Browsing Tag: airport

A beautiful day and location for a run - Photo: John Huston

A beautiful day and location for a run – Photo: John Huston

It is said that if you’re running around on the fifth runway at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) you’re having a very bad day. Either your plane has just crashed or you’re about to be arrested and sent to jail for a very long time. Or… maybe there’s something else going on that has the makings of a very good day.

I had the opportunity to run The Mayor’s 5K on the 5th Runway at ATL on August 27. The race is an annual fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, hosted by Mayor Kasim Reed and sponsored by Delta Air Lines among others. It’s the one day a year where mere mortals, like me, can be out there laying down shoe rubber in the same place where the big jets lay down tire rubber—without getting arrested.

On your mark... - Photo: John Huston

On your mark… – Photo: John Huston

This is the third year for the race. I hadn’t heard about it until recently, but once I did, there was no way I could resist the chance to participate.
There was one sort of catch, however. The race had to be over and the runway completely cleared by 8:00 a.m. You know, so the planes could land and stuff. Which means things began very, very early.

An ANA 787-8 made a graceful landing as it arrived from Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT) during the 2016 FOD walk.

An ANA 787-8 made a graceful landing as it arrived from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) during the 2016 FOD walk

FOD (foreign object debris) is the scourge of airport operations. FOD includes the mundane as well as the unusual: baggage-claim tickets, random bits of plastic, airplane parts, dead animals, rocks, and clumps of loose dead vegetation. Keeping runways and taxiways clear of FOD is a seemingly never-ending battle; airports’ operations areas are festooned with signs both warning of the dangers of FOD and reminding airport personnel to constantly be watching for, and picking up, such trash.

Items as seemingly innocuous as a scrap of plastic hold the potential to damage an aircraft.

Items as seemingly innocuous as a scrap of plastic hold the potential to damage an aircraft

According to a 2013 FAA fact sheet, “FOD can be ingested in an aircraft engine, which can result in damage to the aircraft or cause an accident. It can damage or become lodged in aircraft operating mechanisms or cut aircraft tires. Boeing estimates that FOD causes an estimated $4 billion in damage to engines and aircraft taken out of service each year.”

Wikipedia’s entry on FOD claims the total is significantly higher, citing a now-offline 2008 report claiming $13 billion in direct and indirect costs to the aviation industry as a whole. In either instance, FOD damage is very expensive, and it makes sense that every airport have a FOD management plan.

From Heathrow With Love - Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

From Heathrow With Love – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter

Last month, I attended an ultimate behind-the-scenes airport tour, courtesy of London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). LHR’s Digital Communications Manager, Chris Loy, welcomed a select group of aviation publications to showcase its daily operations and on behalf of AirlineReporter I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Control Tower - photo: Heathrow Airport Limited

Control Tower – Photo: LHR Airports Limited

I always enjoy traveling through LHR, especially Terminal 5 (T5), and revel in what is generally a calm and serene travel experience. This is despite handling more than 75 million passengers and about 1.5 million tons of cargo (the non self-loading variety) per year.

I compare this to the utter chaos that is London’s Luton Airport (LTN) while they undergo extensive construction, or the holiday-maker maelstrom that is Gatwick Airport (LGW) during the summer. That said, I have never transited through LHR. Nor have I ever suffered from any extensive flight delays at the airport.

“Yes, transiting is an operational challenge at Heathrow,” remarks LHR Filming Coordinator and Airside Safety Officer, Joe Audcent. “The airfield is just so big from one end to another.” Chris and Joe would be our intrepid tour guides and I was looking forward to learning more about my hometown airport.

A Lufthansa A340 gets prepped for flight - Photo: Andrew Poure

A Lufthansa A340 gets prepped for flight at the airport during snow – Photo: Andrew Poure

You’re sitting on a airliner preparing to depart from a major hub in the U.S. midwest, staring out the window. On a clear spring day, you’d pushback and be off the ground in moments, and see the shining Great Lakes and expanses of green fields and trees immediately after takeoff. That day is not today.

No, the scene out your window is white and grey as far as the eye can see. Amber and red strobe lights, from both aircraft and ground vehicles, add to the almost surreal landscape. It’s winter in the northern states.