Funny Business with Jane Wells

Jet Setters Grounded

Photo: Matt Cuddy

"It's a mess with no short term relief in sight."

That from a pilot looking at the Dulles Jet Center outside Washington, DC. A massive "snowmageddon" which dropped 32 inches on the $60 million facility back on February 6th is still trapping 18 planes inside, nearly three weeks later.

As these photos show, many of the jets are damaged.

Some may be total losses.

The Gulfstreams and Global Expresses are still in there because sources tell me the hangar doors may be the only things holding up the building.

If they're opened, the whole thing could collapse.

Photo: Matt Cuddy

Kodak and General Dynamics confirm to CNBC that their aircraft are inside, though sources tell us the General Dynamics jets are not damaged.

The 18 aircraft average $50 million each, and one expert told me he suspects there could be $250 million to $300 million worth of damage to planes.

The Jet Center opened a couple of years ago, built by commercial builders Landow & Company, based in Bethesda.

We've called both the jet center and Landow headquarters for an update, but have yet to hear back.

Photo: Matt Cuddy

The airport authority tells us they're waiting for the structure "to be dismantled". Published reports say that when the hangar was constructed, builders installed special hangar doors which open like old-fashioned garage doors, rather than slide open to the side.

This would allow planes to leave more quickly, but it might also put too much stress on the structure if they try to open those doors now.

Rob Maguire of Maguire Aviation runs a fixed base operation for corporate and personal aircraft at the Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles.

He has no specific knowledge of the situation at Dulles, but says that, generally speaking, so-called FBOs have property and casualty insurance sourced out through Lloyds which carries a deductible of maybe $1 million to $2 million.

There would also probably be business interruption insurance. While he's very sympathetic to the owners of the Dulles Jet Center, he says the question now will be what the building "was stressed to" during design and construction.

Photo: Matt Cuddy

Then there is the loss of business and aircraft to the owners of the planes.

Three weeks is a long time to have your corporate aircraft unavailable, and that's assuming the plane can even fly again.

Meantime, traffic at the busy airport has been backing up with fewer places to park. The pilot I spoke with said "It's gonna get real ugly" if the situation doesn't improve soon.

Here is video shot today (Thursday) showing the facility.

Flattened Jet Terminal

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