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Detroit Airport Fined $200,000 for Winter Safety Concerns

DTW’s operator faces a $200,000 penalty on safety concerns during winter storms.

Michigan’s Wayne County Airport Authority (WCAA), which operates Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), faces a $200,000 civil penalty for allegedly failing to operate safe airfield conditions during a 2014 winter storm, said the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in a press release Wednesday.

The DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said WCAA failed to follow its mandated Snow and Ice Control Plan (SICP) during a November 22, 2014 storm which led to unsafe airfields. The FAA said WCAA did not constrict air-carrier operations to safe areas.

“One commercial jet slid off the untreated taxiway and onto the grass, and a cargo jet became stranded due to icy conditions after exiting a runway,” the FAA said in a press release. “Additionally, three commercial airliners became stranded on the de-icing pad for approximately three hours each due to icy pavement conditions, the FAA alleges.”

WCAA issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging deviations from its SICP. During the November 2014 storm, the authority said that, prior to precipitation, it applied 9,700 gallons of liquid pavement de-icer and 24 tons of “hot” sand airfields during a two-and-a-half period, but ice storm conditions nonetheless created slippery conditions.

The FAA further charges the WCAA with failure to:

  • Notify airlines of changing runway conditions
  • Activate DTW’s snow removal operations
  • Monitor snow removal
  • Issue condition information affecting runways, taxiways and ramps
  • Conduct runway inspections and friction tests
  • Provide adequate personnel on the airfield for SICP compliance
  • Issue timely notice of a runway closure

“The Authority has already addressed and corrected its procedures. Over the last two snow seasons, and for the next two years, the Authority has and will be adding $13 million worth of new or upgraded heavy snow and ice equipment,” WCAA’s statement said. “Detroit Metropolitan Airport has also added nine employees to our hard-working and professional maintenance team to address snow and ice control.”

WCAA added it hired four new operations employees to monitor airfield conditions and adjust flight schedules during storms.

In January 2014, the FAA and WCAA met over concerns about DTW’s winter operations. In May 2014, the FAA sent a warning letter to WCAA for failing to comply with SICP procedures on February 5, 2014.

The WCAA said that in February 2014, two regional jets became stuck in snow on untreated taxiways and that a private pilot turned onto a fire access road instead of a treated taxiway.

WCAA has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s letter to respond.

The WCAA is an independent agency that operates DTW, in addition to Michigan airports Willow Run Airport and Crosswinds Marsh. It employs over 500 people and the three airports combined host 18,000 jobs.

[Photo: Getty]

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SpartyAir November 20, 2015

I flew into DTW on the evening of Nov.21 and it was below freezing but no precipitation. i went to the MSU football game in East Lansing on the 22nd and it was about 50 degrees and raining in East Lansing. The snow storm must have been very early in the morning at DTW. I don't recall the road conditions to E. Lansing because I wasn't driving.