What Airport Execs Think
When asked, runway incursions head the list of airfield safety issues
By John Boyce, Contributing Editor
In Tulsa, it’s snow removal equipment; in Wyoming, it’s wild game; in Cleveland, it’s runway convergence; in West Virginia and other places, it’s vehicular traffic. During recent interviews with airport managers around the country, runway incursions topped the list of safety concerns, but are by no means their only target.
Runway incursions have become a hot button
issue in airport safety circles. The increasing number of them has prompted
the FAA to urge airports to eradicate or at least reduce the number of
incidents in which people, aircraft, vehicles, or animals are on runways
or taxiways when they shouldn’t be.
"The [safety] item that seems to be getting the attention this year is incursions," says Joel Russell, manager of busy Westchester County Airport in White Plains, NY. "The FAA has a taskforce. We met with the FAA, the airport users, the tower, airport management, and we came up with a list of action items for all involved. We put out a hot spot notification of certain intersections that needed special attention.
"We’re also putting an orientation package together so that new operators on the field can learn, in addition to other logistical items, about the hot spots and the concerns over incursions — just to re-emphasize it.’’
That is not to say that other aspects of airport safety — fuel handling, security, environmental hazards — are not on the minds of airport executives. For instance, Chuck Keener, director of Morgantown [WVA] Municipal Airport and FBO services, is concerned about a small though important detail concerning into-plane fueling.
"We don’t use enough spotters," Keener says, "especially when we’re backing a fuel truck towards an aircraft. I’m working on making sure we never back up a refueler towards an aircraft without a second body as a spotter. That chance always exists that they’ll back a little too far.’’
As an ex-military man, Keener has seen the devastation that careless fuel handling can bring, so fuel safety is a priority item for him. However, for Keener and most of his colleagues, dealing with fuel safety and runway incursions is simply part of an overall safety scheme that requires constant oversight.
Ted Soliday, executive director of Naples [FL] Airport Authority, which also provides FBO services, says safety is an attitude, one that’s the responsibility of management to develop and nurture. "We are very vigilant," he says. "Everything we do is very carefully controlled. We have a management team that is on its toes all the time looking over each other’s shoulders to make sure we do things correctly.
"We have staff on board who have been in this business for over 25 years. Even with that level of experience, we have weekly safety meetings. We’re very careful in making sure that the procedures we develop are first learned by staff and emphasized by discipline. We expect our staff members to find out how to do something smarter, better, safer. We accept their input. We make changes a lot. We’ll never compromise safety, it’s something we work on all the time.’’
A series of runway foul-ups at Denver International Airport over the past year - including two near-collisions - has forced a major overhaul of the airport's runway- and taxiway-safety...
A bank of four lights alongside the runway blink a warning to airborne pilots on approach whenever another airplane enters danger "zones" on the landing strip.