Pilot blasts faulty Chattanooga Airport lights

Pilot blasts faulty Chattanooga Airport lights

October 16th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Tom Snow

Tom Snow

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

A corporate pilot complained Monday that broken equipment at Chattanooga Airport created a safety issue when he tried to land at night recently.

"Absolutely, it's a safety issue," said pilot Richard Genter, of Chattanooga.

He said at a meeting of the Airport Authority that he was flying from Athens, Ga., to Chattanooga Airport and asked the Federal Aviation Administration control tower to turn up the lights on the airfield as he prepared to land.

Genter said he was told at the time that the equipment designed to do so was broken and had been for two weeks.

He said that with lights from along Brainerd Road, Ringgold Road and Highway 58, the airport already sits in "a black hole" and it's hard to pick out the airport runway lights.

Airport Authority member Tom Snow, who is a pilot, agreed with that remark.

"It's hard to find in the dark," he said.

Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said later Monday after checking on the matter that a lighting control panel the FAA tower uses was inoperable from Sept. 6 to 14.

"During those eight days, all lights functioned, and were set on the predetermined lighting levels based on visibility," he said in an email. "When the tower requested a change in the lighting levels [due to visibility], the airport changed the lighting level per the request."

He said that FAA regulations say the airport is responsible to report any condition impacting arrivals or departures of aircraft by issuing a notice that's distributed by the FAA to pilots flying into that airport. Each pilot is responsible to review active notices, Hart said.

Throughout the process, the airport was in compliance with FAA regulations, he said.

Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said Monday she was going to check on the issue.

boardings up

Meanwhile, Chattanooga Airport passenger boardings rose more than 9 percent in August, helping to push traffic up for the year due to growing strength in the local economy, Hart told the Authority.

Through August, traffic is up 4 percent to 209,304 passengers, he said.

"Economic development is the primary reason," Hart said.

Hart said passenger traffic is just one indicator of a better local economy impacting the airport. He said air cargo handled is 252 percent higher through August than last year.

Officials have cited a jump in FedEx's cargo operations, which are believed to be driven in large part by Amazon's distribution center in the city.

Hart mentioned an increase in general aviation, military and other non-commercial passenger traffic, which is almost 11 percent higher for the year.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.