This was definitely the most unusual thing I've ever experienced at my home airport. I got there for some spotting at about 6pm, and it seemed so weird no ops were taking place. I found out that the airport had been closed for about an hour at that time. The thought of a bomb threat or something similar crossed my mind. And for some reason, the fact that there was a NW
A330 at one of the hardstands made it all even more rare (a fellow spotter later let me know this was the aircraft that flew in the Rolling Stones, and it was supposed to leave for DTW
at 6:30pm). After 5 or 10 minutes of frequency monitoring with my scanner, I realized what was going on.
Of course, I had
to stay there until everything started to get back to normal. The 1st flight took-off at 7:12pm, MX952 to GDL
. The sequence got going really slow, with ATC having to allow 5 minutes between take-offs, most probably to check all systems before going full capacity.
As you can imagine, company frequencies were going crazy. Flights returning to gates, pilots asking for more food or water for their upset passengers, some crews asking for passenger deplaning, and so on. The flights that were already on the queue for take-off, except for one (MX952, which was able to stay at one of the holding points for runway 05R), eventually had to restart their engines and return to a gate or hardstand, since their APUs were already starting to consume fuel destined for flight. A MX
757 holding at a different point for departure on 05R had to return to the ramp since a passenger was having severe kidney stone-related pain, according to what the pilot reported to company, and an onboard doctor was recommending immediate ambulance assistance. What I didn't like at all about this particular case, is that the crew originally requested their company to arrange for an ambulance and an airstairs vehicle to rendezvous with the 757 at their current location, but for some reason this didn't happen, and the airplane had to restart engines, taxi all the way to the nearest available hardstand, and then finally have the passenger deplaned. Too much bureaucracy for a situation requiring more effective action, I'd say.
During all this time, ground and clearance frequencies were giving flights sequence numbers for pushback and ATC clearance orders, respectively. So, for example, a flight with a sequence no. of 25 for pushback already had ATC clearance onboard, but a flight with a clearance sequence no. of 34 had to wait until everything got running, then wait for other 33 flights to copy their ATC clearance, and then call ground and join the queue with the other dozens of flights that were already waiting for their turn to pushback.
At about 7:30pm, airplanes started to take-off immediately after the previous one, without the 5 minute spacing. The first landing took place at about 7:45pm, an AM MD
-80. NW9845, the A330 to DTW
, finally took-off at 8:07pm, and I left the airport.
One more thing worth mentioning. I expected that when operations finally resumed, the airport would be crazy with a big number of airplanes pushing-back at the same time, a take-off queue of at least 15 aircraft, etc. But it wasn't like that. There were not many pushbacks at 1st, so not too many aircraft were getting to the holding point for departure. Maybe with some flights having deplaned passengers and for some other reason not fully ready at the time operations got going again, not everyone could just pushback and go just like that.
But what is really puzzling me right now, is what the heck happened to all the flights that were in the Mexico City Center airspace (either going to MEX
or not) at the moment the power outage occurred. How effective radar and communications coverage could the adjacent centers (Monterrey, MÃ©rida and MazatlÃ¡n) have really been able to provide? How were flights directed to their alterns (ACA
, BJX, etc.), when all of these airports are also located within the Mexico City Center jurisdiction? This has really got to be something to talk about.
"... for there you have been and there you will long to return."