The main runway at Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be closed through Oct. 30 to accommodate installation of a state-of-the-art glycol retention system.
As of Monday morning, flights have been taking off and landing via the so-called "crosswinds" secondary runway, rerouting planes to north/south routes rather than the east/west pattern utilized by the airport's main runway. The alternative runway will be in use every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"This will divert flights over neighborhoods that don't normally get regular air traffic unless the secondary runway is being used because of weather conditions," said NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer.
Use of the secondary runway is needed to give construction crews room to finish installation of a first-of-its-kind, natural glycol system adjacent to the main runway. The on-airfield ponds will employ a mix of live plants and gravel to break down the toxic aircraft de-icing chemical.
Over the next several days crews will be putting in the anchoring medium that will host a mix of wild grasses. The beds will be sprayed down with a coating of seeds that should sprout up to begin their clean-up work next spring.
The $10.6 million project employs a nature-based approach to "digest" glycol in four retention basins, filtering the chemical into a harmless mix of water and oxygen.
This is the first time in over two years the crosswinds runway has been used for a multi-day period. Back in 2006, the airport relied on the secondary runway for five months while the main runway underwent a major reconstruction.
The change in flight patterns, which brings a constant flow of aircraft into neighborhoods unaccustomed to the sight and sound of low-flying jets, led to the formation of a Snyder group that called itself "Stop the Planes." The group unsuccessfully sought assurances from the NFTA that flights stick to the primary runway except when weather conditions pose a safety risk.
A least one business made the most of the temporary rerouting. Charlie Roesch (aka Charlie the Butcher) attempted to turn the jets' roar into a positive for his restaurant located at 1065 Wehrle Drive, just 300 yards from the auxiliary runway. He posted signs promoting the opportunity to "See the underbelly of a 737" while eating a beef on weck.
Some 300 commercial, freight and general aviation flights pass through the Buffalo airport on the daily basis.