Boeing Field hit hard by Northwest quake

Photos of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) after Wednesday's earthquake (click on images for a larger view):

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March 5, 2001

Jim Combs received the following information from the airport manager as of March 3 at 10 a.m.:

Short runway, 13L/31R, expected to be in service by late Sunday. Current weight limit on long runway, 13L/31R, has been increased to 35,000 pounds for landing. Unfortunately, latest measurements have caused the available runway length on 13L/31R to be shortened to 4,700 feet. All of this info is available by notam.

March 4, 2001

The following is from the King County, Washington, Web site, March 2, 2001, 10:15 a.m.:

King County International Airport increases takeoff limits, terminal opens

Inspections of pavement by the Federal Aviation Administration and structural engineers have determined that larger aircraft can now take off from King County International Airport, though they are not yet approved for landing.

The change in runway availability increases the take off limit up to 110,000 pounds for single axle aircraft, and 220,000 pounds for tandem aircraft, up from 30,000 pounds. This means that Boeing 767 or 737 class aircraft can now take off and go to alternate airports.

All pilots are advised to check notams (notices to airmen) regularly.

The airport terminal also is open after structural inspections determined it was safe.

Work has begun on design to fill cracks and voids in the damaged portion of the long runway.

March 4, 2001

Boeing Field hit hard by Northwest quake

Flying in or out of the Seattle area? Officials are assessing the damage to airports after Wednesday's magnitude-6.8 earthquake. While flight delays could last for weeks at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the damage at Boeing Field/King County International (BFI) could prove to be extremely costly.

According to the most recent information from the airport manager at BFI, the north portion of Runway 13L/31R is closed—4,800 feet is available for takeoff and 4,200 feet for landing. There is a 100,000-pound limit for takeoff and a 30,000-lb limit for landing, with the expectation that the landing limit will be raised to 35,000 lb soon (check notams and ATIS). Runway 13R/31L is closed with the expectation that it will reopen this weekend if repair crews can complete the patchwork quickly. The plan is to repair Runway 13L/31R in 1,000-foot increments with the usable distance extending to about 6,000 feet in three weeks. Each additional 1,000-foot increment is to be added in three-week periods.

UPS and other air cargo operators have left BFI, although each has one or more airplanes stranded there. The Boeing 737/757 delivery center is closed for now and will reopen at an undetermined time. FBOs have been hit hard given that 60 percent of their business at BFI comes from transient aircraft, most of which can't land there yet. Businesses are exploring places they can temporarily relocate to until enough repairs are made so that they can once again operate profitably at BFI.

What can pilot organizations do to help? The county has authorized the airport manager to take all necessary actions to get the airport back in operation at full capacity as soon as possible. Since it will require a lot of money and expertise, pilot organizations can keep the pressure on the FAA, Congress, and state and local governments to assure that proper funds flow to King County. The airport annually accounts for more than $1 billion in economic benefit to the community.

March 2, 2001

The following is an official messages from AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Jim Combs regarding the conditions at Boeing Field following yesterday's earthquake:

The latest news (as of about 5:30 p.m. local) is that the north portion of RWY 13L/31R is closed. There is 4,800 feet available for takeoff and 4,200 feet available for landing. There is a 100,000-lb limit for takeoff and a 30,000-lb limit for landing, with the expectation that the landing limit will be raised to 35,000 lb soon (check notams and ATIS). Runway 13R/31L is closed with the expectation that it will reopen this weekend if repair crews can complete the patch work that quickly.

The plan is to repair Runway 13L/31R in 1,000-foot increments with the usable distance going to about 6,000 feet in approximately three weeks and each additional 1,000-foot increment being added in three-week periods.

UPS and other air cargo operators have relocated from BFI, although each has one or more planes stranded there. The Boeing 737/757 deliver center is closed for now, reopen date unknown. And the FBOs are hurting big time given that 60 percent of their business at BFI comes from transient aircraft, most of which can't land there yet. Businesses are exploring places they can relocate temporarily until enough repairs are made that they can operate profitably at BFI.

Someone asked what pilots’ organizations can do to help. The county executive has authorized the airport manager to take all necessary actions to get the airport back in operation at full capacity as soon as possible. This is going to require a lot of money and expertise. So, pilots’ organizations can keep the pressure on the FAA, Congress, and state and local governments to assure that the funds and approvals necessary to accomplish the repairs flow to King County as quickly as humanly possible. This is not the time for bureaucrats to get hung up on procedures.

Also, please be sure to patronize the businesses at BFI, even if you have to drive! And if they relocate temporarily, find their new location and patronize that. They don't need everyone staying away because of limitations at BFI right now.

Lastly, make sure that everyone you know understands the importance of BFI to the Puget Sound region. It accounts for over $1 billion in economic benefit to the community annually. I understand there already have been some questions raised about repairing the facility, driven in my opinion by those who want the airport closed. I expect there will be more as the total cost becomes known and communities get used to not having as much aircraft traffic.

The airport was visited by the FEMA director and the Washington Senate and congressional delegation today. President Bush and Governor Locke have declared western Washington disaster areas, which should help with the flow of funds and assistance necessary to make the repairs. But we need to keep attention focused on the BFI repairs when the next national news story hits and diverts attention elswhere.

I am in very close contact with the airport manager about conditions and plans for repair, and I will keep you all updated as I get more information.

Thankfully there were no injuries at the airport that I have heard about.

As the full extent of the damage at Boeing Field is determined, this may be the most expensive and significant damage resulting from the earthquake to a single facility or community.— Jim Combs

March 1, 2001

See also the following messages faxed to Boeing Field tenants: