Minot airport officials hope to prevent a repeat of the airport shutdown that occurred earlier this month with a new backup plan for de-icing planes.
The Minot City Council's Airport Committee on Monday discussed the problems that occurred Nov. 10 and 11 when DGS, the ground-handling service that provides de-icing at the airport, had its primary and backup de-icing equipment break down. Mechanics who arrived from Salt Lake City were unable to repair the trucks, so a third truck was brought in from Minneapolis. Planes grounded on Saturday and Sunday were airborne again Monday afternoon.
"We need to impress that that whole fiasco gave the airport a bad name. A lot of people don't realize that the Minot airport isn't responsible for de-icing," said Alderman Jim Hatlelid, committee chairman.
Andrew Solsvig, airport director, will be drafting a letter for the mayor and Hatlelid to sign that will express the city's concerns to the chief executive officer of Delta Airlines, which operates DGS.
On Thanksgiving, DGS again experienced problems when one equipment truck broke down and the other kept over-heating, causing delays in de-icing that put one Delta flight behind schedule. An Allegiant flight also was affected, although it already was delayed because of other plane problems.
"That raises a concern that they need to get equipment that works," Solsvig said.
Delta has indicated it will be providing additional de-icing equipment that will serve all DGS's operations in North Dakota but will be stationed in Minot to back up the existing two trucks. The equipment is expected to arrive Dec. 1.
Committee members were left with questions about that equipment, its age and reliability. The current trucks were reported to be models both built after the year 2000.
The committee suggested looking into having other backup agreements with area airports or Minot Air Force Base. Alderman Dave Lehner, a committee member, said the base reportedly offered to assist with de-icing on Nov. 10 but were never called upon.
Solsvig said he will follow up to see whether the base may be able to provide backup service in the future. The type of de-icing as well as the availability of equipment are important in determining whether the base is suited to helping with commercial planes. Solsvig also will check with other airports to find out what their equipment situation is and whether sharing in emergencies is an option.
In other business, Solsvig reported to the committee that the airport's new security upgrade is in operation. The system provides surveillance cameras in the general aviation terminal and traffic control tower and eight cameras in the commercial terminal.
Solsvig said the cameras are making it easier for the Minot Police Department to monitor the airport. However, the department plans to eventually step away from airport security to focus on community concerns, and airport officials are looking into hiring a replacement firm.
Solsvig also reported that a newly opened parking area south of the ball diamond near the airport has been working well. The airport has contracted with a taxi service to transport people between the lot and the terminal at no cost to the individuals. The parking area will be open during the holiday travel period.