The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed civil penalties totaling $735,000 against the City of Cleveland for failing to meet FAA requirements for maintaining a safe airport during winter weather.
The FAA alleges that over a 15-month period ending in March 2015, managers at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport failed on numerous occasions to keep the airport’s runways and taxiways safe and clear of snow and ice. Federal Aviation Regulations require airports with commercial service to have sufficient and qualified personnel to carry out their snow and ice control plans during severe weather.
Between Dec. 30, 2013 and Feb. 25, 2014, the FAA began three separate investigations into the airport’s alleged failure to comply with regulations:
- Early in the morning of Dec. 30, 2013, two commercial aircraft were disabled on taxiways because of unsafe braking conditions. Regulations require airport personnel to monitor conditions and close any pavement areas that are unsafe. Freezing rain and drizzle had been falling for more than two hours when the airport allegedly dismissed its maintenance staff at 11 p.m. the previous evening. No airport personnel were on duty to operate snow-removal and de-icing equipment after the two passenger flights landed.
- On Jan. 18, 2014, an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting vehicle slid on ice during a training exercise and was unable to stop before crossing a line that marked the entrance to a runway. An aircraft had just begun its takeoff roll on that runway, resulting in a runway incursion. The aircraft departed safely.
- On Feb. 25, 2014, airport management allegedly failed to follow the approved snow and ice control plan, resulting in unsafe conditions on the airfield. The airport was closed after one pilot reported poor to non-existent braking conditions.
After initiating those investigations, the FAA worked with airport management to update Cleveland’s snow and ice control plan. This included establishing new procedures and adjusting schedules to ensure that sufficient personnel were available to respond to inclement weather.
On March 1, 2015, icy conditions prevented an air carrier from quickly exiting the runway. Controllers subsequently canceled the takeoff clearance for one flight and told the captain of another flight on final approach to go around. During this investigation, the FAA found that, even under the updated policy, airport management allegedly had failed on 19 separate days between Jan. 5 and March 1 to have the required number of maintenance and airport operations personnel on duty.
The city has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond.