The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, but there's still plenty to be thankful for. So today, I want to join Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in sharing my gratitude for the hard work of our Federal Aviation Administration in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Acting Administrator Huerta spent last Tuesday in New York sharing his appreciation for FAA employees' tremendous effort during and after the devastating superstorm.
Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta (left) talks with Tech Ops employees Jim Coolbaugh Jr. (center) and Eric Spare about the work they are doing to repair the Runway 31 Localizer after it was damaged by Sandy
The storm knocked out power, damaged homes, and caused gasoline shortages across the region, yet FAA employees reported to work to make sure the area's vital air traffic operation continued to run as smoothly as possible.
Local employees were joined by FAA specialists from up and down the East Coast who traveled to New York in the days immediately after the storm to lend a hand assessing damage, cleaning up the mess left by the storm, and fixing the 1,300 pieces of equipment the storm knocked out of service.
"The fact that we were able to restore air traffic so quickly was an important signal for the region and the country,” said Acting Administrator Huerta.
At LaGuardia, Huerta toured the damaged equipment pier at the end of Runway 22. At the height of the storm, a barge had broken loose, knocking out an entire section of the pier and cutting communications and power to key equipment. But technicians worked diligently to get the equipment at the end of the pier back on line quickly, even calling in the help of Navy helicopters to airlift a backup generator.
The administrator thanked controllers who stayed overnight at their facilities as the storm bore down on the region. Like the technicians, these professionals volunteered to put in extra-long shifts knowing that it might be tough for their colleagues to relieve them in the aftermath of the storm. By staying on site, the controllers could handle the FEMA and military flights that needed to reach the area shortly after the storm.
And he thanked airport inspectors and other FAA employees who quickly certified the restored facilities, supported the resumption of operations, accounted for employees’ condition and safety, and coordinated important refueling efforts.
Huerta also visited John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he again thanked FAA employees. During the long hours after the storm, crews from New York and across the service area worked to restore service on two JFK runways where waterlogged electrical equipment needed substantial repair.
Thanks to lots of hard work and quite a bit of ingenuity, runways 4R and 22L were put back in service.
In addition to the FAA professionals in New York, Acting Administrator Huerta and I also want to thank the FAA teams in Boston, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City who worked behind the scenes to ship parts, equipment, and even small shelters to New York without delay.
And we appreciate the local airport authorities and airlines, who also played important roles in restoring service at these major airports.
There is still much to be done, and as Acting Administrator Huerta said, "The important thing is we stick with it over the long run to do the permanent fixes."
That goes for the aviation network in the region as well as roads, bridges, tunnels, and rails.
The FAA's efforts after Sandy are just one part of a DOT-wide and Administration-wide response that Americans should be proud of. Keeping the region's transportation system running is critical for the long-term rebuilding the region's communities need.