For the second time in the past two weeks, a gusty day in Anchorage is translating into a busy one at Fairbanks International Airport.
Flights bound for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport were being diverted to Fairbanks Wednesday to avoid a severe windstorm in southcentral Alaska. About 20 planes were filling the runway by mid-afternoon, including jets from Alaska Airlines, Asiana, Korean Airlines, UPS, Atlas Air and some smaller carriers.
FAI spokeswoman Angie Spear said as jets were rapidly stacking up, airport officials were considering that every slot at the airport might become filled. Depending on the configuration of arrivals, as many as 28 planes can park there.
“We’ve never completely filled up before, but we don’t usually get passenger diverts,” Spear said.
Some Alaska Airlines passenger flights started departing back for Anchorage at about 3:45 p.m., which kept the airport from reaching its capacity. Spear said passenger flights have more advanced navigation equipment than cargo planes, allowing them to fly in more difficult conditions.
Spear estimated about 300 passengers had stacked up in the Fairbanks terminal before those departures.
Trudy Wassel, the business manager at the Anchorage airport, said some cargo planes continued to land there throughout the afternoon, but that most flights were being rerouted to Fairbanks because of dangerous winds.
She said diversion plans are arranged between air traffic controllers and airlines, but that Fairbanks is typically the backup airport when weather causes problems in Anchorage.
“It’s good that Fairbanks is our sister airport,” Wassel said.
Fairbanks International also received a large number of diverted aircraft on Sept. 5, when a previous Anchorage windstorm steered planes to the north. Passenger planes from Delta, United, U.S. Airways and Alaska Airlines were among those diverted to Fairbanks, filling the airport with 740 unscheduled passengers in the early-morning hours at its peak.