Maintaining airport operational safety during construction

Preparing for construction on an active airfield can be daunting. Construction Safety Week is a great time to highlight this critical facet of operational safety at airports. Although there is no real substitute for experience, the Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5370-2: Operational Safety on Airports During Construction offers great tips to help guide airport operators, engineering design consultants and construction contractors in planning and executing construction in a safe and effective manner, with minimal impact to airport operations.

It is important to note, as the AC indicates, that these concepts can be used to minimize the impact on normal airport operations, too. Methods that help lessen the effects of construction may also aid in minimizing the impacts from activities such as mowing, lighting maintenance, pavement remarking and snow removal. Implementing and improving these methods during day-to-day operations can help airport operators better handle construction activities, because they will know which communication methods are essential to maintaining operational safety. In addition, the same benefits apply for special events, such as an air show.

These are three of the recommendations the AC highlights:

Identify areas of impact

During the design phase of any proposed project on an airport, it is critical for the engineering design consultant and airport operator to work together to identify affected areas and understand which operations will be available when those areas are closed during construction. One helpful process during this stage is to focus on the airport operations instead of the construction operations. It is important to envision all arrival and departure routes used by aircraft at the airport. What are the available arrival and departure operations when construction activities occur in the area? What are the available taxi routes to and from the terminal? These are critical questions for minimizing construction impact and maximizing airport accessibility. It is also important to design barricade placement at the nearest point of aircraft operations to avoid pilot confusion or potential dead-end taxi scenarios.

Plan for temporary operational changes

Most projects are still procured under the traditional design-bid-build method, so it is important to remember that the as-bid construction safety and phasing plan (CSPP) is missing input from one critical team member: the construction contractor, an equally important member of the project execution team. It is likely that the construction contractor will have recommendations that may improve the execution of the CSPP. Therefore, it is critical to allow for temporary changes to operations and the CSPP based on the construction contractor’s input.

Take responsibility for the CSPP

Everyone plays an important role when it comes to CSPP execution and operational safety. Disagreements are generally inevitable. However, understanding that the airport operator always maintains overall responsibility for activities at the airport can increase the likelihood of a safe project. Effective and continuous communication between the airport operator and the project team is vital to maintaining safe airport operations during construction.

Working together, we can make safety the top priority as we collaborate to build and improve our airports.

Kyle Dorf is an aviation civil designer who can be reached at

Aviation History Quick Hit

On this day in 1952, Americans Lt. Col. William P. Benedict and Lt. Col. J.O. Fletcher achieved the first landing at the North Pole. The pilots made the journey on an Air Force Douglas C-47 with skis and wheels.