Infrastructure and Equipment

7 July 2020

There are a number of safety issues that involve the infrastructure and the equipment that you rely on to support your operations. Some of these are specific to individual domains and others are are more general. It is important that you consider the ones relevant for your operations.  

Follow-up work on each safety issue and mitigations

This information will be updated as the work of assessing each of the safety issues and developing potential mitigations progresses.

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Safety issues on infrastructure and equipment

Increased presence of wildlife on aerodromes

The reduced level of traffic at aerodromes has increased the presence of wildlife habitation at aerodromes. This increases the risk not only of birds and insects nesting in stored aircraft and equipment, but also the risk of bird strikes to aircraft once airborne.

Operational risks of aircraft storage at aerodromes

Parked aircraft on closed runways and taxiways are at risk from ground damage. Aerodrome surfaces may deteriorate due to long-term static load. Operationally, crews and aerodrome staff may be confused by new taxiway routes and obstructed views of the aerodrome. Parked aircraft have the ability to obstruct signs and markings, infringe the ILS critical/sensitive area and/or the line of sight of the air traffic control, and thus should have been positioned to avoid this. The stationary aircraft may reduce runway through-put if they are parked on a closed runway, increasing the pressure on ATCOs and traffic participants in the manoeuvring area.

Construction / maintenance works on the movement area

The prolonged shutdown means that maintenance works may not be appropriately delineated, marked and lit. NOTAMs, AIP supplements and amendments may not have been promulgated. Aerodromes should ensure that such practices are avoided and promulgation notices should be checked for accuracy and the period of validity.

The rapid storage and de-storage of aircraft may lead to technical failures

The number and rate of aircraft entering and then exiting storage has been very high. Examples of associated hazards are:

  • Aircraft that have not been adequately protected by covers;
  • Fuel contamination;
  • Wildlife ingress and;
  • A lack of maintenance.

Sufficient time and personnel will need to be made available in order to return these aircraft to service.

Postponement of emergency response plan exercises may lead to ineffective handling of emergencies

Full or partial emergency response plan exercises may have been postponed or cancelled due to the lockdown, leading to the ineffective handling of emergencies. This issue may be worsened by a loss of experienced personnel or changes in the operating environment, such as parked aircraft obstructing taxiways.

The impact of maintenance practices during fleet groundings due to COVID-19

The maintenance practices and requirements due to prolonged parking are defined by the TC Holder usually within the Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM). Operators (CAMO’s), in close relation with the maintenance organisations (AMOs), are required to plan these maintenance tasks at intervals defined in the AMM. These requirements are essential in keeping the aircraft and its engines/systems/components in a functional state and prevent any degradation so that no excessive failure rate is experienced when the aircraft is returned to service. However, reduced manpower may mean that airlines/AMOs may not have the capacity to carry out required maintenance tasks.

Malfunction or failure of communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) equipment

The period of disuse and potential lack of proper maintenance during the period of shutdown may lead to malfunctions or failures of equipment. Once equipment is used again, ensuring that technical and support staff are available may be difficult. Additionally, planned system changes may not have been implemented, there may be a backlog in required updates and issues may only become identifiable as traffic load increases.

Hazards associated with aerodromes being closed or partially closed for long periods

During closure or partial closure, maintenance of equipment, systems, signage and the cleaning of surfaces may not have taken place. As aerodromes re-open, sufficient personnel and time will be required to return the aerodrome to normal operations.

Ground service equipment may malfunction due to long periods of disuse and a lack of maintenance

Ground service equipment may have sat inactive for a considerable length of time. This could cause technical problems if the equipment has not properly been maintained during the period of inactivity and may need to then be assessed/serviced to operational condition prior to being returned to service.

Technical issues relating to recommencing use of aircraft fuelling after a long break

Water, sediment and microbiological growth may be present in both hydrant systems and fuller tanks, filters may have dried or become damaged through lack of use, and normal checks may not have been carried out. In addition, any fuel received may have been stored for a longer period than normal elsewhere, creating additional problems with fuel quality.

Disinfection (biocides) effect on aircraft systems and structural components

A high demand for biocide may cause organisations to use materials other than those specified in the AMM. This must be avoided, since the aircraft may be damaged by alternatives.

Management of unpredictable air traffic evolution during the recovery phase

The scale of the likely increase in air traffic levels may make the evolution of air traffic difficult to predict, creating a mismatch in capacity. Differing paces of recovery across the network in terms of available capacity and in air traffic demand may exacerbate the problem.

The impact of fewer aircraft observations on meteorological modelling

Weather forecasts use data from aircraft (e.g. AMDAR and Mode-S) in the initialisation of numerical weather prediction, and the large decrease in the number of observations available will have an impact on the accuracy of the forecasts produced. Initial analysis suggests that this impact is low, but the data from April, May and June has not yet been analysed.

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