BWI Marshall Uses Vehicle Tracking System to Improve Airfield Management

Mindy Hamlin
Published in: 

Operations and maintenance crews at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) are no strangers to winter weather. With more than 600 flights on any given day and annual passenger volumes exceeding 25 million, the airport takes an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to snowy and icy precipitation. 

With more than 300 people committed to the airport’s snow removal efforts, situational awareness is critical to ensuring safe and effective winter operations, says Mark Wisbeski, BWI’s supervisor of airport operations. His search for a solution to facilitate more efficient snow removal operations culminated with the purchase of an airfield monitoring system designed to improve safety for the airport and its tenants.

“Back in 2015, we wanted to see about a program that would give us more situational awareness during a snow situation,” explains Wisbeski, noting that team leaders oversee snow removal efforts on all runways, taxiways and ramps.


Project: Improving Ground Safety/Situational Awareness

Location: Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Int’l Airport

New Tool: AirBOSS, by INDMEX Aviation

Avg. Initial Investment: $20,000-$40,000 

Avg. Recurring Cost: $20,000-$30,000/yr 

Evolution: BWI began using SnowBOSS to track airfield maintenance crews during winter snow removal operations, later expanded use to other modules such as all-weather vehicle tracking & runway incursion prevention

Winter storms not only create hazardous conditions for aircraft, but also for snow removal crews. Low visibility, for example, makes it difficult for team leaders to know where their crew members are located. At BWI, each team leader is responsible for 10 to 15 pieces of equipment at any given time, notes Wisbeski. 

Knowing there must be a better way, Wisbeski searched for tools to help team leaders keep tabs of their equipment and personnel during active storm response efforts. He found a tech-based strategy, and BWI subsequently launched a test program of SnowBOSS, from INDMEX Aviation. It is an individual module of AirBOSS, the company’s wider-ranging airfield management system.

“When we first started using the program, communication was only between the team leaders, so they could see their personnel coming off of a runway,” says Wisbeski. “The team leader would look at his INDMEX device and see that the crews were, indeed, off the runway.” 

Success during a massive snowstorm led the airport to expand its use of the system.

“During the Nor’easter of 2016, all of the stakeholders were able to coordinate off the same picture at the same time,” explains INDMEX President and Founder Carlos Nevarez. “After this, the airport wanted to expand it to the entire airfield management operations team.”

More Equipment, More Coverage

Together, INDMEX and BWI customized AirBOSS for the airport’s unique needs. Using AirBoss Web, the company created a display for BWI that serves as a common operational and Surface Management System. 

The airport’s maintenance and operational vehicles are outfitted with transponders the size and shape of hockey pucks that track their location at all times. In addition, INDMEX built a real-time web-based airport map that integrates with FAA’s NextGen ASDE-X/ADS-B data to provide the operations team a complete view of airfield operations. This allows the airport to monitor conditions on the airfield and coordinate with air carriers in real-time, explains Nevarez.

The airport’s operations center features a 42-inch monitor that displays and tracks the location of all aircraft and maintenance/operations vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “It gives me a good representation of what is happening on the runways at any one time,” says Wisbeski. “For instance, if foreign object debris is on a runway, all I have to do is look on the map and see which vehicle is the closest to go remove it. We also use it at night when we are inspecting and repairing lights and doing other electrical maintenance.”

Further expanding its deployment of the system, BWI now uses the AirBOSS Runway Incursion Warning System. The airport’s operational and maintenance vehicles have laptops equipped with an FAA-certified software platform that warns drivers of other activity in the movement area.

“If I’m traveling on a taxiway, I can see if an aircraft is approaching,” explains Wisbeski. “In poor visibility, it helps drivers navigate the airfield. Even if they can’t see aircraft or other vehicles on the airfield, they can see them electronically.”

Today, BWI has 30 vehicles with tracking devices. The next step in the works is to extend the program to other airport departments and tenants. 

“We would like to get the fire department and other entities that might drive on the runways and movement area to be part of the system,” says Wisbeski.

Currently, BWI is rolling the program out to airlines to assist with deicing activities. Not only will AirBOSS help airlines manage their equipment, it will also allow the airport to identify which ramps are available for snow removal equipment.

Collaboration is Key

Wisbeski and Nevarez agree that collaboration has been the key to success regarding airfield management at BWI.

“It has been a really great relationship with Carlos [Nevarez] and INDMEX,” says Wisbeski. “If any one of the operations personnel had an idea, they took it to Carlos and he came up with solutions for us.”

Nevarez sees wider-reaching effects stemming from the collaboration. “Our partnership with BWI has benefited other airports around the world,” he points out. “The FAA has even gotten ideas from the work we have done with BWI.”   


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