Bob Hope Airport Begins Online Data Collection to Lay Foundation for Safety Management System

Rebecca Kanable
Published in: 

When the FAA issued a draft advisory circular about integrated safety management systems (SMS) in late June, Bob Hope Airport (BUR) was already planning for it. By July, the Burbank, CA, facility had a new data collection system in place to help prepare for the anticipated mandate.

BUR started implementing its new online system at the beginning of this year, partially in response to preliminary SMS rulemaking activity by the FAA Office of Airports in 2010. So far, BUR's Part 139 self-inspections, supplemental inspections and related reports such as first aid, property damage, security, hazardous spills, etc. have been moved online. Additional elements of its operations database will be transferred next.


Project: Data Collection Management System

Location: Bob Hope Airport, Burbank, CA

Owner: Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority

System Implementation: Jan.- July

Contractor: ProDIGIQ

Benefits: Automates Part 139 processes, increases operational efficiencies, prepares airport for anticipated FAA Safety Management System mandates

Relates to: Draft Advisory Circular 150/5200-37A

BUR Executive Director Dan Feger believes that having a computerized data collection tool like its new ProDIGIQ system will be "part and parcel" of SMS implementation. "Those kinds of systems require very precise data tracking and record keeping, so this is a foundational step that some day will allow us to implement a safety management system," Feger explains.

The FAA refers to SMS as the next step in the evolution of aviation safety. Although the number of "common cause" accidents is diminishing, it considers rulemaking on the issue a way to address risks that affect all or part of a large population of operators. SMS helps fill the gaps between common cause risk factors addressed by more traditional regulations and those that are more elusive, explain FAA officials.

Airport Operations Supervisor Eric Mercado considers BUR's new SMS tool a modernized, dynamic enhancement to the airport's established standard protocols. "The ultimate plan is a full-fledged SMS when there is a better understanding from the FAA on the final rulemaking," notes Mercado, echoing Feger's sentiment.

BUR faces a unique set of safety challenges thanks to the relatively large amount of infrastructure it houses in a relatively small area. On 550 acres, the airport maintains two intersecting runways and a 220,000-square-foot terminal with 14 aircraft parking gates. Last year, it moved 4.3 million passengers and 98.2 million pounds of cargo. General aviation operations slightly exceeded air carrier operations - 54,880 vs. 54,253, respectively - further adding to its challenges.

ProDIGIQ's safety management system is the latest in a series of safeguards put in place to maintain a high level of safety throughout the active, close-quarters airport, notes Mercado.

Airside and landside employees alike will use the system, including staff in the communication center.

What's Changed

Incorporating multiple pieces of the airport's operations into one system has increased efficiencies in a number of ways, reports Mercado.

Arpit Malaviya, ProDIGIQ's vice president of business development, emphasizes the speed and precision of the system: "As soon as someone files a report - about a disaster, a crash, a medical situation - employees are notified in real time," Malaviya explains. "Based on staff credentials, different people may receive different reports. The reports are targeted to get people the information they need to proactively handle a situation based on their role at the airport."

Real-time notifications can also be issued for corrective actions flagged during self-inspections.

ProDIGIQ is easier to use than the Microsoft Access database management system the airport had been using for Part 139 self-inspections, supplemental inspections and related reports, notes Mercado. "Anyone who uses Microsoft Access knows it can be a bit cantankerous," he comments.

To facilitate electronic data entry in the field, the airport recently acquired Android tablets. "We believe that will be a big time saver," Feger says, noting that employees will no longer need to write information on paper then enter it into a computer or enter the same information into a computer more than once.

Search capabilities also have been made easier, Mercado adds. Instead of going through multiple steps, reports can now be found in two or three clicks.

Mercado particularly appreciates not having to maintain the system internally. ProDIGIQ handles corrective fixes and mundane form modifications alike. "There is very little labor in maintaining this system for us," he notes. "That is a huge efficiency, because it gives us time to do other things."

The analytical reports that provide a glimpse into the future are important, too, he adds. Being able to easily analyze the data can help identify risks and potential hazards. "You can look through the data and see if there's an issue that is constantly recurring in one particular area," he explains.

Feger highlights the bottom-line implications of switching to the new system: "The efficiency at this airport directly translates into our cost of operation, and our cost of operation is what the airlines look at as a measure of how good we are as an airport. We try to deliver very low costs to our airlines, and we do that by implementing efficiency measures that make it easier for us to do an ever-growing number of tasks that the FAA, TSA, the carriers and local regulatory agencies ask us to do. As the burdens keep getting greater, we keep trying to find more efficient ways to do these things so we don't have to add people and dramatically increase the cost to carriers."

Putting updated technology into employees' hands has also boosted staff morale, notes Malaviya. As he explains it, providing employees with the system sends a clear message about how much airport management cares about them.


Phase I of switching to the new system was a fairly smooth process, Mercado recalls.

The airport described what elements it needed in forms and reports, and ProDIGIQ clarified the parameters via back and forth exchanges before creating the system and initiating training. After the airport began using the system on a daily basis, it requested other modifications, such as tweaks to the reports' headers and dialog boxes.

"We suggest a recommendation, they review it and determine how they're able to incorporate it, they incorporate it and we move on," narrates Mercado. "That's the biggest ease of all."

The clear division of duties helps staff focus on managing the airfield and other airport operations. "We can't expect everyone to have an advanced level of understanding of computer systems," explains Mercado. "I don't think it's our job to do that ... It's our job to maintain safety and compliance with the FAA and TSA. It's important that we have a user-friendly, easy-to-use system so that we can focus on the safety and security of the airport."


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