Designing Airport Safety FLT 241


A Commercial Airport, by definition, is a tract of land (or water) that provides facilities for landing, takeoff, shelter, supply, and repair of aircraft and has a passenger terminal. This lesson will provide an overview of the certification process, the certification manual, and safety issues concerning airports. 

Airport Certification 

The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was broadened in 1970 to authorize the FAA Administrator to issue operating certificated to certain categories of airports serving air carrier aircraft. To be certified by the FAA, airports are required to meet certain standards for airport design, construction, maintenance, and operations as well as firefighting and rescue equipment, runway and taxiway guidance signs, control of vehicles, management of wildlife hazards and record keeping.

In 2004, the FAA issued a final rule which made major revisions to its regulations pertaining to airport certification. These regulations, found at 14 CFR Part 139, established new certification requirements for airports serving scheduled air carrier operations in aircraft with more than nine passenger seats.

Airport Certification Classes

In the United States, there are approximately 551 Part 139 airports as of March 2013, broken down as follows: 

  • Class I- 395 Airports in the United States are classified as a Class I airports. This is an airport that is certificated to serve all of the following: scheduled operations of large air carrier aircraft, unscheduled passenger operations of large air carrier aircraft, and/or scheduled operations of small air carrier aircraft.
  • Class II- 29 Airports in the United States are classified as Class II airports. This is an airport that is certificated to serve both scheduled operations of small air carrier and unscheduled passenger operations of large carrier aircraft. A Class II airport cannot serve scheduled large air carrier aircraft.
  • Class III- 29 Airports in the United States are classified as Class III airports. This is an airport certificated to serve scheduled operations of small air carrier aircraft. A class III airport cannot serve scheduled large or small air carrier aircraft.
  • Class IV- 79 Airports in the United States are classified as Class IV airports. This is an airport certificated to serve unscheduled passenger operations of large air carrier aircraft. A Class IV airport cannot serve scheduled large or small air carrier aircraft.
  • Joint- Use Airport- Means an airport owned by the Department of Defense, at which both military and civilian aircraft make shared use of the airfield.

Airport Certification Manual 

Every certificated airport that serves air carriers is required to have an ACM in accordance with Part 139. The ACM is a working document that outlines the means and procedures used to comply with the requirements of Part 139. While each airport has its own unique features and operational requirements, its Airport Certification Manual will contain basic elements appropriate to its class, which include the following: 


Operational Safety

Airport safety issues include the following:

  • Airport Terminal Buildings
  • Hangars and Maintenance Shops
  • Ramp Operations
  • Specialized Airport Services: Aviation fuel handling, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) and Deicing and Anti- Icing.

Airport Terminal Buildings

These facilities are laid out to minimize passenger delays and maximize throughput of travelers from the airport terminal entry point to the aircraft.

  • Emergency evacuation and egress routes, signs, and other marking should conform to the Life Safety Code. Examples Include: Exits should be well lighted and marked, panic hardware should be installed and properly working on the inside of exterior doors used for emergency exits and Emergency evacuation plans should be posted in all buildings.
  • All areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • All slip and trip hazards must be eliminated, and fall prevention strategies should be implemented on stairways, escalators, and moving walkways.
  • Doors should open automatically to eliminated inconvenience to people with baggage and to the handicapped. Also, doors should open away from the person going through.
  • Moving walkways should have emergency stop buttons at both ends, and, wherever feasible, every 50 meters apart. Attention grabbing techniques should be installed to warn passengers that they are approaching the end of a moving walkway.

Ramp Operations

The ramp is generally designed for aircraft, not the vehicles that service and/or operate in the proximity of the aircraft. Some ramp activities include:

  • Aircraft ground handling that may include taxiing, towing, chocking, parking, or tie down.
  • Aircraft refueling.
  • Aircraft servicing-catering, cleaning, food service etc.
  • Baggage and cargo handling.
  • Conditioned air supply.
  • Power supply.
  • Routine checks and maintenance.

Individuals involved with the above activities are exposed to several occupational hazards:

  • Cuts
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Strains and sprains
  • Exposure o hazardous materials
  • Contact with moving parts and bumps.
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Biohazards
  • high pressure air and other fluid during cleaning
  • Noise from engines and other equipment.

Specialized Airport Services

Specialized airport services are compromised of the following:

Aviation Fuel Handling
Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF)
Deicing and Anti-Icing

Runway Incursions

Although now in modern aviation times there has been changes to airport certification standards, there is still one recurrent them that still exists Runway Incursions. 

Category of Runway Incursions 

Statistics of Runway Incursions 

According to the latest FAA National Runway Safety Plan (2009-2011), the rate of runway incursions has remained steady during the 4 year period ending in September 2008. During this period, there were nearly 250 million operations in the United States at FAA Towered Airports, resulting in 1,353 runway incursions. The majority (92 percent) were categories C and D events involving little or no risk of collision, but the remainder (8 percent) were categories A and B, serious events. 

Runway Safety Course 

How Do We Mitigate Runway Incursions?

The FAA's Office of Runway Safety has sponsored several initiatives to improve this critical safety area. In its document entitled National Runway Safety Plan 2009-2011, the FAA outlines several programs, which should further the progress of increasing runway safety over the next several years:

  • Safety Management Systems (SMS) Implementation
  • Training and Educational Outreach Programs
  • Technology Development to Control Runway Incursions- ASDE-X, Runway Status Lights, Final Approach Runway Occupancy Signal, Electronic Flight Bag and Low Cost Ground Surveillance.

Runway Excursions

Unlike the unintentional penetration of a runway's protected areas during ground operations, runway excursions are different phenomena altogether and have to do more with aircraft control during the takeoff and landing phases of flight. The FAA defines runway excursions as, " a veer off or overrun from the runway surface". Examples of factors associated with runway excursions include the following:

  • Aircraft that reject their takeoff at speeds above their computed maximum for such operations, perhaps due to a detected malfunction, and which are unable to stop in the available runway.
  • Aircraft that reject their takeoff at speeds below their computed maximum such an operation, but which mistakenly do so for reasons associated with malfunctions to their systems that affect their braking ability, such as hydraulic or anti-skid annunciations.
  • Unstable approaches that result in delayed or excessively fast touchdowns and from which aircraft are unable to stop on the remaining runway.
  • Landing at wrong airports, wrong runways, or even mistakenly landing on taxiways believing that it is a runway, in which insufficient length exists on the surface to allow aircraft deceleration prior to stopping.
  • Losing directional control of an aircraft during takeoff or landing, possibly due to runway contamination, such as ice, hydroplanning, or asymmetric thrust condition, such as what is associated with the failure of an engine.

Case Study PSA Flight 2495

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