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Lipstick on a Pig

By Mike Speidel

    During my college years, I worked in the restaurant industry serving ungrateful guests to make ends meet. Restaurants, like airports, often undergo regular inspections to ensure safety and public health among other things. While the inspections were supposed to be undisclosed to the restaurant, the only surprise was our management seemed to know exactly when the inspectors would arrive each year.

    The moment the news hit the street of an imminent inspection, it became top priority among management, and therefore the staff, to clean every surface inside the restaurant - perhaps well enough to eat off of. We would go above and beyond our typical daily functions to make sure we wouldn't get written up for an insufficient dining atmosphere.

    After days of preparation, the inspection would come and go without citing the restaurant for anything major. They would almost always pick on something - whether it be needing to put lids on the containers of iced tea spoons, or disagreeing with the way we stored our sweet potatoes. We would comply, wave goodbye to them, and in short order the lipstick would wear off the pig; everything would return to the way we did things the other 360 days of the year when we weren't being inspected.

    Part 139 Inspections, while far more complex, are treated similarly at some airports - at least with respect to the airfield markings. Many airports "refresh" its markings days before the inspection to make them look pretty for the inspector. It's a misrepresentation of the typical state of the marking system the remainder of the year - it's still a pig. Back in 2008 we published an article about this phenomenon called the Marking Combover. Ultimately, the airport's motivation is not to promote runway safety, rather to get a passing grade on the markings portion of the report card.

    With the SMS implementation looming on the horizon, concerns about being "compliant" will no longer be the focus around an inspection, rather safety will be the focus every minute of every day of every year. When it comes time to preform safety audits and gap analysis, airfield marking systems will be among the items on the list. Do yourself a favor and contact Sightline about our Marking Condition Index - a systems approach to your marking system. It's a happy alternative to feeding the pig.

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