Airport Manager

    Welcome to the Airport Managers Blog, the exciting look into the life of an Airport Manager. Although the blog is primarily about life as an Airport Manager, detailing things about airport life, transportation, and government regulations that affect everyone there will be posts about my life, the things I do in my free time and the things I am interested in. Please feel free to comment on my posts as I’m always open to learning about your view points and what you are interested in.

Other Info

I hope you enjoy my blog and if you have any questions, comments, or just want to chat, please feel free to contact me at erick underscore dahl at hotmail dot com.

Welcome to the Airport Managers Blog!

People always joke in the northern climites about how there are really only two seasons: Winter and Road Construction. well as true as that statement may be construction is a big part of airport operations. As the airport manager you have to keep track of the construction project and ensure that airport continues to operate in a safe and efficient manner.

There are four people who cordinate any construction project, they are:

- The Engineer who drew up the project
- The Project foremen
- The Construction Crew foremen
- The Airport Manager

Other government agencies get involved as well, the TSA, FAA, DHS, FBI, and whoever else wants a slice of the pie but for now lets imgien they dont exisit - for simplicity.

The engineer had a great idea when they drew up their drawings about the project. If they did a good enough job, there wont be too many problems when it comes time to actually put the drawings to the shovel. This is where the Project foremen comes in, for large construction projects the engineering firm will assign someone to keep track of the project, correct anything that goes wrong or otherwise make sure things go as smooth as possible.

In an ideal world the Construction Crew foremen and the Project Foremen will have a good working realtionship. Meaning that the construction cew will try to maximize their profit and the project foremen will try to make them stick to specs as much as possible. This realtionhip ensures that the drawings the engineer drew make sense.

The airport manager has to be informed on all aspects of the project and be in communication with all the other aspects of the project. The FAA likes to see airports develop a safe way to manage construction projects, share information, and keep everyone safe. Thats our job.

posted by AirportManager on Saturday, June 30, 2007 | 0 Comments | Links to this post

The Latest volley of Cert Alerts arrived on my desk a few days ago. Each Cert Alert focused on a different aspect of Airfield Condition Reporting. No. 07-01 covered an important topic, which I wish to expand upon here.

I talked about NOTAMs in detail a few months ago, essentially they are used to convey something about the airfield to airport users. In this case the Cert Alert is talking about closed surfaces and how we as airport operators tell our users about those surface closings.

When an airport operator closes a surface, such as a runway or taxiway, or some grouping of those surfaces a NOTAM must be issued. Describing this NOTAM will be difficult, it could be cryptic and the airport operator might not even me able to understand what it says, take this NOTAM for example:

Twy G CLD, BTW A-1 and A-3, G, and F.

What does that say? It says something no doubt and I am sure it is important, but where is that closed surface, what does it look like, and how can I best advise my airport users of this closed surface? Questions I have to answer, simply providing this NOTAM to my tenants will cause more damage then good I assume. This is what the Cert Alert is talking about, ways to make closed surfaces easier to convey to tenants.

Maps, location, location, location they say is the best way. The example they provide is from some airport that has their airport layout diagram in the computer and they use Microsoft Paint to color the areas that are closed. This map is then sent to all of the tenants. Flawless, I like it. I like automation even better though, how can I get the OpenAirport system to do this for me when I issue a NOTAM.

The First step to any NOTAM is the description in proper FAA syntax which is used by the FAA in their NOTAM system.

The second step when I issue a NOTAM is to have a listing of all surfaces at the airport with an option of Closed or Open. Select the proper option and a map is map for me automatically which shades in the closed areas.

There is no need to open a multiple programs, and there is no physical work involved. The down side is that each section of an airport needs to be programmed, and a graphic made for when that section is closed. This could take some time for large airports with multiple taxiway sections, but well worth it over the long run.

The other option would be to have a map of the airport with the different areas highlighted and you simply click on the areas to close, click done, and a new map opens with the closed areas highlighted all in the format you want to send to your tenants. In either case you minimize the amount of work you have to do, allowing you to spend more time on inspections.

posted by AirportManager on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | 0 Comments | Links to this post

If you have ever left your vehicle outside during a hail storm you probably are aware of the damage it can cause. Hail is created when rain can not escape the updraft caused by the thunderstorm.

If there is a really low level thunderstorm pulling air in from around the region that air will be sucked up into the "center" of the thunderstorm causing the classic 'anvil' telling you the direction the thunderstorm is traveling in. Unfortunately for the rain trying to fall, the updraft makes escape impossible and the rain travels with the updraft until it is too heavy to be carried and it starts to fall again.

This process repeats until the rain is frozen and heavier then the total amount of force created by the updraft. Think of it this way, if you have access to a shop vacuum with a reverse switch which blows rather then sucks. When in the blowing configuration it is difficult to get your hand pushed up against the vacuum hose until you apply more force then the vacuum puts out. Same with the rain, or at this point Hail.

The largest hail ever recorded came down during a thunderstorm in 1970 in the state of Kansas. The hail rock weighted in at 1.67 pounds and was 5.67 inches around. Luckily it did not it anyone when it landed.

But hail does cause damage, I have never driven or flown through a hail storm, but some people have and thank fully lived through it. A Canada Air flight traveling at 35,000 feet was attacked by tennis ball sized hail on the tenth day of august 2006 and the end result is rather traumatizing.

Here we are looking at the left engine intake. Notice the damage caused around the rim.

Here we are looking at the right wing leading edge. The part of the wing most responsible for creating the lift that keep the aircraft flying. The Landing Light is destroyed and the leading edge has pot marks all over it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, here is an image showing the nose cone and pilots cockpit windows. The nose is gone, so is their radar. You will also notice that the Co-pilots window is cracked and probably pretty difficult to see out of. We can not see the pilots window, but I’d suspect it is in a similar shape.

Then here is a head on shot of the aircraft.

posted by AirportManager on Monday, February 05, 2007 | 0 Comments | Links to this post

The American Association of Airport Executives recently made changes to the requirements for the research paper. This is a good thing in that it decreasing the number of pages that are required; however, I find it difficult to decrease the number of pages of my page to meet the requirements. Currently my paper is 27 pages long and I am only half done with the discrepancy life cycle. This means that I may come in at the maximum number of pages for the old requirement, and will have to find a way to decrease the papers length. As I mentioned before the paper is on using computer-technology to assist airports in their Part 139 Self-Inspection Requirements.

I was in the seventh grade when my father brought home an IBM Apex – which could barely be called a computer by today’s standards - and I don’t ever recall a moment of my life not influenced by the computer. Having been raised with computers I feel somewhat comfortable around them, and although I continue to learn more about them everyday I know a lot about their operations and how they could help an airports operation.

By the admission of the FAA there are not many airports that have computerized record keeping systems, and this makes the number of sources for my paper limited to commercial applications that can cost thousands of dollars. I have a fundamental problem with expensive proprietary software applications, and tend to be open source minded so I have no problem providing my time pro-bono to help airports avoid the pitfalls of proprietary software.

But the paper moves along when I find myself with the time and willingness to write. Coming up with good descriptive system analysis comparing paper-based systems to computer-based system is not a simple task. Each comparison must be complete and yield a common theme, that computers are the way records should be done. Think to yourself of ways a paper-based system of checklists works, and how it could work more efficiently with computers. Then find justification for that thought, with sources other then yourself – difficult.

posted by AirportManager on Friday, February 02, 2007 | 0 Comments | Links to this post

Recently the Great Lakes Region of the FAA has been stepping up their effort to increase the accuracy and efficiently of Field Condition Reports.

The Field Condition Report or FiCON is how the airport tells all users of the airport what types of contaminants or what the surface condition is. Take for example the following:

RWY 17 35,32,30, PLW FW, PTS, Sc75’

What this FiCON is telling the airport user is that Runway 17 has a touchdown friction of 35, a midpoint friction of 32, and a rollout friction of 30. The runway is Plowed Full Width, Has Patchy Thin Snow, and is Sanded along the center line for a total width of 75’.

Pilots, users, and anyone interested can decode the language on the fly, but getting the Field Condition to all of the users on a timely in a near real time manner can be somewhat difficult.

An Airfield Safety Self-Inspector is charged with two primary tasks during winter operations – when FiCONs are more important – 1). Coordinate the snow removal process, and 2). Conduct FiCONs and provide the results to all parties that need the information as fast as possible. These tasks have to be mutually exclusive; however, they both require you to be in two places at one time.

The Safety Inspector has to issue the FiCON some how and this usually involves going back to the office and send the tenants a fax or some other communication that serves the same purpose. If your not on the field, you can not supervise the snow removal process, and as such accidents could happen or worse death.

In order to be two places at once, you have to use resources more efficiently such that you no longer need to be in two places at once. Technology usually provides the answer for this, and the technology can come in vastly different forms depending on the type of operation an airport has.

Airports are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, but each airport operates under its own Airport Certification Manual. They share a common theme and usually are fairly close to the template provided by the FAA but there are subtitle differences that could one type of technological solution inappropriate for ones airport.

How could you keep a safety inspector on the field coordinating the snow removal process and still issue a FiCON. One thing come to mind, Wireless Communication with something or someone else. I doubt the airport has someone just sitting around the do data entry 24 hours a day so something must accept the wireless signal and do something with it.

A computer would be the best to answer the wireless signal. It can be automated, does not require an additional person and doesn’t require increasing the airports medicare payment.

Two computers are required to make the system work. One for the airfield safety inspector to use and one to accept the wireless communications. One computer could work, although I’d recommend preventing users from using the server for everyday use. The server is a dedicated piece of equipment that serves its purpose left alone.

How can the two computers talk to each other overwireless would be the next hurdle to jump. Two options, over a wi-fi network such as 801.11 g/a/n, etc. or over a dedicated radio frequency. Of the two I’d suggest a wi-fi signal using a large high gain antenna on both ends. This will get you increased reliability and range and not require a special FCC permit.

With one computer in the vehicle with the safety inspector and one a stationary location else where the inspector can issue the FiCON on the roll, update the FiCON all without leaving the vehicle.

Mission Accomplished, the user is two places at once and a couple of steps are removed from the procedure. This increases accuracy of the information as the information is almost real-time, and very efficient.

posted by AirportManager on Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | 2 Comments | Links to this post


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