Copper wire stolen from Sea-Tac runway lighting system

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by TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 20 at 6:48 PM

Thieves stole 1,000 feet of copper wire last week from the lighting system that helps planes land in low visibility at Sea-Tac Airport.

The FAA said the wiring was taken from the approach light system for Runway 34L, the shortest runway and the one farthest from the terminal. The lighting is part of the runway’s Instrument Landing System.

There have been no flight delays as a result.

All three Sea-Tac runways have ILS. The FAA said losing the approach lights to any one of them would only affect the arrival rate if several other circumstances happened at the same time, such a sustained flow of heavy arrivals, low visibility and moderate north winds. The FAA said moderate north winds and low visibility rarely happen simultaneously.

Work is under way to replace the wiring. The system is expected to be back online early next week.

The repair cost could be significant. The FAA said replacing the wire alone will cost several thousand dollars, not to mention the cost of replacing connectors and repairing fences. Two light control cabinets, which cost several thousand dollars each, may also need to be replaced. The FAA also said they won’t know if the conduit is damaged until they try to run new wire through it.

There were motion lights on the fencing around the lighting system, said the FAA.

A federal investigation is underway. Port of Seattle police are reportedly investigating as well, but spokespeople will not say much more about the crime.
   
A check of local scrap metal yards showed electronics grade copper is going for about $1.10 to $1.30 per pound. The weight of 1,000 feet of wire depends on the thickness.

KING 5's Gary Chittim contributed to this report.

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