AOA Expo Report

June 12, 2006
Highlights from the AOA Expo.

MILWAUKEE — The 2nd Annual AIRPORT BUSINESS Airfield Operations Area (AOA) Expo & Conference was held here April 9-11, attracting airport operations, maintenance, and engineering personnel from across the United States, in addition to service providers and manufacturers. Educational sessions covering pavement maintenance, snow and ice removal, driver training simulators, emergency management, and more were featured over the three-day event. Here are some of the highlights.

Richard Cuitillo from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport shared his airport’s experiences with emergency management and disaster preparedness following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Naturally the airport does have an emergency management plan in place but Cuitillo says that plan is geared toward 150-300 victims. “With Hurricane Katrina, we had 35,000 victims.” Having a plan in place was key to the airport’s response, as was the flexibility and dedication of the airport staff.

According to Cuitillo, the airport staff met a few days prior to landfall of the hurricane to review the emergency plan, with the determination being made “to keep the airport operating as long as possible — let each airline decide when they’ll stop flight operations.”

Some of the precautions the airport took prior to Katrina include: retracting the jet bridges all the way so they’re parallel with the building, which is the best position during a hurricane, says Cuitillo; the ramp was also cleared of anything that could be displaced and cause damage, including tugs, baggage carts, and tractors.

The airport’s emergency plan calls for transporting victims to the local hospital in the event of an incident. “In this case, the hospital was bringing victims to us,” because of the flooding, says Cuitillo.

Despite the precautions, the airport estimates Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath caused some $55 million in damage at the airport. Officials also expect to lose $70 million over the next 16 months as activity at the airport struggles to return to pre-Katrina levels. At the time of his presentation, the airport was at 63 percent of pre-Katrina flights.

FAA Offers Grant Tips

With federal budgets top of mind for airports, Ken Ball, FAA, reminds attendees that the organization does have a priority list, a numerical rating, for approving Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant applications. The rating is as follows:
1) safety and security
2) statutory emphasis projects
3) reconstruction/rehabilitation
4) environment
5) planning
6) capacity
7) standards
8) other
Ball also says airports need to keep in mind that all procurement requires full and open competition. “Specifying a brand name product in your application is not acceptable,” he says.

Speakers’ presentations are available at