The Federal Aviation Administration sent the city of Macon a letter Thursday detailing the results of a Wednesday inspection of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
The letter informed the city that the airport still isn't in compliance with regulations from the Airport Certification Manual. The letter said Macon's failure to address the issues could result in a suspension of its operating certificate, which would shut down the airport's commercial flights.
However, the FAA hasn't issued a deadline for the city to meet. Instead, the FAA will continue to work with the city to make the necessary changes at the airport.
"The priority for us is to see the problems addressed by the airport," FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. "There are a number of discrepancies that need to be corrected. We've monitored the situation closely. We'll continue to monitor the situation closely and probably return in early January to see where the corrections stand."
Regina McDuffie, the city's chief administrative officer and interim aviation director, said no new problems were brought up in Thursday's FAA letter. McDuffie said former airport director Rex Elder has been brought in on a temporary basis as an adviser to help the city address the problems. McDuffie is serving as a replacement for George Brown, who was relieved of his duties last week.
"We're putting in some type of emergency measures," McDuffie said. "We want to make sure the FAA is satisfied. ... We realize, in my opinion, that we need to be in compliance."
The letter detailed 13 different discrepancies, including slow response time by the aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle, several problems with signs and lights on the runways and taxiways, and personnel issues related to inspections and maintenance.
The letter suggested that the city hire an airport operations manager to oversee the responsibilities detailed in part 139 of the Airport Certification Manual and an airport maintenance manager to oversee the maintenance staff.
"We're going to take their recommendation and hopefully comply," McDuffie said. "We're looking at an operations manager right now, and we're considering reconfiguring the maintenance staff."
The FAA wrote in the letter that "the airport does not have sufficient, qualified personnel to meet the requirements. ... This is the root cause of the discrepancies found on the airfield."
According to the letter, the city informed the FAA during the inspection that qualified personnel would be hired within the next 60 days and that "the noted discrepancies would be dealt with as soon as practicable."
In addition to the FAA discrepancies, the airport also has run into problems with the Transportation Security Administration regarding security issues. Chris White, a spokesman for the TSA, said that the city has been working with the agency for the past couple of weeks and that there isn't a specific deadline for the city to be in compliance.
"It's the same situation," McDuffie said. "We're working on a lot of issues. We've been working a lot with the TSA the past two weeks, and we're working with personnel from the Savannah airport. We've done a lot of work over that time period."
McDuffie said some of the FAA issues would be dealt with as soon as possible.
"We have money approved for the (runway) markings," she said. "Even the FAA realizes that weather is a factor in getting it done. We'll have it done pending the weather.
"We have several items the maintenance staff will work on next week. As for the personnel issues, we're still waiting to get approval."
Elder was asked by Mayor Jack Ellis on Thursday to evaluate the situation at the airport. Elder said he doesn't know what his title will be or how long he will be asked to help.
"As I understand it, I was to go out and review the discrepancies," Elder said. "The airport is my first love. Mayor Ellis has done a lot for the airport, but a lot of people don't realize it."
Elder said he gathered the employees together and outlined what needed to be done.
"We're going to start immediately correcting the minor deficiencies," he said. "We've got to do that. A lot of people don't realize the economic impact the airport has on the city.
"It's not a major challenge. These are small deficiencies. There are one or two major things, but 90 percent are minor things."
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