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TUS officials prepare months in advance for 'that one storm' during monsoon

United Airplane
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 19, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Most of the time, flying out of Tucson International Airport means enjoying sunshine and clear skies. However, during summer monsoon months, operations can become significantly more challenging.

With an average of 286 days of sunshine each year, Tucson International typically offers smooth flying conditions. But as Director of Operations and Maintenance Adam Kretschmer notes, the monsoon, starting in mid-June, requires extensive preparation.

“It’s those few days during monsoon season that can really test our skills and our abilities to continue aircraft operations,” Kretschmer said.

To ensure readiness, Kretschmer begins preparing airport personnel months in advance, including disseminating information to all airlines about expected conditions.

“We make sure our communications are correct and that we have the right people on those communications,” he added.

One significant impact comes from Phoenix, particularly when Sky Harbor Airport shuts down due to monsoon activity. Chief Operating Officer Bruce Goetz explained that Tucson International must be ready to accommodate diverted flights from Sky Harbor.

“We have 17 parking spots here at the terminal with jet bridges, and then we have 16 remote spots for airplanes to park and then gas and go,” Goetz said.

While monsoon is often associated with rain, Goetz emphasized that wind poses the biggest challenge for diversions. Additionally, lightning strikes on the ground are another critical concern. This year, the airport is utilizing a new lightning detection system, equipped with warning horns and colored strobe lights to indicate the proximity of lightning.

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TUS has installed a new lighting detection system in preparation for monsoon.

Kretschmer highlighted the importance of established protocols for unexpected situations.

“If an airline is experiencing something it doesn’t normally experience, how are we going to deal with that?” he said. These protocols, developed through annual operations meetings, cover scenarios like deplaning passengers from unexpected flights.

Weather experts predict this year’s monsoon will be slightly below average, a hopeful sign for airport workers and travelers.

However, Kretschmer remains cautious. “One storm can throw a wrench into that. Really, that’s what we prepare for— that one storm,” he said.

Find more about monsoon preps around Southern Arizona:

Monsoon Watch 2024

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Kenny Darr is a reporter for KGUN 9. He joined the team in January 2023. Before arriving in Arizona he was an Anchor and Reporter at KADN in Lafayette, LA. Share your story ideas with Kenny by emailing kenny.darr@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.