By Scott Bolthouse
Authorities with the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a civil fine last week against Detroit Metro Airport for its failure to adequately control snow and ice fall at the airport during two storms that passed through the region in November and February 2014.
The FAA said on Nov. 18 in a statement that it could fine the Wayne County Airport Authority $200,000 for not handling a November 2014 storm with proper care, causing one jet to slide off of the runaway and stranding a cargo plane near a de-icing area of the runway apron.
The statement also listed a February 2014 snow storm where the airport didn’t follow proper snow and ice removal plans designed to keep air traffic safe and moving smoothly during winter conditions.
“The FAA alleges that WCAA, which operates Detroit Metro-Wayne County International Airport (DTW), failed to follow its FAA-mandated Snow and Ice Control Plan (SICP) during the storm. As a result, it allegedly allowed various DTW airfield surfaces to become unsafe and failed to limit air carrier operations to portions of the airfield where they could safely occur,” the FAA statement said.
“Among other things, the FAA alleges that WCAA failed to treat a taxiway and a deicing pad with deicer fluid. One commercial jet slid off the untreated taxiway and onto the grass, and a cargo jet became stranded due to icy conditions after exiting a runway. Additionally, three commercial airliners became stranded on the de-icing pad for approximately three hours each due to icy pavement conditions, the FAA alleges.”
The airport authority responded to the statement, admitting that it had trouble following its own snow and ice removal plan, referring the storms as exceptional circumstances.
“During two extraordinary weather events in February 2014 and November 2014, there were certain deviations from the WCAA’s Snow and Ice Control Plan,” an airport authority statement said.
The WCAA said that prior to the precipitation that fell on Nov. 22, airport maintenance applied 9,700 gallons of liquid pavement de-icer and 24 tons of hot sand to the airfield between 3:30 and 6 a.m. yet the relentless subsequent ice storm created slippery conditions.
In the Feb. 5, event, two regional jets became stuck in snow after turning onto untreated taxiways and one private Beechcraft pilot turned onto a Fire Access Road instead of a treated taxiway as he had been instructed by the control tower, according to the WCAA.
WCAA officials say that since last year’s winter weather, it has beefed up its snow removal capabilities.
“The Authority has already addressed and corrected its procedures. Over the last two snow seasons, and for the next two years, the Authority has and will be adding $13 million worth of new or upgraded heavy snow and ice equipment. Detroit Metropolitan Airport has also added nine employees to our hard-working and professional maintenance team to address snow and ice control. Further, four new operations personnel and scheduling adjustments have been added to enhance airfield monitoring during these events.”
The WCAA has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.