Airport de-icing woes return briefly

A plan to ensure that de-icing problems won’t shut down Minot International Airport hit a snag over the weekend.

With four de-icing trucks all down for repair, air traffic on Delta and United Air Lines came to a brief halt at the airport Saturday.

DGS, the Delta-owned ground handling service that provides de-icing, had its final truck break down early Saturday morning, said Michael Thomas, Delta spokesman in Atlanta. De-icing resumed after 9 a.m., but flights were delayed and one Delta flight was canceled.

City council member Jim Hatlelid, chairman of the council’s Airport Committee, said he will ask the airport director to invite a representative of Delta’s corporate administration to meet with committee next month.

“Because this is ridiculous,” he said.

DGS increased the number of available de-icing trucks in Minot after truck breakdowns grounded planes on Nov. 10 and 11. At the time, DGS had only a primary and a backup unit in Minot.

Prompted by angry airline passengers, upset airport officials pressed for a solution that would prevent a repeat of what was termed a “fiasco.” Airport officials directed concerns in a letter to Delta’s chief executive officer.

On Thanksgiving, DGS again experienced problems when one equipment truck broke down and the other kept over-heating, causing delays in de-icing that put one Delta flight behind schedule. An Allegiant flight also was affected, although it already was delayed because of other plane problems.

Delta responded by promising to station additional de-icing equipment in Minot to serve all DGS’s operations in North Dakota.

Of the four de-icing trucks currently at the airport, three had been out of service before Saturday due to small warranty-related issues, Thomas said. The fourth truck was newer, and DGS was relying on that machine while waiting for eventual repairs to the others. The truck experienced problems early Saturday that mechanics were able to repair that morning, he said.

Hatlelid said Minot Aero Center also responded to assist with de-icing once it was able to get the necessary liability waiver from Delta.

“It’s unfortunate and we certainly apologize to the customers who were inconvenienced on Saturday,” Thomas said. “We proactively canceled a mid-day flight to ensure that we would be able to recover the operation as quickly as possible. All passengers who were affected by the out-of-commission de-icing truck Saturday were offered the opportunity to be accommodated on flights departing from alternate airports. … The airport customer service agent as well as the station manager did an excellent job of being proactive in reaching out to customers.”

The airport reported Tuesday that mechanics flown in by Delta had three of the trucks operational again. A fourth truck remained down as of Wednesday due to the need for more extensive repairs.