FAA Publishes Practical Guidance for TALPA Winter Safety Ops

imageResponding to questions about what all the changes to the braking reporting system means to pilots and airport operators, the FAA published Draft Change 1 to AC 150/5200-30D, Airport Field Condition Assessments and Winter Operations Safety. The updated AC guides airport operators, although much of the information will also interest pilots because their safety depends on their knowledge and understanding the new Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) programs. The industry has only until this Friday, January 13 to comment on the changes however, so read on.

The Seven Principal Changes

1. Airports will not report a Wet runway when a Slippery When Wet NOTAM is in effect

As part of pavement maintenance, airports conduct a friction survey to make sure it meets minimum prescribed values for skid resistance. If the pavement meets or exceeds this minimum value, when its Wet, according to the Runway Condition Assessment Matrix, it gets a Runway Condition Code (RwyCC) of 5, which stands for Good braking action. (The Runway Condition Codes replaces Mu values and indicate braking action, which is based on the Runway Condition Matrix that is based on the type and depth of precipitation.)

If the pavement does not meet the minimum friction requirements, the entire runway is Slippery When Wet, and it starts with a Runway Condition Code of (RwyCC) of 3, which means the braking action is Medium. As Mother Nature makes additional wintery deposits on a Slippery When Wet runway, the airport must downgrade the entire runway with a RwyCC of a lower value, 2  or 1 (braking action is medium-to-poor or poor respectively).

2. Emphasizing the unacceptable aspects of reporting friction (Mu) values to pilots

Airports still use Mu friction values for some things, such as friction surveys after pavement maintenance and determining the effectiveness of “friction-enhancing treatments” (such as putting urea on ice or brooming the snow off a grooved runway), but the FAA says reporting Mu number to pilots “is no longer acceptable” because there has been “no consistent, useable correlation between Mu values” and braking action.

3. Describing when a Wet condition report is associated with other winter contaminants

Airports will report  the runway as “Wet” when water 1/8-inch (3 mm) or less “is the only condition present on the runway.” The same applies to taxiways, aprons, and holding bays. Airports will also report the surface as ‘Wet’ conditions when other winter contaminants, or chemicals applied, appear in any particular third of the runway.

4. Explaining how airports generates their runway surface condition reports

A single runway surface condition report, generated for each active runway, allows pilots to identify Mother Nature’s winter “contaminants” on each third of the runway and understand how each will most affect aircraft performance. The new AC says, “Reporting from both ends of the same runway may cause confusion to pilots by advertising two sets of Runway Condition Codes for the same surface. This redundancy also unnecessarily clutters the NOTAM system which also adversely affect pilots.”

image5. Details on special mitigation options

Airports must update runway condition reports any time there is a change in the runway surface, this includes the airport’s efforts to improve the runway conditions, which could lead to a higher RwyCC. The takeaway for pilots is that they should monitor an airport’s Field Condition (FICON) NOTAMs for updates and changes for the best information.

6. Clarifying Use of Conditions Not Monitored NOTAMs

When a small airport’s staff, weary of fighting Mother Nature, needs some sleep, they’ll issue a “Conditions Not Monitored” NOTAM, which includes the last field condition reported before going to bed. In this situation, airports should not use an Airport Unattended NOTAM as a substitute because it conveys inaccurate news about whether or not the airport staff, ATC, FBOs, and other airport services are available. When seeing “Airport Unattended” while planning a winter flight, prudence suggests a confirmation phone call to the destination’s FBO or airport operator.

7. Time is the difference between “Conditions Not Monitored” and “Surface Conditions Not Reported” NOTAMs

When the staff at a small airport is unable to report changes in the field conditions because they are getting some much needed sleep, they should issue a “Conditions Not Monitored” NOTAM with the expectation that after a short nap, they will return to work and resume reporting the airport field conditions. If, for some reason, the airport staff is unable to report airport conditions for 24 hours of more, the airport should issue a “Surface (SFC) Conditions Not Monitored” NOTAM that covers the entirety of their absence.

A caveat for pilots: If an airport has published in its Airport Master Record a set schedule when it will not monitor conditions, like weekends or National Holidays, it does not have to issue a “SFC Conditions Not Monitored” NOTAM. In other words, to avoid being caught unaware in winter, when flight planning to smaller airports, always check the destination’s Airport Master Record for the pertinent schedule.

Some Christmas Advice to New Drone Operators

A Little Advice to New Drone Operators

Dear Drone Owner:

Welcome to the aviation industry. You’re not alone. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (IG) believes that when 2016 comes to an end in a few weeks, between 2 and 2.5 million new drones will have been sold in the United States. Adding in the million or so already flying, the result could well make for some pretty crowded airspace.

One area where we really don’t need any drones though, thank you very much, is in the airspace around airports like Chicago Executive, home to dozens of large business airplanes, as well as a variety of smaller personal aircraft. But that also means you need to avoid O’Hare and DuPage and Waukegan and even Schaumburg Airports. A collision between even a small drone and an airplane could lead to a disaster. We’re honestly not trying to scare folks, but we need to be realistic if we’re all going to start mixing up in the same airspace.

uasThe DOT worries about the same thing, because as the number of active drones increases, so too have the number of incidents involving these new aircraft appearing where they either aren’t expected or aren’t allowed. The DOT said earlier this month for instance, that in the past year, slightly more than two thirds of the of the reports of drones posing a potential risk to indicated they were flying above the 400-foot ceiling allowed by Part 107. Fully 29 percent were in-fact observed flying at altitudes above 3,000 feet AGL.

That’s not good for anyone, airports, aircraft pilots and passengers or drone operators. While we’re all having fun enjoying this new category of flying machine and will continue to do so in ways that probably haven’t even been thought of just yet, we thought it might be just the right time of the year to remind drone operators of a few safety issues to keep in mind once they take delivery of that new DJI Phantom or a UDI.

Building a Drone Community

First understand that everyone in the FAA, the aviation industry, as well as the drone manufacturing, training and operators groups want to see drones become a huge success now and in the future. There are simply too many important jobs ahead that are just right for drones because they can be operated more safely than an airplane or a helicopter, like when they’re inspecting pipelines or windmills. Drones can be programmed to depart base for an inspection routine in weather no pilot would fly in. The drone doesn’t think twice. Once the operator hits the engage button, the drone departs and returns only when the mission’s accomplished.

All we folks on the ground at airports and many of the surrounding communities care about is that the operator has given some thought to how the drone will make the trip back and forth from home. We hope you’ll remember than flying anywhere close to an airport – any airport – is a really bad idea. The closer a drone passes to an operating airport in fact, the greater the risk since aircraft are closer to the ground as they arrive and depart.

While the government is still wrestling with privacy issues, we hope you, the newest members of the drone community, something that also makes you a charter member of the aviation industry, will also think about the rules that ask you not to fly over groups of people, even if it looks cool. A half dozen people were arrested and lost their drones last month when they flew them over the millions of folks gathered in Chicago for the Cubs Worlds Series Party. Many of those operators never gave safety of flight much thought at all, probably only the incredible footage they’ve grab during the flight.

But drone operators must consider safety each and every time they fly … their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them, whether those other people are across the street or across town. Some reasons for considering the safety of others are obvious, but there’s another that few new drone owners will be thinking about.

All the industry needs is one significant accident somewhere along the way, just one, in which some thoughtless person decides to try something they shouldn’t, like flying to close to a group of people at a concert or too near an airplane heading in for a landing. One accident could ruin this budding industry, not just for some apathetic pilot, but for everyone else as well.

With that in mind, here are few items to consider should you find a drone under the tree this year, or if you’ve already brought one home. For information too, a drone is also known by a variety of names depending upon who the audience is, so get used to seeing the UAS, UAV and RPV acronyms. They all mean drone.

  1. Spend a few minutes and read “Getting Started,” on the FAA website.
  1. Check out this summary of Part 107, the FAA rule that explains drone operations.
  1. If your aircraft weights more than roughly eight ounces, you must register it with the FAA. That’s easy enough to do right here.
  1. You must be at least 16 years of age in order to register and fly a drone.
  1. Be aware that if you intend to use your drone commercially, you’ll need to earn the FAA’s new small-unmanned aircraft system certificate. Here’s what you’ll need to know.uas-certificate
  1. Never fly your drone near an airport, or over crowds of people you don’t know.
  2. Never fly your drone higher than 400 feet above the ground and remember you must always keep your drone in sight at all times.
  1. Finally, don’t forget to stop by our drone resource page from time to time for updates to drone operations. You can always subscribe too and we’ll send you info as it becomes current.

As we say in the flying business, fly safe always … and don’t forget to have fun.

 

Snow & Ice Control Meeting Signals Winter’s Approach to Chicago Executive Airport

BlowerThe FAA’s new runway Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) was the major change discussed at the recent Snow and Ice Committee meeting the tenants and users of Chicago Executive Airport, said Andrew Wolanik, PWK’s operations coordinator. Not only does it change how the airport operations crew determines the runway conditions, it changes how those conditions are reported to the airport’s users.

The federal NOTAM (Notices to Airmen) system will now be the primary method of disseminating runway conditions to all users at every airport including air traffic control. To test the system’s latency, the time it takes the surface condition NOTAM to reach the control tower from the the operations keyboard, Wolanik conducted several tests. The results were the same: the tower’s fax machine spit out the test NOTAM 90 seconds after he punched the submit key. Per a freshly revised Letter of Agreement between the air traffic control tower and airport management, airport operations must either radio or call the surface condition NOTAM directly to the control tower as well.

How runway conditions are assessed and communicated aren’t the only changes in the airport’s snow and ice control plan. In revising the plan for the 2016-17 season, the staff used Part 139 requirements as a guide, said Wolanik. “We are not an airport that serves commercial airlines, but we strive to meet and exceed the level of safety, and working to Part 139 snow and ice control requirements further improves Chicago Exec’s general operating standards and safety.”

Those standards include staff review of all applicable standards right down to the height of snow banks. If they are too high, not only can they damage aircraft they can block signs, lights, and markings and impede the accuracy of essential navigational aids. Training is another requirement, and the entire operations crew is cross-trained on every piece equipment. And that fleet of plows, brooms, and blowers will grow by one with the arrival a new Oshkosh H-series rotary broom, which will be designated Airport 20, in February 2017.

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NPIAS Report to Congress Lists Five-Year Airport Improvement Program Eligibility

ILThe FAA recently sent Congress its National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) for Fiscal Years 2017 to 2021. Since 1984, the report has identified the airports that make up the national airport system, they role the play in it, and the types of airport development they are eligible for and the amount of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to help pay for it over the next five years.

Chicago Executive Airport (PWK) is one of 3,340 public-use airports (3,332 existing and eight proposed) “that are important to national air transportation. This year the FAA estimated that these airports will need approximately $32.5 billion in AIP-eligible projects between 2017 and 2021. All commercial airports are included in the report, as are a smaller number of general aviation airports that make specific contributions to the NPIAS.

Digging deeper into the report, the FAA lists Chicago Exec as a National Reliever, and it is eligible for $83,851,701 in AIP funds. That’s not a guarantee, just the estimated maximum amount of AIP funding the airport is eligible to apply for. The report does not list specific projects. That involved process, which involves the airport, local and state authorities, as well as the FAA are the next steps.

As the report explained, airport improvements grow out of current and forecasted traffic at each airport, the use and age of their facilities, and changing technology that requires airports to upgrade or replace the equipment and infrastructure that supports them. The FAA works with state aviation agencies and local planning organizations to identify public-use airports for inclusion in the NPIAS.

imageThe FAA said AIP projects are expected to decrease at large and medium-sized hub airports and increase at small hubs. “Development at all other airport categories remain flat.” Contributing to this is the conclusion of the FAA’s decade-long airport capacity effort and runway safety area (RSA) initiative. This included Chicago Exec’s EMAS, which recently demonstrated its contribution to safety and is pictured in the report.

In the NPIAS hierarchy, there are 395 primary airports (think O’Hare and Midway) that handle the majority of the nation’s commercial (airline) traffic. Logically, the remaining 2,937 NPIAS airports are nonprimary.

On this list, Chicago Exec’s listing assigns it a National role, meaning it “supports the national airport system by providing communities access to national and international markets in multiple states and throughout the United States. National airports have very high levels of aviation activity with many jets and multiengine propeller aircraft.”

And it is categorized as one of the nation’s 259 Reliever airports, defined as “An airport designated by the Secretary of Transportation to relieve congestion at a commercial service airport and to provide more general aviation access to the community.” And doesn’t that succinctly summarize Chicago Exec’s contribution to the communities that surround it as well at the nation in which it plays a significant role?

To Keep Your Proper Distance, Use the Correct CNS Capability Code on Every Flight Plan

Few pilots flying today would turn their backs on the aviation advances made possible by digital communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) avionics. Newer aviators grew up in the GPS generation, so really know nothing else. And for the VOR generation of pilots, maybe it has been so long that they take technology’s benefits for granted. But in either case, all the wonderful stuff modern CNS equipment does to make an aviator’s life easier comes with responsibilities. First among them is using the correct CNS capability code on every flight plan, so ATC can employ the proper separation standards and keep everyone safe.

Some may say that they always provide the proper CNS code, and this may well be the case with you. But it is not universal, which is why the FAA issued Information for Operators (InFO) 16015. “The Federal Aviation Administration continues to experience operators/pilots filing the incorrect CNS codes due to aircraft system deferrals, aircraft not properly equipped or approved, or pilots not qualified for CNS capability on the FPL [Flight Plan Filing]. Given the congested Chicagoland airspace, making sure your aircraft is properly equipped and approved, and that you are properly trained and qualified on that equipment, and that you use appropriate CNS code on every flight plan makes life easier, more efficient—and safer—for all who share the sky.

All of this became especially important in November 2012 when the FAA harmonized its flight plan with the International Civil Aviation Organization flight plan box 10, Equipment  & Capabilities,  and box 18, Other Information such as RNAV and Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) capabilities. To make sure you are employing the right CNS codes you can start with the handy FAA ICAO FPL Quick Guide. To get deeper into the topic, see FAA Operations Specifications/LOA [Letter of Authorization]/Approvals Required to File Various Capabilities. It is an overview and portal with links to the related regs and requirements.

Mr. Abbott Goes to Tokyo

Mr. Abbott Goes to Tokyo

jamie-tokyo

Jamie Abbott speaks to EMAS seminar audience in Tokyo last month

Late in September, Chicago Executive Airport Executive Director, Jamie Abbott, was invited to speak about EMAS, the engineered material arresting system installed on both ends of the airport longest runway 16/34. EMAS is designed to snag an airplane that normally might have run off the end of the runway, possibly spilling on to nearby highways. The airport’s EMAS was just installed last fall.

The seminar was organized to share information between an airport operator like PWK and a potential Zodiac Aerospace customer. Zodiac, the original designer of the EMAS, covered all travel expenses for Mr. Abbott’s trip. While this kind of invite normally wouldn’t raise anyone’s interest, this one did, because Zodiac’s customer was in Tokyo. In fact, the customer team was actually comprised of the Japan Civil Aeronautics Bureau, the Regional Civil Aeronautics Bureau, Narita International Airport and Japan Ministry of Defense. In all, about 50 people were in attendance. The team from Japan was trying to decide whether or not to install EMAS at Tokyo’s Narita International airport.

EMAS Falcon

Falcon 20 resting in the EMAS bed at the south end of the airport last January

EMAS is constructed of light concrete bricks that crumble beneath the weight of an aircraft, quickly slowing the machine to a halt, usually with minimal damage to the airplane. EMAS bricks safely stopped a Boeing 747 and an MD-11 aircraft when they overran runways at New York’s JFK airport some years ago. With the paint on Executive airport’s new EMAS barely dry last January, the system was put to the test about 4 a.m. when a Falcon 20 cargo jet struck the barrier at the south end of the airport after it was unable to stop while attempting to land on runway 16. The aircraft was barely scratched and there were no injuries to either of the two pilots.

With the training for airport and local firefighting crews still fresh, emergency crews responded quickly with each element of the incident response working just as expected. The aircraft was pulled out of the barrier later that day to be made ready to fly again.

The EMAS system, while still serviceable, did require repairs in order to bring it back to 100 percent strength. That meant ordering replacement blocks and scheduling crews to handle the repairs. Of course Executive airport had no experience with the process of repairing the EMAS, which meant quite a bit of interaction with insurance companies, the FAA and EMAS creator Zodiac Aerospace. These interactions were precisely what the people in Japan wanted to hear more about.

Mr. Abbott said the FAA spoke first about why U.S. airports have runway safety areas (RSA) and how valuable a product like EMAS can be to airports that don’t have the real estate for a standard RSA, like Executive. “Then they turned it over to me to explain how and why we chose the product,” Abbott explained.

“I also spoke about how we paid for the EMAS and details about the construction process, as well as how to inspect the system and maintain it.” In all, about 50 people attended the Tokyo event that was presented to the audience mainly through a Japanese translator.

md-11-at-jfk

MD-11 rests in JFK EMAS bed

When asked why it was important enough to bring our Executive Director to Japan, Abbott said, “I think because our use of the EMAS barrier by that Falcon was such a textbook case. Everything worked just the way it was intended.” Abbott said there seemed to be tremendous benefits for the Japanese in the airport operator-to-airport operator kind of format used during the event.

New Runway Takeoff & Landing Performance Assessment Starts October 1

matrixWhen the weather is not sunny, dry, and clear, pilots preparing to takeoff or land need to know what condition the runway is in. To improve these reports, the FAA and aviation community have developed new standards to improve safety during inclement weather. Airports will begin using the new Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) standards on October 1, 2016.

The new standards communicate runway conditions in terms directly related to their affect on aircraft performance. Airport operators will employ the Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM) to report runway conditions. The matrix is a standardized format that is based on aircraft performance data supplied by the airframe manufacturers for the type and depth of each runway contaminant.

The new standards replace subjective judgments of runway conditions that are now reported with a Mu number that describes a coefficient of braking friction. Using the FAA example of this system, a runway covered with 2 inches of dry snow would be reported as: “FICON 2IN DRY SN OBSERVED AT 1601010139. 1601010151-1601020145” along with Mu values as “TAP MU 29/27/29 OBSERVED AT 1601010139. 1601010151-1601020145.

Starting October 1, these conditions would be reported this way: DEN RWY 17R FICON (5/5/3) 25 PRCT 1/8 IN DRY SN, 25 PRCT 1/8 IN DRY SN, 50 PRCT 2 IN DRY SN OBSERVED AT 1601010139. 1601010151-1601020145. With this information, pilots would then consult the aircraft flight manual to determine what performance they can expect from their airplane. Note that the numerical Runway Condition Codes, based on the RCAM, subdivide the runway into three segments when the contaminants vary.

Airport operators will assess the runway surfaces, report the contaminants, and use the RCAM to determine the Runway Condition Code. The same code can cover the entire runway when there is no variation in the contaminant. These codes will replace Mu numbers, which the NOTAM system will no longer use.

This does not mean pilots should stop reporting braking action. They will still be used and shared. However, the terminology used in these reports will change on October 1. “Medium” will replace the “Fair” braking action assessment. And airports will no longer be able to report a “NIL” braking action condition. Under the new system, NIL conditions require airports to close that surface until they are satisfied that the NIL braking conditions no longer exist.

Chicago Exec urges aircraft operators to review the appropriate performance sections of the aircraft flight manuals for their airplanes and develop procedures that will enable them to take full advantage of the new runway condition reports. For more information, see Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 16009.

Runway Construction Season Ends

It’s Been a Long, Hot Construction Summer

hogan-1

The principal construction for the Runway 16/34 Rehabilitation Project has been completed and all runways and taxiways are open again.

While the trucks have all pretty much disappeared, there are still a few items not quite back to normal that everyone needs to know about.

Outstanding

The FAA requires a flight check before they’ll allow the runway 16 ILS to be recommssioned. The tentative date is early October, but we’ll post a precise date for your planning purposes as soon as we can.  The Land and Hold Short Lights on runway 16 will remain out of service briefly until they are recalibrated. All PAPIs are back in operation as well.

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division is also trying to schedule their post-construction inspection of the new runway. We don’t anticipate any issues, but there is always the chance the the IDOT folks might see something that requires a bit of corrective action. 

The Facts, Just the Facts

Because he amount of materials needed for a project of this size is always greater than anyone imagines, we wanted to share with you a few runway construction facts.

Seven different contractors teamed up to create the new runway surface. The initial work began when 20,000 tons asphalt milled and hauled off. The new surface added back some 21,500 tons of new asphalt. They used 150,000 sq. ft. of temporary marking paint, but only 130,000 sq. ft. of permanent paint. 

Construction efforts created 75,500 sq. yds. of new grooving and added 50 new runway lights. The lights demanded the installation of 20,000 sq. ft. of new cable. Finally, crews graded down three acres of shoulder area.

The Low Down on Drones That Every Operator Needs to Know

Phantom 3Part 107 Drone Rule is Here

In case you missed the news, the FAA last week made Part 107, governing the commercial use of drones, the law of the land. Part 107, containing the operational and safety rules for drones, is expected to make it easier to organize and certify the pilots who operate them. From this point forward, commercial drone operators must possess a special-issue remote pilot operator certificate to fly an unmanned aerial system (UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds. UAS is the FAA’s term, for what the rest of us have been calling drones.

Hobbyist operators – people who will not be paid for flying – are not required to be licensed, although they are still expected to understand the operational guidelines that apply to that segment, such as a prohibition against any flights within 5 miles of an airport, no flights above 400 feet AGL and no flying over crowds of people such as at public events. The agency organized hobbyist guidelines for distribution here, Fly for Fun.

For commercial operators, Part 107 eliminates the need to file a time-consuming waiver application before each and every flight operation. One major exception to that rule is also flight within 5 miles of an airport. Even for commercially licensed drone pilots, this kind of flying is prohibited, until the operator receives a waiver from the FAA specifically approving the work.

Becoming a Remote Pilot Operator

There are two paths to licensing, one if the operator has never held a pilot certificate and another for airmen that already possess an active pilot certificate. Newcomers, who are at least 16 years of age, should expect some studying in order to pass an FAA Knowledge Exam administered at a local testing center at a cost of about $150. Following that test, a TSA background check is required before the certificate’s issued.

Current pilots proceed along a different path, being required to complete the FAA’s Part 107 UAS online training course and an identity check before they’ll see a temporary airmen certificate. Licensed pilots may be a bit surprised to learn their new certificate will not be tacked on their current one and will also carry a new number specific to the “Remote Pilot” certificate.

A Little Help From Your Friends

Despite the issuance of Part 107, many drone operators and potential operators are bound to have questions about what they can and should do to operate within federal guidelines and remain safely separated from manned aircraft.IMG_1189 2

On September 12, Chicago Executive airport is pleased to help in that quest for knowledge by working with Vortex UAS and Atlantic Aviation to present an hour-long session on the basics of operating a drone both commercially and as a hobbyist.

The session begins at 7 PM at Atlantic Aviation’s hangar, 1011 S. Wolf Rd and is offered free of charge to anyone interested in drones. In order to be sure there’s room for everyone, pre-registration is required.

More information on the Sept. 12 event is available via e-mail at rmark@chiexec.com or by calling the airport’s communications coordinator, Rob Mark at 847-537-2580, ext. 117.

 

Airport Interns at Chicago Exec Get First-Hand Air Operations Area Experience

PWK-28Mowing grass and whipping weeds may seem a mundane, menial summer job, but that’s not true at Chicago Executive Airport. As the four airport interns are learning this summer, these tasks are an excellent first-hand lesson in life in an airport operation area. Often referred to as the AOA, it is defined as any area of an airport used or intended to be used for takeoff, landing, or surface maneuvering of aircraft. This includes paved and unpaved areas, including runways, taxiways, taxi lanes, ramps, and aprons.

In other words, the AOA is everything inside the airport fence, and nothing moves within it without the FAA control tower knowing about it. Anything that moves on the airport, airplanes, helicopters, trucks, lawn mowers, or interns with a weed whip, must be cleared for the movement by the tower so there is not an unfortunate, unintended meeting of any two of them, explained James Kelly (below), a Tinley Park-native who will start his senior year at Lewis University, where he’ll earn a degree in aviation administration, with a minor in flight dispatch.

The students started their internships with a class that certified them to drive on the AOA. Working with an airport diagram they learned where they could and could not drive, how to identify their location on the airport and read the signs and pavement markings that identified them, and how to communicate with the tower’s ground controller.

“We got a tour of the tower,” said Conner Wagner, (on right, with Will Thompson and “their” truck, Airport 8) who hails from Jackson, Michigan, and graduates in 2017 with a degree in aviation management operations with a minor in business from Western Michigan University. “It was interesting to see how the controllers coordinate all the activity on the ground and in the air, all the vehicles and planes in the airport operating area.” A classmate, Brendan Stauton, is also interning at PWK this summer. Working toward a professional pilot degree, he’d returned to campus to take the FAA checkride for his instrument rating, which he passed, said Wagner.

PWK-34In accordance with the airport’s wildlife management plan, the interns mowing efforts are coordinated so that the grass stays between 5 and 8 inches in height. Any shorter and insects would be readily visible, attracting their predators, and any longer would provide too much cover for mammalian prey from their predators. And while they are mowing or whipping weeds, the interns are looking for animals, inspecting the fence line for places where animals have dug under the fence, and keeping an eye out for burned out airport lights.

After reporting a burned out light, the interns learned how to replace them under the watchful eye of a member of the airport maintenance crew. Airport Operations Coordinator Andrew Wolanik and Assistant Airport Operations Coordinator Bryce Walter are the interns’ primary supervisors. Mowing and whipping occupy roughly half their time. They have undertaken any number of different airport projects. In the week before Independence Day, they were building 180 sets of wheel chocks from scratch. They will secure the airplanes moved from their usual homes in Areas 2 and 3, so the airport would have someplace to park cars for Chicago Exec’s July 4 weekend activities.

Three of Chicago Execs four summer interns learned about the opportunity through the aviation degree programs in which they are enrolled, and their summer efforts are bookended by the end of the last school year and the start of the next. Will Thompson of Winnetka, a political science major who just finished his freshman year at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, learned about the program from PWK Civil Air Patrol unit he joined in 2014. His internship is shorter than the others. With his sights set on being an aviators, “I’m in U.S. Marine ROTC, and I have some training to do before school starts.”