For the tenth year in a row the Springfield airport has received a discrepancy free safety inspection from the Federal Aviation Administration. On Monday the FAA recognized the airport by awarding it the “Airport Safety Enhancement Award.”
The award goes to airports which receive discrepancy free safety inspections three years in a row. Getting one discrepancy free inspection is a great accomplishment for any airport. Doing it ten years in a row is a rare achievement.
"Every airport employee is, in some way, responsible for the safety of our customers," says Shawn Schroeder, airport director of operations. "Having their hard work validated by the FAA is much deserved."
The annual FAA safety inspection is a demanding review of everything at the airport that affects aircraft safety.
FAA inspectors review a long list. It includes runway pavement condition, airfield marking and lighting, the readiness of the airport fire department, snow and ice removal, fencing, the height of grass, and wildlife control.
Wildlife was a hot topic with the public five years ago after a flock of Canada geese brought down a US Airways flight after take-off from New York City (the plane landed in the Hudson River with no loss of life). But airports have talked about wildlife for years — as in, "how do we control it?"
The airport must show FAA inspectors that it knows what wildlife is on the airport, and that it has a plan to deal with it.
“Runway inspections are one way we track wildlife,” says Troy Morehouse, airfield maintenance worker. "You look for any remains of an animal hit by an aircraft. We collect it and record where it was found on the runway.” Even small birds get attention. “Smaller birds can be very dense. So when a plane hits them it’s almost the equivalent of getting hit by a baseball.”
Dealing with wildlife is just part of the airport's role in keeping planes safe.
When an aircraft is on the ground it depends on airport lights, signs and paint to figure out where to go in a safe manner. The Springfield airport has about 1400 lights along the edges of the runways and taxiways. Add to that several hundred signs, along with miles and miles of painted lines. If you could put all the paint in a six inch line it would be 40 miles long. And all of it — lights, signs, paint — has to be nearly perfect.
After so many years of acing the inspection is there any way to make things even better? Morehouse says there is:
"We all try to better ourselves every day and improve on what we've done. That may sound kind of crazy — we've done so well the past 10 years — I mean what is there left to improve on? There's always something to improve on."