NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New Orleans city leaders want to know why there was a blackout at Armstrong International last month. The airport lost power for hours on April 27, when nasty weather hit, delaying and canceling dozens of flights.
On Tuesday, the New Orleans City Council asked airport officials what happened. The director of the airport says a bad cable that they were already working to repair failed when the storm moved in. He says even though the power went out, the airfield was operational and no planes or passengers were ever at risk. There was an emergency generator that supplied minimal lighting, security control and a working fire system. But, because of that bad cable, not all of the terminals had light.
"It has happened only twice in last five years. We had during Isaac, we had a power outage. It was really severe weather, and then there was tornadic activity around the airport at one point on April 27th. We also for half an hour the tower was evacuated by the FAA," said Armstrong International Airport Director Iftikhar Ahmad.
Airport officials admit they're working with an outdated facility. That's why they're focusing on building the new North Terminal that will open in 2018. While they're doing maintenance work to make sure the lights don't go out again at the current facility, we're told they don't want to spend money on repairs that they would have to tear down in three years.
"I wouldn't say it is lack of money, it is the choice that we make," Ahmad said. "If we were to make things fully energized it, through say, through generators, we have to pass those costs on through parking fees and concession fees to our passengers and also to the airlines, and then we don't get the non-stop flights and the amount of flights that we've been getting."
We wanted to know if there were security concerns when that blackout occurred. Airport officials said no, because if checkpoints lose power, they stop processing passengers until the power is restored.
The new North Terminal that is expected to open by May 2018 will be built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane.