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2018 Vol. 18, No. 1

Maintaining airport construction safety

airplane flying

With winter here in Minnesota, airports are likely experiencing a decrease in flight operations. Unfortunately, winter also brings a corresponding uptick in snowplow operations! This may also be the time of year airports are at the height of planning for construction projects. If you or one of your staff have direct involvement, it’s not uncommon to feel somewhat overwhelmed with all of the considerations that go into these types of projects. Of course, the primary considerations should be those that promote and maintain operational safety on and around the airport. It’s important we keep both construction personnel and the flying public safe during what could be considered a high-risk period of time.

On December 13, 2017, the FAA issued the latest release to Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5370-2G titled Operational Safety on Airports During Construction. This document addresses many of the safety considerations airport operators need to keep in mind both during the planning stages and during construction itself.

As a pilot who flies year-round for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), I find Minnesota offers its fair share of diverse weather conditions. We may experience structural icing one day while dodging thunderstorms the next. In flying to all of the airports within the state, we also sometimes have to manage the conduct of the flight around construction activities within the confines of the airport. Usually, airports apply the appropriate construction safety protocols, but sometimes we discover that certain considerations are being overlooked.

One example of this occurred on a recent flight to an intermediate airport. Weather conditions required use of the airport’s instrument landing system (ILS). “Great!” I thought; I always look forward to being able perform an approach in instrument meteorological conditions! After executing a successful approach and landing, I began my lookout for a taxiway construction project that was appropriately addressed by a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). In that instant, I saw something that gave me a pit in my stomach. Trucks with large steel side-dump trailers were driving on a construction access road that had been placed immediately in front of the localizer antenna. This was the same antenna responsible for broadcasting lateral guidance signals on the approach I had just used.

I consulted with the navigational aids office, which confirmed that the localizer does have a critical area that needs protection. Failure to do so may cause interference with the signal and jeopardize signal integrity. As a result, the ILS was subsequently shut down until the construction access road could be properly relocated outside the confines of the localizer’s critical area.

This is a great example of how having a well-thought-out plan is essential for maintaining a safe, navigable environment. AC 150/5370-2G has specific language for addressing the situation I experienced—found under paragraph 2.8 titled “Navigation Aid (NAVAID) Protection.”

If your airport has an upcoming construction project, it’s important that the airport operator develop a construction safety and phasing plan (CSPP). Details for doing so are described early in AC 150/5370-2G.

To obtain a copy of the advisory circular, visit www.faa.gov, and type “AC 150/5370-2G” in the search bar.

—Chris Meyer, Aviation Representative, MnDOT Office of Aeronautics

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