Airplane & Airport

Sydney Airport planes grounded after smoke detected in control tower

Flights at Sydney Airport were delayed or cancelled on Friday after a back-up battery system for the air traffic control tower overheated, leaving passengers frustrated.

Vicki and Paul Wittwer had spent a week in Katoomba enjoying walking in the Blue Mountains and were making their way home to Adelaide when they pulled into the airport car park and found out their 4.30pm Jetstar flight had been cancelled.

Left with very little information, Mr Wittwer said: “I don’t think I’ll be flying with them again”.

Mrs Wittwer said “it’s all part of the adventure” but being told “a bit early” that their flight was cancelled “would have been nicer”.

About 11.40am, fire alarms went off and smoke was detected on the ground level of the control tower, Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Bryce Jonas told the Herald.

“Occupants could smell smoke, they did the right thing and started to evacuate after diverting air traffic control to Melbourne,” Inspector Jonas said.

He said thermal energy detectors were used to identify the source of the smoke and located a battery back-up system for the computers that had malfunctioned and overheated.

“Firefighters used carbon dioxide extinguishers on the battery system to cool it down,” he said.

Inspector Jonas estimated that about 20 people were evacuated from the control tower as a result and that they had returned to the tower within an hour of the evacuation starting.

During the evacuation, a spokeswoman for Airservices Australia, which runs air traffic control, told the Herald that while no planes were departing, arrivals were still coming in, albeit at a much slower rate.

Some flights were diverted to Melbourne or Canberra.

Sydney Tower started directing planes again at 1.20pm and 10 minutes later a Qantas flight to Johannesburg scheduled for 11.35am took off.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia said eight of the airline’s flights had been cancelled and five had been diverted.

A Qantas spokesperson said “thankfully the disruption occurred at a quieter part of the day”, but urged passenger to check their flight status online to manage any ongoing delays.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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