Energy

‘Poor Maintenance’ Probably Plunged Atlanta Airport Into Darkness For 11 Hours

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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A power outage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, the busiest airport in the world, left the facility in darkness for nearly 11 hours until it ended at about 11:45 Sunday night.

More than 1,500 flights were canceled because of the outage, caused when a fire ignited in an underground electrical facility. The fire started at a cross-section of lines from main and backup power sources, damaging all and causing the airport to lose both its main and redundant power systems, according to a Georgia Power press release.

A failed switchboard may have started the fire, but an official reason may be days away still as investigators examine the mechanics, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Georgia Power has not uncovered any signs as of yet that would have warned of a complete blackout at Atlanta’s airport, Kraft said.

“It’s hard to tell exactly what happened there,” Georgetown University adjunct professor and National Defense University economics professor Dr. Paul Sullivan told TheDCNF after examining photos from the fire. “It could most likely be poor maintenance.”

Many airports in the U.S. are old and rely on constant maintenance to stay functional. Some are not designed to manage the demand of expanding airport infrastructure and lack technology, such as “smart grids,” that cut down risk and limit damage when a problem arises.

“[The exact cause of the blackout] is going to be important for many other airports,” Sullivan said. Engineers and specialists should be combing major travel and shipping hubs around the country to protect against similar issues and develop better grid plans and technology.

“It’s going to be very costly, and these are businesses. They’re going to have to think about cost and benefit, but also the security of the system,” Sullivan said. “This is critical infrastructure. With airports not running, a lot of other things get messed up.”

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