Army to reimburse expenses for repairs at Griffiss

Published Aug 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

Expenses for repairs at Griffiss International Airport facilities that incurred substantial damage in a June 14 ground accident involving a U.S. Army helicopter ultimately will be reimbursed by the Army, says Oneida County Executive Anthony J. PIcente Jr.

But in the meantime, the county needs “to get it fixed,” he said following a county Board of Legislators meeting Wednesday that included approval of a $500,000 appropriation for the repairs. The funding is to be fully supported by insurance recoveries, and a claim has been filed.

The Army “from the moment it happened” has been “extremely cooperative” regarding the follow-up process since the accident, Picente said. Overall, “our goal” is to “get it repaired,” he added.

Picente outlined the multiple damage areas including to the airport traffic control tower and nearby airport terminal building that resulted when the helicopter’s rotor blades struck the tower as the aircraft was taxiing on the ground shortly after 11 p.m. on June 15. The helicopter was from an Army unit at Fort Drum, and had landed at Griffiss to refuel.

The impact “ripped a lot of facing off” the tower’s exterior, said Picente, adding there was no structural or electrical damage. But the debris, which he said included some metal from the rotors plus some plaster and wood from the tower, was “spread out as a result” and “went through various parts of the terminal building” a few hundred feet away.

Some debris also was found near a hangar site even further away, he added.

The debris that was flung “shattered some windows” in the terminal building and “shot through” an exterior unit for an air-conditioning system, said Picente, noting the debris “had some force to it.” It also went through some interior walls in the building and a metal filing cabinet, he remarked. Some doors were damaged as well, he added.

Luckily, said Picente, the terminal building was closed at the time of the accident. The tower also was not occupied and was on a remote system at that time of day, he commented.

Despite the damage, said Picente, regular operations continued the following day at the tower and terminal facility with nothing halted.

Some repairs have already been made, including replacing windows among the steps, said Picente. But various other areas are “still remaining” for work, he added.