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Hawthorne sheds some light on issue of runway lights

ASPA and Port point fingers at each other
reporters@samoanews.com

The issue regarding the power outage, which occurred at Tafuna Airport last Thursday was again raised by Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen during the House regular session yesterday, amid the finger pointing to who was at fault.

The Aua lawmaker said he learned that there is no maintenance contract for the emergency generator at the airport and this concerns him, as he does not want a repeat of the same incident to occur during tomorrow night's flight.

Last Thursday, the power went off and on at the Tafuna Airport when Hawaiian Air's flight from Honolulu was about to land. Chairmen for the House Committees on ASPA and the Port Authority heard conflicting stories yesterday, with the two agencies placing blame on each other.

Chairman of the House Committee on Port Administration and Transportation, Rep. Talaimatai Elisara Su'a said he spoke to airport officials who assured him that the airport staff carried out their duties and questions about the outages should be referred to ASPA.

But Chairman of the House Committee on ASPA Rep. Puletuimalo Koko said he spoke to ASPA officials who told him that while the power outages did occur, those who are in charge of the emergency switches at the airport should be questioned.

Faimealelei said yesterday that ASPA should not be blamed for the emergency generator’s malfunction. He said when the Department of Port Administration's director nominee Dr. Claire Poumele appears before the House today for her confirmation hearing, questions about her qualifications shouldn't be the only things asked, as this issue needs to be raised.

Airport manager David Fuimaono told local media representatives that when power outages occur, the airport generator should come on line right away. However, this was not the case on the night in question and an explanation will be sought from the contractor, Hawthorne.

But the General Manager of Hawthorne, Christopher Bullinger says his company has nothing to do with what happened.

According to Bullinger, Hawthorne sold generators to the airport eight years ago and just last year, they sold some replacement batteries to the airport and conducted service on the generator, which included changing the oil and filters. He said at the time, he offered them a service support quote for both monthly and quarterly time periods.

"They must have a service contract," he said, adding that they can't do anything for free and compared the issue to that of a car with an expired warranty.

Hawthorne maintains generators for the Tafuna Health Center, Bank of Hawaii, the Centennial Building, the ASPA Satala power plant and other government offices. He said with stand-by generators, there need to be monthly checks for the switch mechanism and touch-up work for corrosion. The service usually costs about $300 a month and it ensures the generators are tested and work as desired.

"The Port Authority did not accept the quote," he explained. He referred to the night in question and said his phone is on all day and night and if someone had called him, they would have responded and offered their assistance, even without a contract in place. "We could have figured out the billing later," he said. "No one contacted us on Thursday night."

He said he spoke to the engineer at the Port Authority and offered his help but nobody called him back. Bullinger said he even contacted an ASPA official but was told that the matter was going to be discussed between ASPA and the Port Authority on Monday.

Bullinger wanted to clarify that Hawthorne is a contractor, but they are not THE contractor for the airport generator. "This company has been here for 22 years and it is important to us that things we sell run properly even if it isn't a CAT product or something we carry," he said.

He noted there is no established line of communication to support the airfield generator and he understands that in any organization, mistakes are made but the goal is to not let the same mistakes happen again.

He added that yesterday, he contacted the representatives of ASPA and the Port Authority and again, he offered his help but nobody accepted. He said it is hard for him to go in and do anything without an official request. "I don't have the authority to do that," he said.

He said he speculates that the transfer switch could be faulty but he cannot say for sure as he has not seen it and he has not been contacted to offer assistance.

"We at Hawthorne are proud to be in American Samoa and we support many operations on this island," Bullinger said. "We just need a request."



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