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.