Aeronautical Study; The solution for an ‘Uncorrectable Finding’ at the airport.

Civil airports in the world are regulated under the national regulations of the state the airport is located in. Those national regulations are promulgated based on the international standard, which is mostly in line with ICAO requirements (others are EASA or FAA). State aviation authorities have the obligation to provide oversight to airports to ensure that they provide sufficient and appropriate infrastructure, staff, and operating procedures to meet the minimum requirements for air operation. If the airport cannot comply with the requirements, the authority will issue the non-compliance statement (of finding) and let the airport correct that non-compliance.

What is ‘Uncorrectable Finding’?

Any problem or finding should have some way to be tackled or corrected. However, the term ‘uncorrectable finding’ (which is not the technical or standard term) is used in this article to represent a finding which requires excessive cost, resources, or timeline to correct. Examples of such findings are mostly related to the infrastructure or the geographical location of the airport. Some airports are located in mountainous areas which cannot provide safeguarding for the airspace. Some airports are located beside the coast; therefore they cannot provide sufficient areas for runway strips or RESA (the runway end safety area). To correct that problem (theoretically), the airport might have to move the mountains or reclaim a lot of land area in the sea, which of course is unreasonable to rectify such a problem. 

Then, does the airport have to cease operation because of such a finding? Are there any possible ways for the airports to continue their operations and to ensure an adequate level of safety given the limitations, without having to make impossible adjustments to infrastructure or geography? 

Aeronautical Study: the solution.

ICAO suggests an approach to tackle an obvious deviation of the airport from the standards or requirements, this is called an ‘Aeronautical Study’. Aeronautical studies aim to find possible solutions and evaluate the effectiveness of those solutions in terms of the safety of the aircraft operation.

The components of the aeronautical study might include hazard identification and risk assessments (HIRA) regarding the finding. This is the basic approach to correct non-compliance. More specifically, there is the approach called ‘Technical Analysis’ which is an in-depth analysis of the finding and possible solutions as an alternative to ensure the safety of the airport operations under the limitations. In addition, stakeholder consultation is necessary to engage the airport’s users and service providers (e.g. airlines, ground handlers, ANSP, etc.) to understand the situation of the airport and to be involved during the solution analysis. In this way, they can help to assess the effectiveness of solutions and develop the revisions required within their own operating procedures.

Aeronautical Study in action

ICAO and the aviation authorities have published the guidelines to perform aeronautical studies, these can be found online. But the information required for technical analysis is more complex. There are a number of approaches to support the technical analysis to find possible solutions. For example, simulations such as Monte Carlo can show the effectiveness of a proposed solution (changes in infrastructure, navaids, operating procedures, etc.). Results from the simulations include the probability of an accident in various situations, especially when the new solutions are implemented. The results of the simulations will enable the airports to decide and select the optimal solution (or the combination of solutions) as the alternative to ensure that the airport is safe to operate under the limitations of the findings.

Final results

The outputs of the aeronautical study are a detailed report which contains the scope of the study (which is mainly focused on the findings), the selected solution(s), HIRA which is the results of technical analysis of the solution(s) assessment, and the monitoring mechanism to ensure that the airport and stakeholders can maintain the acceptable level of safety to operate the airport under the conditions of the non-compliance.

Finally, the aeronautical study has to be submitted to the relevant authority to request an exemption for the airport to continue its operations while improving the infrastructure and/or when there are changes in terms of the operating procedures as described in the study. The approval or acceptance and issuance of the exemption are under the discretion of the authority. Therefore, the quality and justification facts in the aeronautical study are crucial for the process of aviation safety assessment for the airports to maintain their operations. 

What can To70 provide?

At To70, we have decades of experience and many experts in aviation safety, airport operation, and data analysis who can support the airport in a full loop of aeronautical studies. This includes assessment of the non-compliance, identifying solutions, assessment of solutions using advanced approaches (in-depth data analysis, simulation, etc.), supporting stakeholder consultation, preparing related documents, and liaising with the authority under the process of reviewing and requesting an exemption. 

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