Paper Documentation and Manual Processes Prolong Part 139 Inspections
For years, Rockford used paper documentation and manual processes to manage its assets and fulfill regulatory requirements. Maintaining compliance demands rigorous documentation, record-keeping, and efficient asset management. As the airport’s operations expanded, legacy processes caused bottlenecks in day-to-day workflows and made daily FAA Part 139 inspections more complicated than necessary.
Rockford offices were full of handbooks, manuals, plans, and paperwork that were cumbersome to use, store, retrieve and update. The airport’s work order system consisted of paper forms and spreadsheets, requiring staff to spend hours each day matching records for consistency. Despite devoting resources to organizing the records, Rockford was unable to effectively track the information needed for Part 139 compliance.
“Pulling together the daily self-inspection records and documents and organizing them in a format that would give inspectors a clear understanding of the condition of our assets and operations on any given day was difficult,” said Chris Fisher, an operations specialist at RFD.
“On-site inspections spanned multiple days and providing documentation was a challenge. During the inspections, the FAA would dive into our documentation and request additional information, but quickly satisfying their requests was difficult when everything was captured on paper and in spreadsheets.”
Proving the Value of Digitizing Asset Management
Rockford selected an asset management system provided by the technology firm Trimble to digitize the airport’s inspection workflows. To implement the new system, Rockford engaged award-winning consulting firm CMT, who has served since 1978 as the airport's planning and design provider. Of particular value for Rockford’s implementation project was the fact that CMT has special expertise in the full lifecycle of airport infrastructure, from planning, design, and construction to asset management—capabilities that align with the airport's strategic goals and certification objectives.
“We have developed a strong relationship with Rockford over the years,” said Jim Box, MCSE, Asset Management System Specialist at CMT. “So, we welcomed the opportunity to help the airport modernize its processes and earn Part 139 certification.”
With support from airport infrastructure expert Tim Pearson of Tim Pearson Consulting, CMT configured the Trimble Cityworks asset management system for Rockford in just three months and was instrumental in ensuring that the digital workflows facilitated Part 139 compliance. After just one round of FAA review and within three months of implementation, the FAA approved Rockford’s transition to the digital solution for Part 139 compliance.
“The smooth deployment of Rockford’s new system, coupled with the rapid FAA approval, demonstrates that with the right solution and business partners, digital transformation can be efficient and seamless,” said Pearson. “Digital workflows are enormously beneficial for improving an airport’s safety operations and compliance.”
“Based on our years of experience serving commercial service airports,” said Box, “we were able to understand Rockford’s workflows and processes, provide insights and recommendations, and tailor Rockford’s asset management environment to fit the airport’s needs, both now and in the future. This holistic approach was extremely helpful in facilitating successful outcomes.”
“Before implementing digital asset management, we tracked everything with a clipboard and paper, which was not only time-consuming and error-prone, but was also difficult to access and prolonged the FAA inspection process,” said RFD’s Fisher. “Using the historical data captured in Trimble Cityworks, we can look back in time and quickly determine the condition of the airfield on any day during the previous year. The FAA report gives us everything we need to answer difficult questions and provide documentation the FAA requests, at the click of a button.”
Automating Daily Inspection Reports
With geospatial capabilities at its foundation, Rockford’s asset management solution serves as the system of record for all asset-related data. Airport operations team members can easily locate, prioritize, and track work orders and maintenance activities. Each inspection and repair is automatically associated with the asset in the GIS database, and team members can collect information, upload pictures, and report observations on a mobile device, seamlessly connecting workflows between the field and the office.
The information needed to document regulatory compliance is automatically captured and organized, allowing Rockford to generate accurate and comprehensive reports with a few clicks. Additionally, the solution automatically generates an FAA-certified Part 139 self-inspection report at the end of each day capturing the status of compliance with requirements related to airport conditions, security, wildlife management, lighting, fueling operations, and preventive maintenance, as well as Rockford’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) documentation.
Airport officials estimate that the move to digital asset management has reduced Rockford’s reporting time by 30 minutes (0.5 labor hours) per report each day, which equates to more than 545 labor hours in annual time savings on daily inspections alone.
Easy Access to Data for Seamless FAA On-Site Inspections
Digital Transformation Is Essential for Future Growth
Modernizing asset management has given Rockford the data visibility to make informed decisions regarding repairs, replacements, and budget allocations.
“If, for example, we notice that paint marking remedies took longer than expected, we can look more closely at the work order rather than assuming more resources are needed to get the work done,” said Fisher. “If we see the work order was issued in the fall, it was likely too cold to paint, which explains why it took six months to complete. Without this information, we may have unnecessarily allocated more resources to resolve the issue. It may sound simple, but the ability to determine if and why an issue exists is an extra tool in our pocket when we consider adding or reallocating staff.”
This year, the FAA ranked Rockford as the 13th largest cargo airport in the U.S. for landed weight, making 2023 the fourth consecutive year the airport’s ranking has increased. As Rockford continues to grow, the ability to digitally manage its assets will be essential for operating efficiently, satisfying compliance requirements, and ensuring safe, reliable commercial air travel.
Jon Green is the Director of Airport Solutions for Trimble's Owner & Public Sector. With more than 20 years of aviation industry experience, Jon has served in various roles, including Aviation Business Development Manager, Aviation Program/Project Manager, and Military Airfield Manager at several locations in the U.S. and internationally while on active duty in the United States Air Force. Jon is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).