Update: Second Runway Reopens at Austin Airport
Wednesday 9:08 a.m. The FAA has reopened the top level of its permanent air traffic control tower at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. This allowed airport officials to open the second runway. The radar at the base of the tower still isn't working. You should still check with your airline before heading to the airport.
Earlier: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will be down to one runway likely until the end of the week, and even then, it could take a while longer before flight schedules return to normal.
ABIA's air traffic control tower flooded last week after almost 15 inches of rain fell on the airport. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials cut electricity to the tower to evaluate the damage and clean-up.
To manage flights in the meantime, the FAA trucked in a temporary air traffic control tower from Kansas City. It’s basically a modified mobile home with a lot of technology on board.
Controllers can see only one of ABIA's two runways from it, which precludes use of the second runway.
“Just do the math," the FAA district manager Greg Motl says. "That’s a 50-percent reduction in concrete availability and so that’s going to create some delays."
He says controllers are also lacking a lot of the computer automation they have in the permanent tower.
“All of our landline communications, our radio equipment is all gone," Motl says. "We go to a very bare bones operation, and most of the things we could do with automation we are now having to do manually.”
He says it doesn't affect airport safety, just the number of flights controllers can handle, so they're getting assistance from radar operators in Houston and San Antonio.
Controllers could get back into the main tower by the end of the week, but the FAA expects it will take another 30 days to repair its radar. Opening both runways would improve flight schedules, but flight volumes won't return normal until the radar is repaired.