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DCA Airport Operations Practicum Review

Mar 14, 2013

Mike O'Donnell, Director of Airport Safety and Standards, FAA


I was fortunate to lead an Airport Operations Practicum at Reagan Washington National Airport recently. During the course we covered a number of key subject areas, such as ACM review, airport layout and design, Part 139 certification standards, ground vehicle operations, changes to the new construction AC, and other basic operational tasks.

I would like to thank everyone who attended and made it a great meeting. I would also like to give special thanks to Mike O’Donnell, Director of Airport Safety and Standards at the FAA, for taking time out of his busy schedule to come in and speak with us on recent developments at the FAA and hot topic issues in airport certification.

Since many people couldn’t make the trip out to DCA a few weeks ago and missed out on the course, I thought I might summarize a few of the key points Mike brought up. In giving the keynote talk, Mike spoke about a few areas that should be looked at by Airports, including:

An update that the current Safety Management System’s NPRM has closed but a new SNPRM will be issued to help make changes based on some of the comments received. SMS rulemaking is currently underway and some development may be issued later this year.

As a side note, several airport managers have asked me how we can start working towards an SMS program now; my answer would be to start developing a proactive safety thinking culture. This step is probably the hardest element of an SMS program to initiate and is constantly dynamic and consistently evolving, but beginning early is never a bad thing.

There seems to be a potential development that all Part 139 airports shouldn’t wait for one of the four triggers for a wildlife hazard assessment and there is a current NPRM issued on a requirement for wildlife hazard assessments to be required at all part 139 airports… But, hey, why not as it is AIP-eligible and enhances safety. Because bird populations are growing and migratory birds aren’t migrating, their patterns are changing, and so the way airports respond to this threat will have to change. There are three resources out there for more information on this: AC 150/5200-36A Qualifications for Wildlife Biologists, ACRP Synthesis 32, and ACRP Report 32.

As many airports are getting to the season of their annual certifications, special attention needs to be given to training records. As detailed in the Airport Certification Manual, there are various forms of required training as well as records management in regards to this training. An area to point out with this year’s inspections is up-to-date records management in the areas of ARFF training. Remember, to remain compliant all ARFF personnel need to adhere to the minimum training required under part 139.319 Operational Requirements, have received their training within the 12 month deadline and their 40-hour basic EMT training. Also pay special attention to making sure that all personnel have done their live fire drill for the current year. You might see this topic coming up in your annual.

These are just some brief summaries of hot topics but also remember to refer to your airport’s ACM and the requirements that you are obligated to maintain to remain compliant. Stay Safe!


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