Tag Archives: Airport Operations

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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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.

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.”

Making Chicago Exec Better, Safer, More Efficient is Goal of New Airport Operations Coordinator

Andrew WolanikChicago Executive Airport’s new airport operations coordinator, Andrew Wolanik, who started work just before the year 2016 began, describes his responsibilities and his goals in simple terms. “Basically, I’m responsible for everything inside the airport fence and with the airport operations maintenance crew our goal is to make Chicago Exec a better, safer, more efficient environment for resident and visiting aviators and businesses.”

This ranges from seemingly mundane tasks like cutting the grass and coordinating the snow removal teams to other equally important tasks, like the daily inspection of all airport pavement for FOD, and removal of these items that can cause expensive Foreign Object Damage when an aircraft runs into or over it, or sucks it into an engine. Worldwide, FOD costs aviation about $13 billion a year, and the administration team does not want operations at PWK to add a penny to that total and, more importantly, doesn’t want anyone to get hurt.

“Runway 16 is 150 feet wide, and it is hard to see all of it, and to make sure the lights that line it, are in optimum operating order on a single pass,” Wolanik explained. So he updated the inspection routes defined by a standard operating procedure to increase the number of passes to give the pavement and lights a more thorough visual inspection, and the airport recently acquired a drag-behind 72-inch FOD magnet that collects the ferrous FOD that’s hard to see.

Coordinating snow removal operations is even more involved. Beyond scheduling the six full-time maintenance crew to shifts that ensure a continuous effort during the storm, Wolanik must employ the right equipment, the plows, rotating brooms, and snow blowers, in the proper sequence that is predicated on the type of snow. There’s a big difference between 2 inches of dry, light snow and 6 inches or more of the heavy wet stuff. And then there is ice. Dealing with it requires almost constant measurement of air and pavement temperatures, which play a critical part in the effectiveness of the anti-icing fluid sprayed on the pavement.

Discussing ways to improve the airport’s operating procedures—and address new challenges—is a collaborative effort most easily seen at the team’s regular safety meetings. The team, which this summer includes four interns, is more like a family, said Wolanik, and this in one of the leading reasons he applied for the position.

Wolanik, who graduated from Lewis University n 2010 with a degree in aviation administration, became a member of this family during his summer internships in 2009 and 2010. “Those were memorable summers,” said the Lake in the Hills native. “I had a lot of fun learning from people who became friends (some of whom attended my wedding), and I always wanted to come back here.”

Between graduation and joining the Chicago Exec family full time, Wolanik worked as a senior logistics coordinator at Priester Aviation, he said. This experience not only added an aviation dispatcher rating to his FAA certificate as an instrument-rated private pilot and advanced ground instructor, it gave him valuable insights on how general aviation operations work affects the operations of PWK’s aviation businesses. It is an important component of his holistic approach to making Chicago Exec a better, safer, more efficient place to fly.

Assistant Airport Operations Coordinator Builds Career on Chicago Exec Internship

PWK-17A full-time position as the assistant airport operations coordinator was the last thing Bryce Walter expected when he secured an internship at Chicago Executive Airport. Receiving the offer in mid-December 2015 for the internship that started with the New Year, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, native’s immediate concern was finding a place to live. “All my friends told me I needed to get a place in the city, because there are a lot of fun things to do there,” he said, and they were right. Now building a career and future at Chicago Exec, he’s looking for a place closer to the airport.

Completing his degree in aviation management operations at Western Michigan University in August, Walter briefly considered a flight degree, and earned his private pilot certificate in the process, but quite a bit of job shadowing at the Grand Rapids airport revealed greater opportunity and a more diverse series of challenges. “But the initial hurdle is that nobody wants to hire someone in operations who doesn’t have experience, so I knew I needed an internship to get some. I started looking and found that not a lot of airports want to help people get started with internships.”

In the end, he found three, and his final choices were Aspen, Colorado, and Chicago Exec. “I’ve been to the Chicago area quite a bit, and it was more appealing than Aspen,” said Walter. And it’s closer to home, where he and a partner run a wedding DJ business. “During the 2016 season I’m only doing one wedding a month,” he explained, adding that his business partner is “really slammed.”

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Runway 34 EMAS Enhances Safety at Chicago Executive Airport

Chicago Executive Airport’s main runway, 16/34, is 150 feet wide and 5,001 feet long. Constrained by Hintz Road to the north and West Palatine Road to the south, it will not grow any longer. But it will soon be safer, when the installation of the engineered material arresting system (EMAS) is completed at the departure end of Runway 34. If you’ve driven Hintz Road lately, you’ve seen the work on the other side of the airport fence.

Runway 16/34 safely serves the aircraft that call Chicago Exec home, but when the weather is bad, or there’s a rare problem with an airplane, safety is enhanced by an overrun area at each end of the runway. The FAA calls them a runway safety area, and it recommends 1,000 feet. In cases where that isn’t possible because the necessary real estate isn’t available, the FAA offers federal Airport Improvement Program grants to fund the installation of EMAS, which quickly and safely stops an airplane in much shorter distances with little or no damage to the airframe.

To date, EMAS is installed at more than 100 runways at 60 airports worldwide. Chicago Exec is one of the rare general aviation airports that not only have EMAS—the system is generally found at airports that serve commercial operations—it will have EMAS at both ends of its main runway. The airport completed the EMAS at the departure end of Runway 16 around this time last year, said Jamie Abbott, airport director. And before this year ends, the bookend system will be complete on the departure end of Runway 34.

As of this week, the contractor has finished the 170-foot wide, 231-foot long foundation that will connect the EMAS blocks to the runway’s threshold. The EMAS at the other end of the runway is of equal width, but it is 243 feet long. In the coming weeks, workers will begin placing the EMAS blocks. From Hintz Road they may look like large, heavy concrete cubes, but the arresting secret of their contribution to safety is hidden within. Continue reading

CABAA ATC Committee Works with FAA for Efficient Chicagoland Airspace

CaptureIn the National Airspace System, no airport is an individual island. Large or small, no matter where it’s located, its operations affect, to some degree, the rest of the system because it is a living organism in a state of constant movement. Naturally, these affects are more pronounced at the hub airports, like O’Hare International, that anchor the Class B airspace to the cities they serve.

Given their volume of traffic, the approach and departure paths first serve the needs of these hub airports, but in Chicago, for more than a decade the ATC Committee of the Chicago-area Business Aviation Association (CABAA) has worked with the FAA to more efficiently meet the needs of Chicago Executive and the other airports that surround O’Hare, including DuPage, Waukegan National, Lewis University, and Aurora.

CABAA formed the committee about the same time that the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) was announced in 2001. With its transition to an east-west flow, changes to the Class B would come over time with these changes. The ATC Committee was formed to work with the FAA to develop efficient procedures for business aviation aircraft operations at the satellite airports, said Mark Zakula, the committee’s current chairman.

After months of study of the Center and TRACON procedures, the committee offered suggestions that improved business aircraft operations at Chicago Exec and the other satellite airports without adversely affecting the airplanes bound for O’Hare. Some of the solutions the committee offered worked, and some didn’t, but the FAA quickly understood and appreciated the work the committee invested in working toward a fair airspace solution.

When discussing an approach procedure for Chicago Exec, the committee suggested that rather than flying up the lake at 3,000 feet, that it might be better for all involved to fly over the Class B and then turn back. The business jets would be flying farther, but they’d be high and fast, which saves time and fuel and optimizes the need of both airports.

When the ATC committee started work, Chicago was the only Class B airspace without standard instrument departure and arrival routes for its satellite airports, said Zakula. “Now, for the first time ever we have southbound standard instrument departure procedures for all the satellites airports.” Other arrival and departure procedures to these airports are now being developed as work progresses on the final phase of the OMP.