Probe begins into Sydney Airport blackout
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- In the wake of a power failure that shut down Sydney Airport for 80 minutes, federal authorities began a probe Wednesday amid concerns about the airport's ability to cope with Olympic traffic.
The shutdown Tuesday morning at the airport control tower was the second in less than a month. All international and domestic takeoffs were grounded, and some arriving planes were diverted to other airports.
More than 500 flights were delayed, diverted or canceled throughout the day, leaving thousands of customers stranded for up to several hours.
"Yet again Sydney Airport collapses in a heap. I shudder to think what's going to happen when the Olympics are on," said Sydney businessman Neil Forbes, whose morning flight to Melbourne was delayed for two hours.
John Anderson, the federal Transport Minister, ordered a review of airport power supply problems to be conducted by an independent electrical engineering group. The report is due by next Tuesday.
Anderson also said an internal investigation is being conducted into claims that maintenance cuts at the airport are affecting vital equipment. That probe stems from a radar blackout on July 6.
Batteries took over Tuesday when the electricity failed, but two backup generators that could have provided more power than the batteries were out of service.
Air traffic controllers were forced to turn off their computers, air conditioners and even kettles while on battery power, to prevent a total airport blackout.
The airport will be operating at full capacity during the Olympic period, especially right before and after the Games, which are scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct. 1.
"If they can't get it right now, how will they cope in the Olympics?" asked Richard Mortimer, who was delayed 90 minutes on his flight from Adelaide to Sydney. "Perhaps they'd better start checking all the plugs."