Statistics tell us that flying is one of the safest ways to travel. At the Springfield airport we do our part to make sure it stays that way — for the tenth year in a row we’ve received a discrepancy free safety inspection from the Federal Aviation Administration.
On Monday the FAA recognized our success by awarding us the “Airport Safety Enhancement Award.” The award goes to airports which receive discrepancy free safety inspections three years in a row. Getting one discrepancy free inspection is a great accomplishment for any airport. Doing it ten years in a row is a rare achievement. Airfield maintenance worker, Troy Morehouse, sums it up best. “It’s like winning the Academy Award for best picture.”
The annual FAA safety inspection is a demanding review of everything at the airport that affects aircraft safety. If an airport can’t hack it, airlines can’t, and won't, fly there.
FAA inspectors review a long list. It includes runway pavement condition, airfield marking and lighting, the readiness of the airport fire department, snow and ice removal, security … it’s a very long list.
“It’s so vast. It has to do with fencing, with the height of grass, with wildlife ...” says Morehouse.
Wildlife was a hot topic with the public five years ago after a flock of Canada geese brought down a US Airways flight after take-off from New York City (the plane landed in the Hudson River with no loss of life). But airports have talked about wildlife for years — as in, "how do we control it?"
The airport must show FAA inspectors that it knows what wildlife is on the airport, and that it has a plan to deal with it.
|Troy Morehouse retrieves a dead bird from a runway then logs the location on an airport map.|
“Runway inspections are one way we track wildlife,” says Morehouse. You look for any remains of an animal hit by an aircraft. We collect it and record where it was found on the runway.” Even small birds get attention. “Smaller birds can be very dense. So when a plane hits them it’s almost the equivalent of getting hit by a baseball.”
Some wildlife control methods are obvious — like shooting off pyrotechnics to scare off birds. Other methods are more subtle. Suppose, for example, that a certain breed of hawk suddenly shows up in numbers. Airport staff might try to figure out what the hawks are eating — are there more rabbits in the area than before? To control the hawk population you might have to do something about the rabbits.
When an aircraft is on the ground it depends on airport lights, signs and paint to figure out where to go. The Springfield airport has about 1400 lights along the edges of the runways and taxiways. Add to that several hundred signs, along with miles and miles of painted lines. If you could put all the paint in a six inch line it would be 40 miles long. And all of it — lights, signs, paint — has to be nearly perfect.
“Each of those lights has its own transformer, so there are hundreds of transformers,” says Morehouse. “And miles and miles of cable connect all those lights.” It all has to work.
|Dozens of aircraft navigate the ground everyday at our airport. The fact that they do so safely is a testament to the hard work and dedication of airport staff.|
After so many years of acing the inspection is there anyway to make things even better? Morehouse says there is ...
"We all try to better ourselves every day and improve on what we've done. That may sound kind of crazy — we've done so well the past 10 years — I mean what is there left to improve on? There's always something to improve on."
Only a few of the airport's hundred+ employees are seen here. Please know that everyone pitches in to make the airport's safety culture possible. This Thursday, September 18, the Airport Board, along with airport administration, will honor them all. The meeting begins at 8:00 am in Board Room, which is located in the main terminal building. Feel free to join us.
|Airport staff Tim Boram is busy fueling a privately owned aircraft. The FAA inspects all aspects of aircraft fueling.|
|Miles and miles of painting to go -- Josh Shank and Tony Leckrone makes sure every inch meets FAA specs.|
|Jonathan Woodside doing maintenance on a snowblower. The FAA inspects nearly every piece of equipment on the airfield.|
|Thou "grass height shall be kept at 2-4 inches." Tony Leckrone makes sure it's so!|
|Aircraft rescue firefighter Eric Sanders does a daily fire truck inspection.|