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FAA seeks to fine Detroit Metro airport $200,000

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $200,000 civil penalty against the Wayne County Airport Authority for allegedly failing to maintain safe airfield conditions at Detroit Metropolitan Airport during an ice storm in November 2014.

The authority, which operates Metro airport and did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has 30 days to respond to the FAA.

The agency alleges that the authority failed to follow its federally mandated Snow and Ice Control Plan during the storm, allowing various airfield surfaces to become unsafe and not limiting airline operations to safe portions of the property.

For instance, FAA says airport staff failed to treat a taxiway and a de-icing pad with de-icer fluid, causing a commercial jet to slide off onto the grass.

In addition, a cargo jet became stranded because of icy conditions after exiting a runway, and three commercial airliners were stranded on the de-icing pad for roughly three hours because of icy pavement, according to the FAA.

The Airport Authority has an excellent history of safety and security at Detroit Metro, spokesman Michael Conway said Wednesday. The airport deviated from its normal snow and ice control plan because of “extraordinary weather events” in February and November 2014.

“The authority has already addressed and corrected its procedures,” Conway said.

Detroit Metro will continue to add $13 million worth of new or upgraded heavy snow and ice equipment over the next two years, he said. The airport also has added nine maintenance workers for snow and ice control and four operations employees to improve airfield monitoring during winter weather, Conway said.

The federal agency faults Metro officials for failing to notify airlines of changing runway conditions; activate the “snow desk” to coordinate and monitor snow removal; conduct frequent runway inspections and friction tests; or issue a “timely” notice that a runway was closed.

It wasn’t the first time the FAA had warned or communicated with Detroit Metro about the airport’s handling of storms. Representatives from the FAA and the airport authority met in January 2014 to discuss concerns about winter operations. The agency later issued a warning letter to the airport in May 2014 for failing to comply with its snow and ice control plan during a February 2014 storm.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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