Collaborating with AVS to Avoid Runway Risks

Surface Incidents by Tech Ops (AJW) technicians required to drive on the Airport Operations Area (AOA) have been trending upward. Tech Ops incurred four surface incidents in the first half of FY16 versus 11 surface incidents in the first half of FY17, which represents a 175 percent increase over last year. As a result, Tech Ops reached out to Safety and Technical Training (AJI) to help. AJI, AJW, and the Aviation Safety line of business will collaborate to come up with a mitigation strategy.

“A recent example was a technician who didn’t have driver training to operate the government vehicle on the AOA,” said John Atchison, Deputy Director for Safety.

“The technician was at the airport to perform routine maintenance on equipment in the contract tower, and believed the tower was closed. He entered the airport via an access gate requiring travel through the movement area, and he crossed an active runway without clearnance. Avoiding safety risks like this is why personnel are required to have driver training. That’s what the training is all about.”

Entering the Airport Operating Area without proper authorization could lead to the risk of injury or death.

“This has been an ongoing problem,” John said. “It’s time to find out why this is happening--not to penalize anybody, but to determine if there’s a common thread introducing this risk. And if so, let’s address that risk. A kick-off meeting is scheduled for April 13. Tech Ops has already brainstormed some ideas and asked AJI to come up with signage and to host a KSN to capture data. We want to leverage the AVS experts, however, to make sure we take the right approach.”

Jim Fee, Manager of the Runway Safety Group, suggested looking deeper at the procedures and processes Tech Ops has for operating on the airport, what is being taught, in order to mitigate the risks.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is communications and the understanding of what the air traffic controller is saying versus the vehicle driver,” said Greg Pray, Manager of the Headquarters Safety Team. “In one situation there was an acknowledgement of ‘Roger.’ To the air traffic controller this means I hear you and understand you, but the vehicle driver took it to mean he was approved to proceed forward. We want to make sure our terminology is clearly understood by everyone.”

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