FBI involved in the airport blackout probe; no sign of terror

ATLANTA – The FBI is a part of the probe into the cause of a fire that knocked out power to the world and is the busiest airport in Atlanta, but an agency spokesman said Tuesday there was no sign of anything connected to terrorism.

“There is no indication at this point of something nefarious,” FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also involved in the research, Georgia Power spokesman Craig Bell said.

“We bring everything we have to bear to the situation to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Bell said Tuesday.

No conclusions are drawn about the cause of the fire, which took the airport of the power supply and the back-up electricity for about 11 hours on Sunday. The black-out thousands of stranded passengers on grounded jets and in the dark halls and led to the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights just for the crazy holiday travel period.

International airport Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the main hub of Delta Air Lines, is a crucial factor in the nation’s air travel system. Delays are usually rippling throughout the country because many AMERICAN and international flights are routed through the Atlanta hub.

Due to the size of Sunday’s outage, “we want to be able to rule out any possible scenario that was not a malfunction in the equipment,” Bell said.

“We really don’t expect any answers like that to come forward for a few days,” he said.

The energy company is working with the airport to explore how to prevent the situation from happening again.

Among ideas discussed: Encapsulating in the concrete, the space that is in the possession of the key electrical equipment, or the moving parts of the system to other areas. The fire took the power and the back-up system, because the fire burned through parts of both in the same underground utility tunnel, the authorities said.

Delta and other carriers said they expected to be running normally Tuesday. But the passengers are trying to catch Tuesday morning flights faced delays of an hour just to get through the security checkpoint in the terminal for domestic flights, the airport’s website showed.

No matter how fast Delta and other airlines move around, it takes a few days to hundreds of thousands of grounded passengers to their final destination, said Robert Mann, president of airline consulting firm in Port Washington, New York. In rare cases, some passengers did not arrive until Thursday, ” he said.

“There are so few seats are available during a peak vacation week, that is just too much of the flights with four or five seats each,” Mann said.

Hartsfield-Jackson international airport serves an average of 275,000 passengers per day. About 2,500 aircraft will arrive and depart every day.

On Tuesday — two days after the cessation of the passengers were still sleeping in the atrium area that’s often used for events aimed at the presentation of the world’s busiest airport. Video of the news outlets showed passengers sprawled out on the couches and chairs, and the luggage piled in a nearby area of the terminal for domestic flights.

Mann said the flight of the passengers was probably hampered by the large number of inexperienced travelers this time of the year.

“They are more elderly, they are more young people, they are more frequent travelers,” he said. “All these people are now a lot of time in the face of a lot of hand holding.”


Associated Press writers Tom Krisher in Detroit; David Koenig in Dallas; and Don Schanche Jr., Kate Brumback, Johnny Clark and Robert Ray in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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