An electrical short in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport’s runway light system disabled the only functioning commercial runway Sunday, causing flight cancellations for between 500 and 600 travelers that night and early Monday morning.
The majority of passengers who were stranded overnight were rebooked onto different flights by late Monday morning, said airport spokesman Jim Caldwell. The electrical short persisted from 8 p.m. Sunday into the early morning hours.
The airport’s second commercial runway has been closed for a month for maintenance improvements. Airport officials recalled the runway lights going out in 2011 but said the impact wasn’t as severe because the other runway was open.
“It’s a rare event for the runway lights to go out at all,” Caldwell said. “It’s more unusual that it would happen at a time when one of our two commercial lanes are closed for upgrades.”
Airport officials canceled 11 flights that were both coming into Baton Rouge and departing from the city.
The more than 100 edge runway lights are necessary at night and in foggy conditions, Caldwell said. Depending on visibility, they aren’t always necessary during the daytime.
The other runway should be closed until September, Caldwell said. Workers are moving the runway’s displaced threshold, which is the landing and takeoff area. The threshold’s current location isn’t ideal, as it forces planes to land at steep angles.
The upgrade includes moving obstacles so the threshold area can be moved.
The airport does have a smaller third runway, but Caldwell said it’s mainly meant for general aviation. He said the airport had not had problems handling all of its traffic with only one open commercial runway until Sunday night.
“We certainly apologize for the inconvenience this caused some of our customers,” Caldwell said.