FAA proposes $200k fine against Wayne Co. Airport Authority

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a $200,000 fine against Detroit International Airport for failure to maintain safe conditions during a storm last November.

The fine is proposed against Wayne County Airport Authority (WCAA) which operates the airport and airfield.

The FAA announced the proposal in a press release published to its site on Wednesday, more than a year after the storm. According to the FAA, DTW failed to follow mandated snow and ice control plan during the storm. As a result, various DTW airfield surfaces to became unsafe and the airport authority failed to limit air carrier operations to portions of the airfield where they could safely occur.

The FAA claims WCAA failed to treat a taxiway and deicing pad that resulted in one plan sliding off a taxiway, one getting stranded while exiting the runway, and three others getting stranded on the deicing pad for three hours.

The FAA further alleges that WCAA failed to notify airlines of changing runway conditions; activate the DTW “snow desk” to coordinate snow removal operations; monitor snow removal operations and issue information about conditions affecting the runways, taxiways and ramp areas; conduct frequent runway inspections and friction tests; provide enough qualified personnel on the airfield to comply with the SICP; and issue a timely notice that a runway was closed.

The authority had been warned in  May of 2014, for failing to comply with standards in a February 2014 storms.

In response to the proposed finds, the WCAA released this statement:

The Airport Authority has an excellent history of providing a safe and secure airfield at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) and safety remains our number one priority.

During two extraordinary weather events in February 2014 and November 2014, there were certain deviations from the WCAA's Snow and Ice Control Plan.

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 events that precipitated this investigation occurred in extraordinary circumstances.

For instance, in the November 22, 2014 event, prior to the precipitation, 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 February 5, 2014 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.

The Airport Authority is committed to working cooperatively among all of its departments, with its airline partners and the FAA to continue to fine-tune and improve winter weather procedures.

The FAA approved snow plan for this season was a collaborative effort among the FAA region, the control tower in Detroit and all airlines serving DTW. 

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