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Navigation Equipment That Helps Pilots Land During Dangerous Weather Is Currently Broken and Must Be Replaced – Airport Has Already Cancelled Five Flights Due To Problem, Costing Them Valuable Business

In Personal Letter To The Head of the FAA, Schumer Calls On Administration To Fix Navigation Equipment at Airport, ASAP, To Get Flights Back Up And Running – With College Graduations Around The Corner, Airport Must Be Fixed Soon

Schumer: Let’s Fix What’s Broken NOW – Ithaca Flights Can’t Be Grounded Any Longer


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the FAA to quickly replace broken navigation equipment at the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport that has already forced five flight cancellations, and threatens future flights. The Instrument Landing System GlideSlope Transmitter that helps pilots navigate landings during bad weather is currently broken and unusable. As of April 10th, five flights had been cancelled, and additional flights were delayed or diverted on April 11th. Securing a permanent replacement for the broken equipment could take 4-6 weeks, damaging the airport’s ability to receive flights and harming local business. Today, Schumer urged the FAA to prioritize replacing the broken equipment so that the Ithaca-Tompkins Airport can return to full operation as soon as possible.


“This broken equipment has left flights grounded at Ithaca, and that’s simply unacceptable – especially with graduation season right around the corner,” said Schumer. “We know what the problem is, we know how to fix it, now we need to get it done. I’m calling on the FAA to prioritize these repairs, and get flights in and out of Ithaca moving again. The airport is a huge driver for local business and has to be kept operation at full capacity. FAA needs to get this to the top of the pile, and get it fixed quickly so pilots and flights aren’t turned away.”


The GlideSlope transmitter to Runway 32 at the airport initially failed on March 28th of this year.  The Glideslope provides vertical guidance to aircraft landing on the runway and is particularly useful during inclement weather and poor visibility.  A number of airline flights to the airport have been cancelled or delayed due to the outage. The part broke due to wear and tear associated with old age, and Ithaca Airport Staff say that it will be at least a week from when new parts are procured before installation can be completed.  Once that work is completed, the airport will need to schedule an FAA Flight Check before the Glideslope and full instrument system can be returned to service. In the past scheduling a Flight Check has taken the airport about one week to accomplish.


To complete the repairs on the system requires the installation of new crystals into the glideslope. Unfortunately, the crystals are actually "grown" by the manufacturer and will take approximately 4-6 weeks before they can be delivered. Today, Schumer said that this timeline should be accelerated, and urged the FAA to fix the broken equipment as soon as possible.


A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FAA appears below:


Dear Acting Administrator Huerta:


I write today with great concern regarding a current situation at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, in Tompkins County of New York State. For the past three weeks, the airport's Instrument Landing System (ILS),  which as you know this is an FAA owned and maintained system, has been inoperable. Specifically the area of trouble is the Glidescope, as determined by FAA maintenance technicians who have been on site working to figure out the problem. I have been informed that the broken component has been identified to involve the frequency crystals, and the remedy is to grow replacement parts that will take up to six weeks.


As you also are aware, the ILS system is critical to assist pilots  with landing whenever visibility is less than ideal.  Fortunately this problem does not put safety at risk, as flights are simply cancelled when conditions are not ideal for landing in the absence of a fully functioning ILS system. While we are relieved to know that safety concerns are being addressed, this situation does present very real challenges for the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport.


The availability and reliability of air service is a critical component to the success and growth of a region.  For Tompkins County and the surrounding region, their airport is key to the region's economy, providing transportation opportunities to major employers including educational institutions like Ithaca College and the world renowned Cornell University. As you know, small commercial airports face unique challenges to remain viable in a competitive aviation market. The reputation they establish with their customers and carriers is critical. Disruptions in service, cancellation and unreliability of flights due to the malfunctioning ILS system threaten their reputation and relationships. Certainly we want no harm to come to the business of this airport in the future as a result of this issue.


I have worked tirelessly to expand air service in the upstate region of New  York. I have worked closely with those in Tompkins county who are dedicated to protecting this important asset their community has to offer. It would be a travesty if the hard work of these individuals is undone due to a malfunction of equipment and  delay in resolution.


As you can see it is critical we have a fully operational ILS system as quickly as possible. To that end I urge you to work with key FAA staff and those at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to ensure this matter is resolved as swiftly. I ask that you conduct a thorough inventory of FAA equipment to determine if there are other crystals available that can be sent to Ithaca while the new crystals are being grown. The goal is to ensure that a reliable ILS system is in place at the Ithaca Tompkins regional Airport with as little future disruption to service as  possible.


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