FAA’s $1,562,990 civil penalty letter vs. Anniston Regional Airport
Allegations are serious and repeated
City’s Future ANB visions may not get access to AIP Discretionary $$$
The FAA has proposed to impose a $1,562,990 civil penalty against the City of Anniston Ala., for alleged safety violations at Anniston Regional Airport. The City has hired an aviation lawyer to respond to FAA allegations.
[the FAA letter and a 2020 article about FAA warning are below]
The airport, cited for safety issues, has been strategically planned as a source of economic development for the region. The McClellan Development Authority and David Arnett, Public Works Director/Airport Manager, envision ANB as a generator of the regional economy:
“’Honestly, we’re dealing with a huge airport infrastructure that’s treated as a general aviation airport,’ reports David Arnett, Public Works Director/Airport Manager. ‘We have over 600 acres of land left to develop and I would like to get the fullest use out of our 139 certification as possible. And whatever it takes to get there is what we want to do. There is just so much potential there.’ A Part 139 Airport certification allows for use by larger seat capacity air carriers. Anniston Airport has what it takes to bring in larger commercial flights.” … We have an airport development plan, and when our grants are approved we hope to be doing a $4,000,000 resurfacing of our runway. We have also been working on smaller infrastructure improvements and drainage work for part of our land.” “Then we have to work at bringing the community on board, as well as the city. We need to start thinking about the importance of this airport economically, but also as a driver of tourism and perhaps even a destination, itself, where people want to come.” January 11, 2021
The FAA’s civil penalty is remarkable because:
- it is averred that these serious problems have been brought to the City’s attention more than once;
- the specifics raised are not obscure and are significant safety issues—easily detectible by self-audit; and
- could impact the priority assigned by FAA’s to ANB’s request for discretionary funds for their future plans.
If the City seriously is intending to grow ANB and to attract new commercial service, new priorities need to be established. Adding to the airport jobs within the Public Works—especially staff with extensive aviation experience. The FAA’s not too subtle message that ANB’s safety awareness is not sufficient.
The City should consider a package in response to the FAA’s civil penalty request and an immediate commitment to spend money on the identified repairs, to hire staff with significant airport safety resumes, to engage a consultant to assist in the transition and to implement SMS.
N.B. these changes will also be important for any air carrier considering ANB for their schedule.
Press Release – FAA Proposes $1.5 Million Civil Penalty Against Anniston, Ala., for Alleged Airport Safety Violations
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $1,562,990 civil penalty against the City of Anniston Ala., for alleged safety violations at Anniston Regional Airport.
The FAA alleges that from March 1, 2019 to March 13, 2020 the City, among other things, failed to:
- Repair degraded runway and taxiway pavement, including humps, depressions and cracks that produced debris that could cause air-carrier pilots to lose control of their aircraft.
- Properly maintain airport lighting and marking systems.
- Keep pavement clear of mud, dirt, sand, debris and rubber deposits.
- Ensure workers who drove on the airfield, were responsible for inspecting the fuel, and were responsible for the airport’s Wildlife Hazard Management plan completed mandatory training.
- Review the airport emergency plan during the previous 12 months.
- Maintain markers and signs that complied with applicable standards.
- Maintain a reporting system to ensure the airport promptly corrects unsafe conditions identified during daily self-inspections.
- Issue a Notice to Airmen for irregularities in the safety areas that could affect the safe operation of air carriers.
- Properly locate and display emergency fuel shutoff signs and hazardous materials placards.
The FAA further alleges the City failed to correct many of the violations after the FAA alerted it to them.
The City of Anniston has asked to meet with the FAA to discuss the case.
The Anniston Star, Ala. (TNS)
⇒May 1st, 2020
The Federal Aviation Administration sent Anniston city officials a “letter of investigation” April 8 warning of “repeat discrepancies” at Anniston Regional Airport, where inspectors in March found cracked runways and poorly maintained lights and signs.
The city is “not equipping personnel with sufficient resources to meet minimum safety requirements” and “appropriate replacement parts are not on hand to maintain runway and taxiway visual navigational aids,” the letter states.
Many of the airport’s operations are run by Anniston Aviation, a private company under contract to provide services such as fuel and aircraft maintenance. But the city holds the FAA certificate for the airport, and city officials say maintenance of much of the airport’s infrastructure is the responsibility of the city’s Public Works Department.
FAA inspectors visited the airport March 12-13, according to an FAA letter to public works director David Arnett. Those inspectors found “repeat discrepancies” at the airport…
[The 2020 findings are identical to the 2021 Civil Penalty Letter.]
It’s not clear what the FAA would do if the city fails to correct the problems listed in the inspection. Mayor Jack Draper said he invoked the executive session rule, allowing the council to meet behind closed doors, because some of the administrative actions the FAA could take would be similar to a legal proceeding.
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