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St. Louis Makes Aviation History Again with Landing of Solar Impulse

 After a 21 hour flight, the revolutionary aircraft Solar Impulse touched down at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport helping to make aviation history again in St. Louis early Tuesday, June  4.

The plane, on a "Across America" tour, departed Dallas-Fort Worth for St. Louis on the third leg of its journey and touched down at 1:30 a.m.

Solar Impulse is using an inflatable mobile hangar for the first time in real time mission conditions during part of its stay at Lambert, which will include private and public events over the coming days. The revolutionary structure was conceived and designed by Solar Impulse for the around-the-world mission in 2015, but will now provide a shelter after last weekend’s storm that severely damaged the hangar reserved for Solar Impulse at Lambert.

“We brought the inflatable hangar to the USA for testing purposes and in fact it allowed the mission to stay on schedule. This exercise is now a proof of concept: rather than taking the airplane to a hangar, we have taken the hangar to the airplane,” said André Borschberg, Co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse.

Bertrand Piccard, Chairman and Co-Pilot of Solar Impulse, commanded the cockpit for this leg of the journey, his longest flight in the single-seat cockpit to date. Co-founder, CEO and Co-Pilot Andre Borschberg greeted Piccard at the landing and then both greeted a VIP crowd who watched the early morning historic landing. 

The choice of St. Louis as the Solar Impulse Midwest stop pays homage to aviation history here with the city's deep connections to Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh was a chief pilot for the Chicago to St. Louis U.S. Mail Route in the mid '20s. The city’s business leaders, including the namesake of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, Albert Bond Lambert, supported Lindbergh in his bid to make the first trans-Atlantic flight between New York and Paris in 1927 in the “Spirit of St. Louis.”

“It was particularly important for me to come to St. Louis because I was so inspired when I met Charles Lindbergh at Cape Canaveral during a launch of the Apollo when I was eleven years old. I’m truly moved to be able to land here today with Solar Impulse,” said Bertrand Piccard.

The public viewing of the plane is set for Thursday and Friday morning through a free registration process but availabilty will be limited. Visit http://www.solarimpulse.com/ for more info. 

Airport Damages Several Airport Buildings; Major Aviation Event Still on Track

The Friday, May 31 severe storm that rocked the St. Louis region caused extensive damage to several airport support buildings and hangars at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport based on an initial assessments by the Airport on Saturday.

The damage will alter the exhibit plans for the Solar Impulse aircraft which is scheduled to arrive late Monday or early Tuesday morning with several days of public and private events to follow at the AIrport. The high-tech solar powered plane was scheduled to be parked in Building 2, the former McDonnell Douglas hangar on the north side of the Airfield. Solar Impulse decided to neither postpone nor to cancel the flight to St. Louis and will use its own prototype inflatable hangar in the same general area of the Airport's hangar. This structure, conceived and designed by the Solar Impulse team, will be used for the very first time in real conditions.  The schedule of events will be released at a later time by the Solar Impulse mission team.  

Portions of the hangar roof on Building 2 were torn off the building. The Airport has deemed the facility no longer occupiable because of the safety of the roof is compromised. The walls and the rest of the hangar structure are intact. 

The Airport also suffered hangar damage to the facility immediately to the west of Building 2. The ATS Jet Center also had extensive roof damage on the aircraft maintenance center. Portions of that hangar, leased by Airport Terminal Services (ATS) and Trans States Airlines, are also no longer occupiable because of roof damage.  The Airport is working with those tenants to continue to operate.

On the west side of Terminal 1, Lambert suffered roof damage to its primary Airfield Maintenance and Auto Shop complex. Portions of the roof were torn off and bay doors for the auto shop were damaged or collapsed during the storm. The Airport suffered damage to numerous vehicles both in the shop at the time or parked outside the facilities. The Airport’s Materials Management warehouse in the same general area also suffered roof damage. The warehouse is the storage for all Airport parts, equipment and operational supplies. 

Lastly, the Airport has reports of damage to its remote parking lot, Super Park Lot C. 

There are no cost estimates at this time from the preliminary assessment of the damage. Nobody was injured in the storm. The Airport is now working with its insurance company, consultants and contractors on a post storm recovery plan. 

Airfield Reopens after Storm Cleanup at Lambert

June 1, 2013 12 a.m.

Flight activity can resume at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after the airfield re-opened just before midnight. It was closed around 8 p.m. Friday night. The ground stop continued for nearly four hours because of extensive debris from the storm was blown onto runways, taxiways and the ramp. 

Crews have removed the debris to restore flight activity for airlines that still have flight operations for the evening. Some airlines will resume service Saturday morning.

The storm caused building damage to some airport facilities.  Lambert terminals and concourses were not damaged during the storm. Passengers, employees and visitors were advised to seek shelter in restrooms and move to lower levels of the terminal before the storm hit. There were no reports of injuries. 



Airfield Temporarily Closed for Storm Debris Cleanup

May 31, 2013 Storm Update

10:15 p.m. 

The airfield at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is closed after a storm caused damage to some airport buildings and blew debris onto runways, taxiways and ramp areas. Cleanup of debris on the airfield is underway and could take a couple of hours, at least through 11:30 to midnight. There are no reports of damage or injuries to passengers or visitors who were in Lambert terminals and concourses during the severe storm that hit just after 8 p.m. tonight. The Airport put out weather alerts prior to the storm for the public to take shelter in restrooms or move to lower levels of the terminals.

The Airport has confirmed damage to some aviation support facilities including roof damage to the Airport's auto shop and a building that stored emergency response equipment. A guard station was also damaged in the storm. A security guard was in the station at the time and was pulled from the damaged shack. She was not injured.

There are also reports of debris on some area roadways at the airport. Cleanup on the roadways is also continuing. 

Terminals and concourses remain open. Services are open for passengers and the public during this time.

All further updates will be posted on the Airport's website blog at http://www.flystl.com/Newsroom/Blog.aspx.

Just In Time: Lambert Photo of the Week

Delta ramp crews work as usual despite dark clouds looming above a flight that had just arrived. Ramp crews are on the move rain, sleet or snow.

Weather conditions didn’t dampen the spirits of Delta ramp crews and Station Manager, John Gaff Friday. As the dark clouds rolled in and the threat of rain moved into the St. Louis area, Delta ramp crews moved swifty to remove baggage and passengers from an arriving flight. The flight arrived just in time too. A fast moving storm pushed through the area producing heavy rain and strong winds. However as St. Louis weather has been known to do, the sun was shining about an hour later.

Lambert Director Named to National Freight Advisory Committee

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge has been selected to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a diverse group of professionals who will provide advice and recommendations aimed at improving the national freight transportation system.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the announcement Thursday, May 30, saying a strong freight transportation system is critical to the nation’s economy and essential for helping meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

“The strength of our economy and the strength of our national freight system go hand in hand,” said Secretary LaHood. “The members of this committee understand firsthand the critical importance of freight movement, and their valuable insight will help ensure that our system is more secure and better connected.”

The Advisory Committee is comprised of 47 voting members from outside the Department of Transportation.  The Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, as well as representatives from other Federal agencies with freight-related obligations will serve as ex-officio members.  Members come with various perspectives on freight transportation and represent various modes of transportation, geographic regions, and policy areas.  Freight customers and providers, labor representatives, safety experts and government entities are all represented as well.  

Members will serve two-year terms and meet at least three times per year.  The U.S. Department of Transportation solicited nominations in February as part of new mission outlined in a recent transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21.  MAP-21 established a national freight policy and called for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan.  By engaging stakeholders representing diverse interests, the Advisory Committee will provide recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation on how DOT can improve its freight transportation policies and programs.

Vacay Away: Lambert Photo of the Week

The Grubb’s family checks-in at Terminal 1 on Friday ahead of a family vacation.

This weekend begins the "fun" season for many folks. It’s vacation time. Memorial Day Weekend is the kickoff of summer. Lambert-St. Louis International and others airports will see an increase in passenger traffic with the prime summer travel months ahead. At Lambert, lots of parents could be seen this Friday lugging child carriers, car seats and helping children with their backpacks. We caught up with the Grubbs family with children ages 4,6 and 9. They were heading out to Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport. On the flip side, St. Louis will be welcoming its fare share of families and tourists ready to see all that the Gateway City has to offer this season.

Solar Impulse Aircraft Flying Again; Arrival at Lambert Nearing

Solar Impulse, the first aircraft capable of flying day and night powered exclusively by solar energy, will be one stop closer to St. Louis after it finishes its second U.S. leg from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Dallas- Fort Worth International Airport. The arrival at DFW is scheduled sometime after midnight, May 23. It left Phoenix before sunrise this morning, May 22.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will be the next destination for the “Solar Impulse Across America” flight, which will also make stops at Washington DC-Dulles and New York’s JFK airports.

The public is being offered a chance to view the plane at each of the five U.S. airports on its Across America flight plan.  Solar Impulse is a prototype carbon fiber airplane with a wingspan of a jumbo jet (208ft) and the weight of a small car (3,500 lbs.). The aircraft is powered by 12,000 solar cells built into its wings which provide power to four 10hp electric motors. Solar cells recharge the aircraft’s lithium batteries during the day flight which allows the plane to continue flying at night.

Fans and supporters of the world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane can sign up at www.solarimpulse.com (Join Us link) for the latest news and events including specific viewing opportunities in St. Louis when it arrives. The arrival date in St. Louis has not been set yet. The aircraft could arrive at Lambert within the next week or two based on the weather and other flight operations.  

Bond Ratings and Passenger Traffic on Upswing at Lambert

Two rating agencies have announced ratings increases on Lambert-St. Louis International Airport debt. Moody’s raised its rating to A3-stable outlook from Baa1 with a stable outlook. Standard & Poor’s raised its rating to A- with a stable outlook from A- with a negative outlook. This is the first time in more than a decade that both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s ratings for the Airport have both been in the single “A” category.

Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings upgraded outstanding airport revenue bonds to 'BBB+' from 'BBB' with a stable outlook.

These rating improvements will help Lambert maximize its refunding savings when it enters the market next month with a $32 million bond refunding expected to net more than $3 million in savings for Lambert’s signatory air carriers.

The rating agencies attributed the upgrades to strong fiscal management and positive passenger traffic. Just released, passenger enplanements at Lambert Airport jumped 2.5 percent in April versus a year ago. Approximately 522,900 passengers boarded planes versus 509,000 in April 2012. For the first four months of 2013, Lambert is up nearly one percent with total enplanements of 1.95 million versus 1.93 million in the same January through April time frame in 2012.

Total passengers, both arriving and departing, was up 2.1 percent in April versus a year ago. Approximately 1.05 million passengers have traveled through Lambert so far this year versus 1.03 million in 2012 for a year to date increase of one percent.

Daylight- Lambert Photo of the Week

Crews were cleaning up Friday after removing boards that previously covered the tornado damaged area above the C Concourse Checkpoint.

After two years, one of the final tornado restoration projects is seeing the proverbial daylight at the end of the tunnel. This week, crews were installing the final glass panes in the section of window frames that sit above the C Concourse Checkpoint in Terminal 1. On Friday, construction workers removed plywood boards to let the sun shine through once again. There’s still minor work left to go in the area. Meanwhile, another tornado restortation project is also nearing the finish. American Airlines is expecting to re-open its Admirals Club next month after extensive renovations following the April 22, 2011 tornado.

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