Are You Complying with Updated Training Requirements for Specialized Airfield Maintenance Workers?

Seward Ford

The name Advisory Circular (AC) is a bit of a misnomer, as many are more mandatory than advisory in nature. The latest version of AC 150/5340-26(C), Maintenance of Airport Visual Aid Facilities, is a clear example of an FAA document that does more than advise. 

Issued in June 2014, it contains significant changes, even though the AC has been revised three times in the last 10 years. Previously, the FAA didn't define "adequate training" or explain what type of knowledge employees have to demonstrate to be considered "qualified" airport visual aid maintenance workers. 

Seward Ford 
Airfield lighting consultant Seward Ford is president of Visual Aids Services and an associate of Navaid Lighting Associates. His long history in the field includes several LED development projects with the FAA and technical advising for the International Electrotechnical Commission subcommittee that is generating worldwide standards for airfield lighting.

Now that the AC includes general training requirements (the specifics of which vary for different types of operations), airports must provide adequate safety for their employees and ensure the most reliable operation of the visual aids on their airfields. To do less is to reduce safety and reliability at our nation's airports and could potentially saddle individual facilities with increased liabilities. 

Many of us who work with ACs have viewed some of them as good advice rather than regulatory requirements. In fact, they all include this reader-relaxing statement: "In general, use of the AC is not mandatory." Not so! Read the rest of the section and it delineates the various situations where the AC becomes a regulation or requirement. Most airports fall somewhere into the requirement section because they receive federal grant money or they have installed systems that must meet FAA requirements for (CFR) Part 139 operations. 

Airport operators: Do not try to mitigate the responsibility for properly training your visual aid maintenance workers! If you do, it will certainly come back to bite you.

I've emphasized two words in the current AC to demonstrate its mandatory nature: "Because the function of airport visual aid facilities is to assist in the safe and efficient movement of aircraft during landing, takeoff and taxiing maneuvers, it is essential that a high degree of operating reliability be maintained. To achieve this, an effective preventative maintenance program must be established and maintained." 

When the FAA revised other parts of the document in 2014, it added a definition from the National Fire Protection Association. Now the AC specifies who can perform maintenance work on airport visual aids: "A Qualified Person is one who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved." [NFPA 70E]

The training offered at each airport should be specific to its particular visual aids and must include proper procedures for work in aircraft operation areas. Following the current AC, each airport should provide an ongoing training program that suits its individual requirements, is seen as credible for the profession and will withstand close scrutiny when liability issues are considered.

With assistance from Navaid Lighting Associates, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) developed a training course for airport visual aid maintenance workers more than a decade ago. Instructors present standardized content and award successful participants with an industry-recognized certificate for training per FAA requirements. The course is one of several options offered by AAAE as part of the organization's ACE (Airport Certified Employee) program, which trains airport personnel in specialized areas of responsibilities. Over the years, the course has evolved to reflect pertinent AC changes. Some airports have all of their visual aid maintenance workers complete the AAAE course. 

Following the training requirements covered in the latest version of AC 150/5340-26 not only promotes the safety of airport maintenance workers; it also benefits the passengers who rely on your airport to keep them safe and on time while they travel.  


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