October 01, 2004

Aviation program assists with airport safety effort

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Aviation Management and Flight program is helping improve airport safety by assisting in gathering and updating information on the nation's nearly 5,000 non-commercial airports.

New Orleans-based GCR & Associates selected SIUC's program as subcontractor to assist in coordination and administration of the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Safety Data Program. The program involves individual inspections of non-commercial airports by each state, under contract with the University, to identify potentially unsafe conditions at or near airports throughout the United States.

SIUC is receiving $160,439 for the contract with GCR & Associates through Sept. 30, 2005. The grant will enable department chair David A. NewMyer, lecturer Richard T. Lanman, and two graduate assistants to administer the contractual aspect of the airport inspection program.

"We are very happy with the opportunities having a part in the FAA Airport Safety Data Program gives our faculty and graduate students," NewMyer said. "We look forward to working with the outstanding professional staff at GCR & Associates and hope we can grow the relationship with them into other public-private cooperative agreements that ultimately provide for a safer national aerospace system."

Each state must inspect its airports over a three-year period and note any changes, including runway length, changes in facilities or services offered and contact information for airport personnel. The information is available for use by pilots throughout the world.

GCR & Associates is administering the airport safety data collection for all airports in North America, and will upload the data to the FAA's National Flight Data Center. The grant is the first ever by the FAA to a private corporation through the Airport Improvement Program.

"This project is crucially important to the safe operation of aircraft in North America," Michael W. Flores, executive vice president of GCR & Associates.

"We look forward to the challenge of the project and the opportunity it affords us to begin a new working relationship with SIUC. We are confident that this association will prove to be both enjoyable and profitable for us both."

There is potential for renewal of the contract next summer, NewMyer said. The plans call for data collection from one-third of the public, non-commercial airports in each of the next three years. Graduate assistants will find uses for the data, NewMyer said.

NewMyer also sees the agreement benefiting students in SIUC's Public Administration in Aviation Administration graduate program.

"This will relate very well to the academic programs that we already teach and, of course, it will generate some new research on topics that Rick, I and the graduate assistants will be working on," said NewMyer.

Growing and expanding partnerships with private businesses in collaborative efforts is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

For more information, contact Aviation Management and Flight Chair David A. NewMyer at 618/453-8898.