runway work.
If there’s rain or low visibility in Portland when a plane tries to land, the flight is likely to be affected, Bradbury said. The shorter secondary runway makes it more difficult for long and heavy jet aircraft to land. It also lacks the precision instrumentation that can guide flights even when conditions are poor.
Some flights had to unexpectedly abort their approach to Portland and reroute to another airport until conditions improve, Bradbury said. The airlines were aware of the problems that could arise when the jetport replaced its runway, he added.
“We knew there would be impacts – it was the optimal planning we did with our aviation partners to minimize them,” Bradbury said. “We apologize to members of our traveling public as we work on this.”
A pilot may intend to land until the plane arrives in Portland and the landing is deemed unsafe, Bradbury said.
“If the conditions at that time are not suitable, the decision must be made to fly to another airport,” he said.
Herb Semple, 70, was returning to Portland from San Diego via Detroit last week when his Delta Airlines flight was hijacked. The flight was scheduled to land at 10:30 p.m., but as it arrived in the Portland area, Semple noticed heavy fog above the coast.
The plane approached the runway, leveled off, then climbed back up, Semple said. Fifteen minutes later, passengers were informed that they were now heading to Bradley International Airport, near Hartford, Connecticut.
“We had to get off the plane. They said, ‘Things are entangled in very dense fog. We cannot go back; we can’t land,'” Semple said.
A flight to Portland was scheduled for 11 a.m. the next day, he said, but since Delta would not provide hotel rooms in the event of a weather delay, passengers would have to stay overnight at the airport. Semple found a car rental company that opened at 4 a.m. and decided to drive back to Portland instead.
He then received an apology from Delta, frequent flyer miles and a note that the airline would consider refunding accommodation or travel costs.
The other passengers seemed to accept the unexpected detour, Semple added.
“People were taking it head on. Fog is fog – you have to abide by the airline in terms of safety judgement,” he said. “I’ve been traveling a lot lately; I prefer that sort of thing to lost baggage. »
Nighttime closures are not expected to significantly increase runway-related disruptions.
Flights typically land in Portland until midnight or even later, but airlines have adjusted their schedules around the shutdown, Bradbury said. Airlines preferred nighttime closures to a shorter, 24-hour closure, as did the jetport noise advisory committee, he said.
Construction is on schedule, Bradbury said, and the main runway is expected to reopen on June 13.