FAA and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Reach Agreement on Airport Safety Violations

Monday, April 8, 2013
By George Hatcher

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) have reached a settlement agreement about aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) violations from December 2010 to June 2012 at four New York area airports owned and operated by the PANYNJ — John F. Kennedy, Teterboro, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International.

“We expect all airports to comply with our safety regulations and to correct any deficiencies immediately,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “These violations were egregious, and they will not be tolerated.”

Under the agreement, the PANYNJ agrees to pay a $3.5 million fine within 30 days. If there is a violation of the settlement agreement, the FAA will impose an additional fine of $1.5 million and will assess an additional $27,500 daily for each violation. In addition to the fine, the PANYNJ has agreed to take the following actions, with FAA approval, to address the underlying problems that led to systemic noncompliance with ARFF requirements at the four airports:

  • The Port Authority will create a dedicated ARFF force to carry out airport-related ARFF functions with no collateral police officer duties.
  • The staff will report directly to the Department of Aviation and be operational no later than March 31, 2014.
  • The Port Authority will hire an ARFF fire chief and facility captains as soon as possible, but no later than March 31, 2014.
  • The Port Authority will submit a curriculum for training to the FAA on or before December 31, 2013, which includes at least 75 hours of initial ARFF training and 40 hours of annual recurrent firefighting training in addition to Part 139 training, pertaining to an airport’s operational and safety standards and providing for such things as firefighting and rescue.
  • The ARFF personnel will work a 12-hour shift.
  • The Port Authority will amend the airport certification manuals for the four airports to include: an organizational chart; a process to maintain ARFF training records; and a description of ARFF operations, including shift assignments, personnel training records management, and Department of Aviation oversight.
  • The Port Authority will conduct monthly internal audits of ARFF training and shift assignments and annual external audits to ensure that all ARFF personnel assigned to a shift are trained.

“We expect the Port Authority to have trained safety personnel to ensure the safety of the travelling public and airport personnel, just like we have at all airports in the United States,” said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta.

The FAA became aware of ARFF violations as a result of an annual airport certification safety inspection of JFK in December 2011. The FAA also discovered similar violations at Teterboro, which prompted a full review of training at LaGuardia, Newark Liberty International, and Stewart International Airports. The review of ARFF training revealed violations at LaGuardia and Newark, with no violations at Stewart.

The FAA believes the settlement agreement provides the best long-term solution to ensure ARFF compliance, given the systemic nature of the PANYNJ airport problems.

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