Inside the Fence

Sept. 29, 2010

On managing wildlife and the new man at the ACSF helm ...

In the aftermath following the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, a media brouhaha arose over how well airports were tracking wildlife strikes. There was the perception that federal agencies were guarding the information contained in the National Wildlife Strike Database (NWSD), which is gathered using voluntary reports provided by mostly Part 139 airports.

The NWSD is the responsibility of FAA but is actually managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Airport Wildlife Hazards Program. Michael Begier is the national coordinator of the program at USDA.

Comments Begier, “One thing that’s important to note is that it’s a voluntary database; there’s no mandated strike reporting right now. For many years the database was kept; perhaps shielded is the right word. The airlines, engine manufacturers, and others had data within the database. There had been kind of a gentleman’s agreement to not share all of these fields, for fear that it could reflect poorly on different lines of business within the industry.

“The feeling was maybe this database should be afforded some protection. It became a real big story. The Department of Transportation decided it should be open to the public.

“The data had always been available; but there was a perception that it was secret — not the case.”

Since that time, there has been an increase in reporting by airports, leading to better data which FAA can use to implement guidance, says Begier. One area of concern is the need for more reporting from general aviation airports. For more on this, see page 9.

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In 2007 some leading Part 135 members of NATA oversaw the creation of the Air Charter Safety Foundation to improve charter standards and to offer customers a more transparent vehicle for determining the performance of companies.

In July the ACSF hired long-time FBO general manager Bryan Burns to be the group’s first full-time director. Burns discusses the future of ACSF in a one-on-one interview on page 26.

One future project is an aviation safety action plan, a voluntary program in which an employee voluntarily reports safety information that may be critical to identifying potential precursors to accidents. Burns says he’s a “big believer” in the concept.

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President Obama recently called for a new infrastructure investment program that would include airports. ACI-NA president Greg Principato says that, while new infrastructure spending is welcome, he thinks there’s a simpler way — pass long-term FAA reauthorization. Says Principato, “We have a bill sitting there that could be taken care of in a couple of hours and create 125,000 jobs a year; improve our aviation infrastructure; and have no impact on the federal deficit. Find me another bill that would do those things.”

Thanks for reading.