All Aviation Articles By tori-williams

The Regulated Airport

As most of my readers will know, regulatory compliance is a HUGE deal in the aviation industry. This becomes apparent as soon as flight training begins. Someone outside of aviation may imagine that learning to fly is just learning which buttons to push and levers to pull to operate an aircraft, but the reality is that a large chunk of pilot training involves learning regulations and how to comply with them. The same goes for airports. A phrase that is thrown around a lot in Airport Operations curriculum is “The Regulated Airport.” Truly, an airport is under constant scrutiny and oversight by several different regulatory agencies.

When faced with a problem in aviation you must always ask yourself, “is there a regulation that applies to this?” Next, you think “where can I find this regulation?” Finally, “Does this comply with the regulation? If not, how can I fix it?” Since moving from the flight side to the airport side, it has always been surprising to me the variety of regulatory agencies that could be involved at any one time for any one problem.

Today I would like to provide an overview of some of the major regulations that airports must comply with, as both an exercise for myself and hopefully an interesting read for those outside of the aviation industry. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will look at some of the regulations that come up most frequently.

Regulated Airport

Part 139
For the day to day operations of an airport with commercial service, the Federal Aviation Administration’s 14 CFR Part 139 is the governing regulation. This includes instruction on employee training, record keeping, wildlife management, airfield inspections, Airport Emergency Plans, and hundreds of other topics relating to airport operations. The most interesting thing about Part 139 is that an airport looking to earn certification writes their own Airport Certification Manual (ACM) outlining how they will comply with the different sections of Part 139, and it is signed and approved by an FAA inspector. The airport's ACM then becomes the regulatory document. 

Part 1542
The Department of Homeland Security has issued Transport Security Regulations (TSRs) that require airports to maintain certain security measures. This includes background checks on individuals that have access to secure areas, badging and access control, and a variety of other regulations regarding the security of airport property. One of the major security regulations that airports with commercial service must comply with is Title 49 CFR Part 1542. Similar to Part 139 and the ACM, airports write their own Airport Security Plan (ASP) which is then approved and becomes their unique regulating document. 

Grant Assurances
Any airport that accepts federal funding for a project is subject to the Grant Assurances for up to 20 years, depending on the lifetime of the project. These sets of regulations can also apply to a General Aviation airport that does not have to comply with Part 139, if they accept money from the Federal Government. Grant Assurances are obligations for the airport to keep itself in the best possible condition and properly operated. There are a total of 39 Grant Assurances, and they cover topics such as Economic Nondiscrimination, Compatible Land Use, and Planning Projects. 

Environmental Regulations
There are several environmental regulations that airports must comply with, both with the FAA and the EPA. The environmental issues that the FAA governs mostly relate to Airport Noise. For example, 14 CFR Part 150 “Airport Noise Compatibility Planning” and 14 CFR Part 161 “Airport Noise and Access Restrictions.” Airplane Noise has been a hot topic since well before the Jet Age, and the FAA has precise rules for how airports plan for and handle it. 

Airports also handle a variety of hazardous and toxic materials, so it is vital that proper quarantine and drainage protocols are in place to protect the local water supply. Many airports work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and avoid possible water pollution. 

Financial Regulations
Airports are subject to a variety of financial regulations, determining what they charge and how they use their funds. This is especially important when they accept Federal funding, and should be taken very seriously. 

Self-Implemented Regulations
In addition to all of the external regulations that airports must comply with, airports make their own internal rules as well. These rules are called Minimum Standards, and are required under Grant Assurance 19, Operations and Maintenance. Minimum Standards are used so that the relationship and expectations between the airport operator and airport users are clear and understood. 

This concludes my overview of some of the regulations that commercial airports must be aware of and comply with in their daily operations. Hopefully you learned something or had a nice refresher. Let me know in the comments below if you've had experience with any of these! 

Looking for Airport and FBO information?  Try Globalair.com's Airport Resource Center (ARC).  Packed with all the United States Airports Aeronautical information from the FAA and updated ever 56 days and over 3,200 FBO's and fuel prices.

 

 

5 Surprising New Uses for Drones

Unmanned Arial Systems, or "drones," have been steadily increasing in popularity for years now. As engineers are able to design smaller drones with better cameras, sensors, and features at lower prices, it is only natural that new applications for drones are being thought of every day. As we begin the New Year I would like to take a look at some of the upcoming applications for drones that may surprise you in their genius or weirdness. 2019 might be the Year of the Drone! 

This article was inspired in part by research I did last summer over the current usage of drones in state Departments of Transportation. There are dozens of state DOTs that use drones for bridge inspections, traffic monitoring, and construction progress documentation. Over the course of this research, I also discovered this incredible website that hosts a database of U.S. public safety agencies that own and use drones. current as of May 2018, this database estimates that at least 910 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services agencies in the U.S. have acquired drones. They also estimate an 82% increase in the number of public safety agencies that own drones from the previous year. 

Interesting drone facts aside, let's get on to the list of my top 5 surprising new uses for drones! 

1. Car Accident/Crime Scene Documentation

An interesting application that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has for their drones is documenting car crashes and crime scenes. It is particularly useful for car accidents, as it severely cuts down on the time required to record pictures and evidence so that the Highway Patrol can clear the accident and reopen roads quicker. Authorities in Asheville simulated a head-on collision and then used their drone with a laser scanner to take pictures of the scene and create a 3D model. 

Work that usually takes state troopers about two hours to complete took only 25 minutes with a drone. They are then able to take the data and recreate the accident to better understand what happened. Now that's innovation! 

2. Food Delivery 

This application still has a lot of logistical kinks to work out, but I would not be surprised if food delivery via drones becomes a popular venture in the next few years. The novelty of the experience of having a drone delivery your meal will attract countless customers. Transportation giant Uber is already jumping on this idea, sharing their vision to have a fleet of food delivery drones by the year 2021. This one makes me stop and think, is life getting too fast-paced? Can we not wait the typical 30 minutes for food delivery via automobile? We will have to see how this one plays out! 

3. Fishing Aid

In what is perhaps one of the most creative fishing technologies I've ever seen, the company AguaDrone has created a drone that can not only detect fish with their wireless sonar pod, but also carry bait to the fish to catch it. The waterproof design can land and take off from fresh or saltwater and features a detachable camera to record all of your fishing adventures. I imagine this would be particularly useful for fishing in crowded areas, where you could reach further than any other lines. 

The drone and accessories currently only say "coming soon" on the websites's shopping page, but hopefully this genius invention will be manufactured and sold soon to fishers everywhere. 

4. For Hospice Patients

This one tugged at my heartstrings when I heard about it. A small company in Ohio is using their drones to bring happiness and comfort to those in their final days of life. The Flight To Remember Foundation flies drones to capture videos of meaningful places so that hospice patients can see them for one last time. These can be shared via live stream or video complication for repeated viewing. I can only imagine how special this would be for a loved one. According to their website they are currently looking for more volunteer drone pilots, so that is a cause worth checking out! 

5. Help with Cooking 

This one is more satirical in nature than the others, but check out that video! Someone found a great way to use their drone for several common cooking tasks. The blades peed the potatoes with such ease, and you won't even have to leave your kitchen to safely fry your turkey! 

All jokes aside, I hope this article has helped you to see the possibilities of drones in a new way. What is your favorite drone application? Have you thought of one that doesn't exist yet? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thoughts on Crew Resource Management (CRM)

Crew Resource Management (CRM) is defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as, "the effective use of all available resources: human resources, hardware, and information." The history of CRM comes from NASA research that took place in the late 1970s. NASA focused its research solely on the human error element involved in aircraft accidents with multiple crews. During this time of research, much of the focus of CRM was on the pilot/copilot relationship. It was discovered that select airline captains thought very little of their first officers. In turn, first officers felt that they could not challenge their captain when they didn’t agree with his or her actions. They felt that it was disrespectful to challenge them as captains were the boss in the cockpit. The purpose of the research at that time was to "gain an environment of equal respect, teamwork and cooperation to safely accomplish the mission of the flight." The most recent CRM model has evolved into "teaching pilots risk management strategies, focusing on workload management, recognizing hazardous attitudes or patterns, maintaining situational awareness, and communicating effectively to operate efficiently and safely in all aspects of flight." CRM is an important aspect to any flight training department and is critical for an airline pilot’s career.

CRM covers many different concepts including decision-making and risk management. The decision-making side of CRM covers pilots that are faced with an in-flight decision. Pilots are trained to use the knowledge and technology they have available to them when they are faced to make a decision during flight. CRM includes not only pilots but other crew members, flight attendants, ATC, weather reports, and maintenance workers. Pilots can utilize these people and tools to help them make their in-flight decision. Risk management involves preventing risks and how to manage them appropriately if they do arise. Risks include not only environmental such as weather or operational policies but pilot’s personal risks. Pilots can have personal risks such as fatigue, illness or stress that they are aware of but not always tell their crew members about. Factors such as aircraft weight and runway conditions can also influence risks. Two flight cases below highlight the importance of CRM and why proper training is crucial before the flight crew steps in the cockpit.

Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 is a perfect case study into what tragedies can happen when there is a breakdown of CRM. The Boeing 747 was flown by a crew of 4 out of London Stansted Airport on December 22, 1999. Maintenance personnel warned the Flight Engineer that the captain’s Attitude Director Indicator (ADI, or artificial horizon) was unreliable during a roll before they boarded the aircraft. It was dark outside at the time of takeoff, so the captain was flying entirely by instruments. The captain began a sharp left turn after takeoff, which was not reflected on his inoperable ADI. The CRM breakdown in this instance was that the co-pilot’s ADI was functioning normally but he remained silent as to not challenge the captain. The Flight Engineer began yelling "Bank!" repeatedly, and an alarm rang out warning of the error, but the pilot continued his sharp turn until the left wing dragged the ground and the plane smacked the ground at high speed and 90 degrees of left bank. All 4 crew onboard perished in the cash.

Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 is another example of where CRM training is crucial. On December 8, 2005 a Boeing 737-7H4 ran off the departure end of runway 31 center just after landing at Chicago Midway Airport. The aircraft rolled through the blast pad fencing and the airport’s perimeter fence where it finally came to a stop after striking a vehicle, which killed a child that was in the vehicle. The cause of the accident was the pilots’ failure to use available reverse thrust in a timely manner to safely slow or stop the airplane after landing. This failure occurred because the pilots’ first experience and lack of familiarity with the airplane’s autobrake system distracted them from thrust reverser during the challenging landing. This case shows that not only were the pilots at fault for the accident but Southwest Airlines as a company. The company failed to train the pilots and assure that they were clear on the operating procedures for the aircraft they were flying.

Between 60-80% of aviation accidents are caused by human error, and a large portion of that are specifically caused by poor Crew Resource Management. Millions of dollars have been invested into CRM training at airlines, flight schools, and other businesses that operate aircraft. Continual CRM training that focuses on teaching pilots and aircraft crew error avoidance, early detection of errors, and minimizing consequences resulting from CRM errors generally has a positive outcome and desired behavioral change. However, it can be difficult to evaluate the impact of CRM training as it is hard to quantify the concept of accidents avoided. Thus, it was determined that more research into the long-term effects of CRM training needs to be conducted in the coming years.

Companies are wanting to dig deeper into how they can better equip and train their employees to use CRM tactics. The FAA has an Advisor Circular (AC) published specifically for crew resource management training. In addition to the certain essential that are universal to CRM, the Advisory Circular also lists effective CRM characteristics which include: CRM is a comprehensive system of applying human factors concepts to improve crew performance, CRM embraces all operational personnel, CRM can be blended in all forms of aircrew training, CRM concentrates on crewmembers’ attitudes and behaviors and their impact on safety, CRM uses the crew as a unit of training, CRM is training that requires the active participation of all crewmembers. It provides an opportunity for individuals and crews to examine their own behavior, and to make decisions on how to improve cockpit teamwork. The number one goal in aviation is safety. Where CRM characteristics are compromised or left out, there’s room for error to slip in which can lead to incidents or accidents that could cause fatalities. Companies in the aviation industry need to ensure that they are taking all of the right steps in training their crews before they are put on the aircraft with souls on board.

Runway Incursions: What's the Big Deal?

A runway incursion is defined by the FAA as, "Any occurrence at an aerodrome involving the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle or person on the protected area of a surface designated for the landing and takeoff of aircraft." There are four categories of runway incursions, Categories A-D. Category A being the most severe and Category D being the least severe. Category A is classified as an "incident in which separation decreases and participants take extreme action to narrowly avoid a collision." An accident can be the result of a runway incursion, and therefore exceeds the categories described.

The FAA estimates that approximately three runway incursions happen every day at towered airports in the United States. Thus, the number of unreported incursions at non towered airports must be much larger. Although a runway incursion is by definition a near miss at the worst, they are often a contributing cause in serious aircraft accidents. An accident that perfectly illustrates the dangers of runway incursions is the 1996 collision of United Express flight 5925 and a Beechcraft King Air 90A in Quincy, Illinois. A miscommunication between the landing Beechcraft, the departing King Air, and a third taxing aircraft turned deadly when the King Air failed to look for traffic and the Beechcraft wrongly assumed a radio transmission confirmed they were okay to land. Although the airport was not towered, the presence of both aircraft on intersecting runways was extremely dangerous and lead to a collision at the intersection. A total of 12 people lost their lives in that accident that could have been easily avoided.

Another infamous accident involving a runway incursion is the Russian Aeroflot Flight 3352 that took place in 1984. In short, the ground Air Traffic Controller fell asleep after he authorized several maintenance vehicles to enter the runway. A commercial aircraft carrying 170 passengers came to land at the airport, and the approach controller, oblivious to the maintenance crew on the runway, cleared them to land. To make matters worse, visibility was extremely low and the maintenance trucks did not have their rotating beacons illuminated. The commercial aircraft collided with the vehicles, resulting in 178 fatalities. In this example, the accident investigators placed the majority of the blame on the Air Traffic Controller, but there were mistakes made by all parties involved.

The airport environment is a complex operation with hundreds of moving parts. Pilots, air traffic controllers, and airport designers have to understand the hazards that come with miscommunications and poorly designed airport layouts. It only takes one moment of confusion for a runway incursion to happen, which could be deadly.

The FAA has a record of 1747 total runway incursions happening in the Fiscal Year 2017. There are several reasons that runway incursions occur. One of the most prevalent ones is miscommunication or a total lack of any communication. Many times, pilots and air traffic controllers get "stepped on" or, talked over on the radio frequency. It is highly critical that pilots repeat back their instructions to confirm with the controllers that they heard them correctly and that the directions were for their aircraft and not another. As in the above case study, although there was not a tower at the airport, the landing aircraft assumed that the aircraft announcing they would be holding short was the only one holding short. There was a misunderstanding in this case because one pilot’s radio transmission got covered up by the other aircraft holding short making the pilot of the landing aircraft assume that there was only one aircraft and they were holding short. Other common types of runway incursions include incorrect entry or vacating of an aircraft or vehicle onto the runway protection area, incorrect runway/taxiway crossing, incorrect spacing between departing and arriving aircraft, and landing or taking off without air traffic control clearance.

According the the FAA, approximately 65 percent of all runway incursions are caused by pilots. Detailed investigations of runway incursions over the past 10 years have identified three major areas contributing to these events including failure to comply with air traffic control instructions, lack of airport familiarity, nonconformance with standard operating procedures. Clear, concise, and effective pilot/controller communication is paramount to safe airport surface operations. This is something that is often stressed during initial and recurrent pilot training, but evidently the information does not always stick in the pilots’ minds.

Air traffic control instructions must be fully understood and complied with. Air traffic controllers are in place to assist pilots and want to help when there is confusion but many pilots don’t ask for the help. They are caught up in other tasks such as checklists, taxi directions, and non-essential chatter with the copilot. Pilots are to taxi with their heads-up and eyes outside to ensure they are aware of all aircraft and airport vehicles.

Major factors that increase the risk of runway confusion and can lead to a wrong runway departure include airport complexity, close proximity of runway thresholds, joint use of a runway as a taxiway (FAA, 2017). During the summer construction time, many airports will close runways or taxiways to resurface them or replace them. If a taxiway is closed, this can force aircraft to use runways as a means of getting to another open taxiway. It can also force the aircraft to back taxi on the runway they are departing from.

Thorough planning is essential for safe taxi operations. Aircraft accidents are more likely to happen on the ground than in the air because there are so many moving parts on the airfield. Pilots need to utilize the following services/tools in order to ensure safe airport surface movement: Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS), Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS), Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD), and recognizing Hot Spots. Although using these pilot tools will not end all runway incursions, they will lower the risks if all pilots are equipped with the proper and current information.

America’s Largest Fly-in Communities

Last weekend my husband and I flew to an EAA chapter meeting that was held at a beautiful private grass strip called Timberhouse. We quickly discovered that this was no ordinary grass strip. Each side of the runway was flanked by houses in various stages of construction, with a couple fully built houses scattered amongst them. This beautiful place was clearly becoming more inhabited every day. The owner of the field shared that they have had lots of sale on this flying community for 15 years, but in the last couple years has interest in buying lots increased exponentially.

The idea of being able to walk outside your house and get into your airplane, no driving to the airport required, seems like a total dream. Although this may seem like something out of a Bond movie, residential airports are all over the U.S. and some of the plots of land are just as affordable as buying off-airport land for your home.

According to the website Living With Your Plane, the three states with the most residential airports are Florida (71), Texas (67), and Washington (58). Even smaller states like Illinois and Ohio have 18 and 13 residential airports, respectively. When you take into account the amount of small public-use airports each state has, it’s no wonder the U.S. has the best General Aviation environment in the world.

Today I would like to inspect some of the biggest residential airports in the U.S. to help paint a picture of what living at an airport looks like. Most of these are exclusive, gated community type locations, but that’s not to say there’s not a more affordable option in the state as well.

Spruce Creek

Spruce Creek Airpark in Port Orange, Florida (seven miles south of Daytona Beach) is the perfect example of a thriving airport living community. The 4000 ft runway is surrounded by over 1,300 houses and 700 hangars. A large majority of the residents of this gated community have the luxury of private hangars in or beside their homes that are attached to over 14 miles of paved taxiways.

Jumbolair

Another Floridian airport of note is the Jumbolair Airport in Ocala, Florida. This one is different from Spruce Creek in that it has far less houses, but the runway is nearly twice as long at 7,550 ft. This airport is typically what people imagine when they think of flying communities, because actor John Travolta was one of the first people to purchase land and build a house. Travolta was drawn to this particular airport because the length of the runway allowed him to takeoff in his personal Boeing 707.

Poplar Grove

Located near the northern border of Illinois, Poplar Grove has made quite a name for themselves as being an extremely well maintained and fun airport. They are open to the public for flight training, but also have a prestigious residential community attached to the runway. 100 of the total 140 houses in their residential community are connected via taxiway to the runways. With one large asphalt runway and two grass strips, this airport is a heaven for pilots that enjoy antique and vintage aircraft flying.

RJW Airpark

Last but not least, RJW Airpark in Baytown, Texas claims to be the largest airpark in the state. Featuring a 5111 ft asphalt runway and a 3532 grass runway, this classic airpark has something for every pilot. The houses on this particular Airpark are in a realm of their own, because of course everything is bigger in Texas!

I hope this article has opened your eyes to some of the incredible flying communities that are out there! If you search online you might be surprised by how many are in your state. More flying communities are being created every year, so this type of lifestyle is also becoming more obtainable. If your dream is to someday taxi your plane away from your home towards a runway, never give up because that dream could very well become a reality.