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Training the FAA Inspectors

By Donna Speidel

    Over the last year, we have answered several phone calls at Sightline headquarters hearing a similar story from the other end of the line. It goes something like: "We just had our Part 139 inspection and we've been written up for marking deficiencies... we've never been written up before... can you help?" And we respond "Absolutely!" However, we can't help but to feel responsible for being the catalyst for the FAA's recent scrutiny.

    Let's back up to March 2010 when we had the privilege to provide an abbreviated training course on airfield markings to the FAA Part 139 inspection team at their recurrent training in Palm Coast, Florida. All in attendance were keenly aware of the advisory circulars and the requirements placed on all certificated airports. But all were not as enlightened about the finer details of what constitutes a good marking and when one is "broken". Now they do, and are beginning to look much closer at the details of marking effectiveness.

    It's a lot easier to spot a light that's burned out or even a sign that isn't configured properly; but markings often fall below the radar. Now armed with the basics about airfield marking effectiveness (during both daylight and darkness), many of the inspectors are using that information while performing the Part 139 inspections. However, it's not all bad news for the airports. One airport recently called to say that their inspection had revealed a poor marking project by a contractor that had just been finished; and that they would exercise the warranty in the spring to repair the problem (check out an article we wrote called Suitable Specifications for more on that topic).

    However, we're also hearing that some airports are being cited for poor markings, a first in some cases. In the long run, it is a good thing for airports, because what has been the "industry standard" is changing; the bar is going up; and ultimately airports will be the beneficiaries of more effective, longer-lasting markings.

    I guess we're trying to say we're sorry... kind of. This is good for the industry going forward - but it might be complicating your work in the short term (sorry, again).

    So how can you avoid a write-up from the FAA? After all, they're coming whether you want them or not. Two ways you can beat them to the punch:

  1. Attend an Airfield Marking Symposium. It's a 2-day course where we instruct attendees (through lecture and field demonstrations) how to employ the best practices and establish a marking system at their airports. Our past attendees rave about the symposium.
  2. Order an Airfield Marking Audit. Deliverables include a thorough report of findings, a multi-year maintenance plan and specifications tailored to your airport's environment and operations - all for a small fraction of what you currently spend on airfield markings. Add training for your maintenance staff, and you're on your way to much greater efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Hide in a hangar. You're right - I said two ways.

    It's your call. Here's our phone number: 888.599.8031. Ask for Donna or Mike.

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