Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Communication – An Airport Safety Tool.

Airport traffic varies form a handful flights a day to supporting million of passengers per year. Some operators have to manage conglomerates of light, medium and heavy airplanes, in addition to ground vehicle and pedestrian traffic. At times the weather may cause additional safety considerations and risk management challenges. Airplanes are operating on a schedule and expected to be on time comes hell or high water. The airport operator needs to have processes in place to safely manage all possible combinations of events.
Communications tools have improved since the first flight of 1903. 
Communication is an effective tool in airport safety management. The airport operator may communicate worse case scenario from closing the airport, to normal operations without unexpected events.  There are several avenues of communication available, from printed NOTAM to direct communication to pilots. The method of communication is governed by the urgency of notification.

For airport operators to communicate, they must first collect data. It is not effective to communicate expired data.  Data collected must be up to date and as recent as possible and available to departing or arriving aircraft at a time when they are able to apply the information in their planning. 


Communication is a tool to manage safety and update airport information
Effective communication is not about the airport operator’s schedule or work environment, it is about safe aircraft operation and safety for the flying public.

Airport safety begins at the outer edge on approach. An airport operator has complete control of obstructions and activities on airport property, but they may not have any jurisdiction to control landuse outside airport property. It is possible that a tall structure, being tower or crane could be erected adjacent to an airport, and be in the way for an airplane on approach.

An airport operator must therefore have processes in place to collect data of obstructions in the vicinity of the airport and communicate obstructions as soon as possible to alert pilots. Should an airport operator have regulatory authority to restrict building heights outside airport property, the structure, being crane, building, tower or trees may be enforced to be removed.


Data collection and communication becomes a vital lifeline for safe operation of an airport. Data must be as current as possible and communicated by urgency. Data collection and communication processes are improving and becoming more effective with introduction of new technology. 

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