FAA finds serious safety faults at airports
Economic Impact on Tourism
VIPA needs help for Future
This civil penalty is remarkable in two dimensions:
- How serious the violations are!!!
- The severity of the consequences!!!
FAA inspections (January and February,2018) of the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix (STX-cover, right) and Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas (STT– cover, left), both owned and operated by the US Virgin Islands’ Airports and Seaports Authority (VIPA), found serious violations of 14 CFR Part 139. The Authority is a semi-autonomous agency that owns and manages the two airports and the majority of the public seaports in the United States Virgin Islands.
The VIPA Executive Director is David W. Mapp, who was appointed on an acting basis after his predecessor was fired and then confirmed on a permanent basis. . The current Director has served at the Port Authority since 1986 — over 30 years — in a variety of positions. According to the VIPA Board, David’s performance on an acting basis, was “stellar”.
These were NOT mere paperwork violations like failing to sign training class rosters; the below problems do require immediate attention.
- “…VIPA did not have qualified personnel
- to oversee airport operations,
- to conduct required daily inspections,
º to conduct Airport Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) operations.
º…airports did not maintain and make available to the FAA required records including
- its Airport Certification Manuals,
- airport emergency plans,
- training records for operations supervisors and ARFF employees [it can be inferred that the “inability to make available” is tantamount to these documents did not exist”.]
- …VIPA did not meet the ARFF requirements for air carrier flights at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) after an ARFF unit
- …could not apply a fire-extinguishing agent within the required time
- …was not capable of performing its required functions.
- …VIPA did not properly grade the safety area for runways at both airports to eliminate hazardous ruts, humps, depressions or other surface variations.
- The runways and taxiways were not properly lighted, marked, or signed and VIPA failed to issue Notices to Airman (NOTAM) informing air carriers of the runway and taxiway issues at the airports,
- …VIPA also failed to confirm that each fueling agent at STX had trained fueling personnel and
- failed to take immediate action to alleviate wildlife hazards detected at the landfill near the airport, the FAA alleges.
The primary consequence of the FAA’s filing of this report of violations may appear to be paying a civil penalty (if a VIPA appeal is denied) of $1,466,775.
More significantly, the immediate impact may be a determination that the Authority should not receive discretionary AIP funds. Those grants are used to make the improvements to STC and STT that make them more conducive to tourist flights.
The US Virgin Islands depend on flights to its beautiful destinations to support its economy:
- tourism is the #1 segment of the USVI economy “Central America and Caribbean – VIRGIN ISLANDS – Economy”..
- World Travel & Tourism Council– foreign visitors totaled $1,318.7 million.
- Travel & Tourism generated 5,000 jobs directly in 2014, being 10.8% of total employment and 11.3 percent of the GDP
Any risk/reward analysis would conclude that VIPA needs to do more. One way to flip the agenda from past problems to a future well-functioning airport system would be an independent audit of all aspects of STX’s and STT’s safety systems- equipment, people, policies, procedures and training. Such a review would not repeat the FAA findings; an independent analysis will define strengths on which to build, a prioritization of things that need to be done and help set a path for the future, particularly funding.
VIPA manages a vital infrastructure for the USVI. All airports must receive the highest level of safety and these two air links to tourism deserve to obtain the best level of expertise.
Share this article: