ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Shortly after the magnitude 7.09 earthquake near Anchorage (Alaska) a week ago, a miner had deployed as a mini air traffic control tower at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The air traffic control tower had been evacuated after the earthquake and raised concerns about the tower's stability, reports CBS Anchorage subsidiary KTVA.
Immediately after the earthquake, the air traffic controllers called for a FedEx aircraft to orbit. Airport officials say the jet was about 300 to 400 feet in the air and was about to land when air traffic controllers told the pilot not to land.
John Stocker, head of airport operations, told KTVA that they had no idea how big the damage to the runways was.
"With the same kind of things you've seen for the ramps, you could have had a surface that would have changed just like a foot," Stocker said. "Well, when you land a million-pound floating plane, you can easily damage the equipment, do all sorts of other things, it's much safer to be in the air at this point."
Before the tower was evacuated, air traffic controllers told the pilots that they would land without communication from the tower. The pilots could only talk to each other and with aircraft on the ground, so that their position would be known.
Stocker told KTVA that three air traffic controllers had taken the departure over the runways and parked next to one of them. They were able to see planes in all directions. Other air traffic controllers still in the tower distributed the aircraft in the air until pilots could receive further instructions.
According to KTVA, there were about eight aircraft near the airport, including two passenger aircraft of the Alaska Airlines. The first two or three planes were safely landed alone, said Stocker.
Then the truck's three controllers, a Ford F-1
Stocker told KTVA that he and a group of many other airport workers had checked landing lights, runways, and taxiways, and rated the areas of air traffic as safe.
The controls in the truck then introduced the remaining aircraft for safe landing, reports KTVA. Stocker said they operated on and flew in and out for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
The earthquake also caused several problems at the sprawling Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, including damage to steel scaffolding, ceilings and sprinklers and heating systems, military officials said Friday.
But as with the other earthquake areas, there were no deaths, serious injuries or widespread catastrophic damage.
In fact, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Leck, originally from Idaho, expected a much worse outcome in his very first earthquake, he said Friday at a press conference on the impact of the November 30 quake that hit 7 miles north from Anchorage. Such was the force felt during the quake, followed by thousands of aftershocks.
"I was sure that we had significant damage and that it would be a catastrophic loss of some facilities," said Leck, commander of the 773D Civil Engineer Squadron and director of the base emergency center. "And so far we have not found anything I ever expected."
The base was quickly ready to receive aircraft, three C-130 landed within an hour of the earthquake, officials said.
The base is home to two F-22 Raptor Hunting Squadrons. JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton said none of the over 40 F-22s on the base was damaged by an earthquake.
The damage to the base is still under investigation. An investigation of the ground surface, which was planned by an airfield mounting team, is planned from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to Alaska.
Base officers revealed damage to a pool room in a fitness building during a Friday briefing. Ceiling tiles were still missing, and the floor next to the empty pool was littered with debris. The building is among several that remain closed at the base.
The 123-square-kilometer base on the north side of Anchorage hosts approximately 1,000 buildings and a further 3,200 residential units. Only one household was evicted, and that happened because of a water failure.
None of the seven bridges on the base were damaged.
The base has emotionally supported those who need it, said Colonel Michael Staples, commander of the 673D Civil Engineering Group. "The chaplain was very busy," he said.
The major quake damaged structures in a wide area of the Anchorage impactor's impact zone and beyond, disrupting power and blasting roads.
Early Friday afternoon there were more than 3,100 aftershocks, including 15 with a magnitude of 4.5 and above, said seismologist Natalia Ruppert of the Alaska Earthquake Center.
Anchorage police warned on Friday that rockfalls continue to occur along a 6-mile section of the cliff-top Seward Highway.