What caused foam at Albany airport hangar?

Cost expected to be limited to cleanup, some paper damage

COLONIE — Fire suppression foam spread through the inside of a maintenance hangar at Albany International Airport on Tuesday and outside the building, airport and sheriff’s officials said.

The incident happened about 3 p.m. at one of two CommutAir maintenance hangars in the northwest portion of the airport grounds, airport spokesman Doug Myers said.

An Albany County Sheriff’s Office photo showed foam spread far across a parking lot near two hangars and identified it as an apparent activation of a fire suppression system. The department was investigating.

The cause of the incident remained unknown, Myers said, but he said the cost is expected to be limited to cleanup and some paper damage. The foam is believed to have caused little or no damage to machinery.

“At this point we do not know if the system malfunctioned or functioned properly based on information it received through its computer and the system designed to trigger it,” Myers said.

Cleanup had largely been completed by mid-day Wednesday, he said. They used water to reduce the suds in size and a vacuum to pick up much of the remainder, he said.

Cleanup and damage were reduced as no aircraft was in the hangar at the time, airport CEO John O’Donnell said. 

The foam filled the hangar within five to eight minutes. It’s designed to fight a a jet fuel fire. Workers on Wednesday went through the hangar’s systems to see if a wire failed.

“We have to uncover the cause and correct it before we turn it back over to CommutAir,” O’Donnell said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to the scene by early evening Tuesday to oversee the cleanup and returned Wednesday.

The foam did not reach a nearby stream and the DEC did not see any impacts on the environment or drinking water sources, the DEC said.

As far as cause, Myers noted thunderstorms rolled through the area at that time. It was unclear if those somehow affected the system at all.

“We would much rather have an incident where it goes off and there is no fire than not go off when there is a fire,” Myers said.

A CommutAir spokesman cited the series of heavy and severe thunderstorms as the suspected cause. 

“No employees or aircraft were in the hangar at the time. We are currently investigating the root cause and extent of the damage,” the statement reads.

CommutAir flies routes for United Express, according to its website. 

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

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