CNMI Airport Restricted Due To Firefighting Vehicle Repairs

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Landings limited to smaller aircraft until truck is operating

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 24, 2015) – Big planes can’t land at the Francisco C. Ada/ Saipan International Airport at this time because the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting vehicle is being repaired, according to Commonwealth Ports Authority Executive Director Maryann Q. Lizama.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to provide aircraft rescue and firefighting services during air carrier operations.

"Our [ARFF vehicle, Crash 8] has been deemed inoperable and our personnel have been working to get it back online," Lizama said. "However, we were not successful in meeting the time requirements to get the necessary repairs done to come back completely online."

She added, "We will continue to work with our personnel on our truck to get things back online as quickly and as safely as we possibly can."

She said CPA is doing its best to have the vehicle fixed.

"We have ordered the parts via DHL to get them in sooner rather than later. We are expecting the parts to get here on Monday or no later than Tuesday. I will have my mechanics work on replacing the parts as safely and as quickly as possible so we may be looking at a week if all falls into place and it goes according to schedule."

But the airport is still operating 24 hours and smaller planes can still fly in.

Asked which flights had been affected on Friday night, Lizama said Asiana and Dynamic as well as charter flights.

"Asiana will be operating two flights with an A321 instead of one A380," she added. An Airbus 380 is 239 feet long while the A321 series is 146 feet long only.

According to Lizama, "Safety will always play a major role in our industry and we will not compromise the safety of our travelling public or our airport community."

Meantime, she said they have worked out a plan for stranded passengers.

"CPA, in communication and consultation with the FAA, has provided the ‘ferry in/live out’ operations. It means that the charter flights are able to depart with the stranded passengers in Tinian and Saipan."

The charter flights are provided by China Eastern, Sichuan and Dynamic.

The aircraft will come in with pilots and crew but with no passengers, and then they leave with the stranded passengers.

When asked what happened to the ARFF vehicle and its maintenance, she said, "We maintain our trucks. We have maintenance logs that reflect service, repair and maintenance. This is industrial apparatus so care and maintenance is a must. Our ARFF mechanic does his due diligence in ensuring that our trucks are in good working order. We get inspected and audited by the FAA because the units are key to our response capabilities. Our mechanic does his very best to ensure that we don’t have breakdowns."

Lizama said the breakdown was beyond CPA’s control.

"This particular unit needed an entire steering assembly replaced and it’s not something we have in stock. We ordered the assembly from the manufacturer; it’s currently in Incheon, South Korea. Once it gets here our mechanics are ready to work on the unit and get it back online."

The Marianas Visitors Authority is still assessing the situation at the airport and its impact on the tourism industry which is still reeling from the devastation caused by Typhoon Soudelor.

"Without a doubt, the downgrading has impacted air service," MVA Managing Director Perry Tenorio said. "We are gathering the information and should be able to assess the initial impact [today, Monday]."

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