A combination of snow and runway construction Monday forced Southwest Airlines to cancel six flights into and out of Spokane International Airport because its pilots lack certification to land on the cross-wind runway in reduced visibility conditions.
Construction started Monday morning on a 2,000-foot extension to the main runway. Air traffic is being diverted to the airport’s cross-wind runway during the construction, which will last until October, said Todd Woodard, spokesman for the airport.
He said that Southwest pilots had not yet been certified to land on the cross-wind runway during periods of low visibility. However, the airline is in the process of getting its pilots certified for the cross-wind approach, he said.
Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for Southwest, said the airline would have new technology available to pilots today to allow for reduced-visibility landings on the cross-wind runway, and that pilots were still completing training on the system.
Hawkins said the twin circumstances that forced the cancellations were “very rare” and are unlikely to be repeated. He said Southwest uses various technology to alert passengers to any possible cancellations in advance.
A combination of rain and snow was reported at the airport Monday morning with visibility below three miles.
The $30 million runway extension project is being built by Acme Concrete Paving of Spokane. The job is being financed through a $4.50 passenger facility charge on airline tickets.
Southwest operates 15 flights into and out of Spokane daily.