Airport manager: Government shutdown is having 'no impacts' at COU

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COLUMBIA - The partial government shutdown is having "no impacts" on operations at the Columbia Regional Airport, the airport's manager said Wednesday.

Mike Parks told the city's Airport Advisory Board he did not have exact numbers on the number of TSA agents who might have called out sick but said he's seen "no impacts whatsoever."

He added: "I see the same people everyday working out there as normal."

In an interview after the meeting, Parks said TSA at the airport has "operated as normal."

"Screening procedures have continued," he said. 

On Monday, The Associated Press reported the percentage of TSA workers missing work nationally was 10 percent.

Wednesday's board meeting was the first since an American Airlines plane slid off the runway. There was no mention of the incident at the meeting.

B.J. Hunter, the board's chair, said it sounded like the airport handled the incident professionally.

"Your first thought is 'Oh my gosh! What happened? But then you find out it was, it was more of a taxiing accident. It wasn't like the plane was careening off the runway," he said. "So it kind of turned into a non-issue."

Parks said the airport continues to make safety a priority. 

"We continue doing snow removal operations," he said. "We have a snow and ice control plan and things like that."

The airport does not have equipment capable of removing a disabled aircraft and it does not have any plans of purchasing one, Parks said. 

A spokesman for the airline that operated the flight, Mesa Airlines, said the airline retained a company to remove the aircraft the day after it slid off the runway Jan. 11.

Parks said the airplane sliding off is a "very minor incident." 

Also at Wednesday's meeting, Parks released data showing the number of times someone boarded an aircraft increased more than 38 percent from 2017 to 2018. There were 88,059 passengers in 2017 and 121,691 in 2018.

The number of people flying into Columbia increased more than 39 percent. There were 87,801 passengers in 2017 and 122,193 in 2018.

Hunter said the numbers show the airport is "doing the right things."

"We've got flights going [to] the right destinations," he said. "And the airlines see it as well. They continue to add flights and or bring bigger planes. Either way, it adds seats, which gives us more capacity to carry more people."

In addition, Parks said the airport plans to add about 200 new parking spots, which should be be available sometime after April 1.

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