Earthquake damage forced Salt Lake air traffic controllers to walk up 25 stories in tower for 4 months

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The 328-foot tall tower Salt Lake City International Airport is seen from the new Airport Plaza on Sept. 23, 2019. Air Traffic controllers had to walk up its 25 stories of stairs for four months after damage from an earthquake in March.

Air traffic controllers at Salt Lake City International Airport are now probably very physically fit. Because of damage from the 5.7 earthquake on March 18, they had to walk up 25 stories’ worth of stairs in the tower every workday for four months.

But its once-damaged elevator is finally repaired and in good working order, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration in response to questions from The Salt Lake Tribune.

“The repairs took almost four months to complete, which included contracting, scheduling and getting parts,” the statement said. “Due to the global pandemic, it was difficult getting parts in a timely manner.”

During the earthquake, a water tank valve malfunctioned, causing the tank to purge and dump water into the elevator shaft — which caused most of the elevator damage.

“It is also true that controllers used the stairs (25 floors) for ingress/egress while awaiting repairs” for months, the FAA statement said.

The tower is 328 feet tall, and ties with the Grand America Hotel as the eighth tallest structure in Salt Lake City. (The tallest is the Wells Fargo Center at 422 feet.)

The FAA said that after the quake the tower was inspected by a qualified engineer, who found that it performed just as designed during the earthquake and did not sustain any structural damage.

But some interior damage occurred, such as wallboard seams separating and the water tank valve malfunctioning.

“At present, the tower is fully functional and operating at full capacity,” the FAA statement said.

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