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Equipment failures causing missed approaches, cancellations at Costa Rica’s busiest airport

September 17, 2019

Issues with the instrument landing system, coupled with the rainy season weather, have caused numerous missed approaches and flight cancellations at Costa Rica’s busiest airport.

Fourteen flights were delayed and two were cancelled Monday at Juan Santamaría International Airport, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, impacting the principal point of entry for international arrivals and tourism to Costa Rica.

The disruptions are due in part to problems with the airport’s glide slope, or glide path, which provides vertical (altitude) guidance for descending aircraft and is crucial for a safe instrument landing.

SJO is also experiencing issues with its PAPI lights — which provide a visual altitude reference for pilots.

The problems were first publicly reported by AviacionCR, and representatives from Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authorities (DGAC) later confirmed them to the daily La Nación.

“Our priority is to restore functionality to the glide slope, since with those, the issues of the lights doesn’t affect the airport minimums for landing as much,” a DGAC spokesperson told La Nación.

DGAC reportedly expects the glide slope to be fully operative Wednesday.

As documented by AviacionCR, the instrument landing system (ILS) issues have forced approaching flights into lengthy holding patterns if visibility at the airport drops.

In some cases, flights have diverted to Liberia (LIR) or to Tocumen International Airport in Panama.

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