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SAFETY & SECURITY Last modified on October 4, 2016

In safe hands

David Gamper, ACI World’s director of safety, technical and legal affairs looks at the next aerodrome safety and design issues.

For the past 25 years ACI has advocated for airport safety issues, culminating in the successful Airport Excellence in Safety programme (see on page 37) and our engagement, of course, continues.

For airfield design issues, ACI has worked to ensure the smooth accommodation of new aircraft types and make aerodrome certification an easier process for States and aerodrome operators. 

The document of reference, ICAO Annex 14 Volume 1 (Annex 14), presents a large number of mainly prescriptive standards for the design of aerodromes, according to aerodrome reference codes 1 to 4 (i.e. aircraft reference field length) and A to F (i.e. wingspan and main-gear wheel-span). 

We have worked with regulators to produce guidance documents on how to accommodate specific aircraft types such as the A380 and the B747-8, and are now working on the B777X, with folding wingtips.  

ACI has influenced the code limits themselves, notably by pointing out the high cost of accommodating wingspans over 80 metres. As a result the upper limit of code F was kept at 80 metres and no new larger code has been introduced. ACI has resisted any increase of code limits, since that would put many airports into non-conformance with the code to which they were built. 

We have also helped shape the approach in the Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Aerodromes (PANS-Aerodromes), published in 2015 and applicable in November 2016. 

As a result, regulators now have a path to certify an aerodrome that does not fully conform to an aerodrome reference code, or which has been modified to accept aircraft of a larger code than it was designed for, which is a very common situation. 

ACI has drafted a set of standard aerodrome procedures that should be adopted next year in the second part of the PANS-Aerodromes.

The organisation has supported two major amendments to Annex 14 that were approved by the ICAO Council this year: Reduced taxiway separations and other changes (effective November 2016), and the global runway condition reporting format (effective November 2020). 

ACI has fought strongly for the reduction of taxiway separations, basing this on safety data from studies of deviations from the centre line during taxiing. These changes (up to 6.5 metres reduction) are expected to give airports additional flexibility to accommodate larger aircraft on more taxi routes, as well as reduce the cost of new construction.

Another major change is a new method of assessing runway-braking action on contaminated runways, no longer based on the coefficient of friction, which changes constantly and is dependent on the depth of contamination and the equipment taking the reading. 

ACI will help with training and guidance material to ensure a smooth roll-out of the new method which is based on the type and depth of contamination, augmented by pilot reports.

The next phase of ICAO action – that ACI has championed – focuses on other airfield dimensions such as runway width, taxiway width and runway-taxiway separation as well as obstacle limitation surfaces. 

All of these dimensions could be reduced, again based on compelling safety data, as well as the capabilities of aircraft. ACI is helping to build consensus around a proposal.

ACI is also looking at how to restructure Annex 14 to make its provisions for aerodrome design more understandable and remove operational issues, which will be covered in the PANS-Aerodromes. 

Another important piece of work nearing completion is the switch to a new design method for flexible pavement, based on a multi-layer elastic model – this is a more accurate way of modelling the behaviour of asphalt pavement. 

In its own way, this change will be as important as the change in runway friction reporting, and will necessitate training for airport design staff. 

Lastly, ACI has added to its series of safety publications, putting forward best practices for airport operators. These now include the ACI Apron Safety Handbook, ACI Runway Safety Handbook, ACI Safety Management Systems Handbook, Emergency Preparedness and Contingency Planning Handbook, ACI Wildlife Hazard Management Handbook and Apron Markings and Signs Handbook.

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