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Apr 08

City airport unique, operating at highest standard!

Posted on April 8, 2022 at 2:56 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

Six men wearing jeans & blue shirts or black jackets, standing in front of yellow airport snow plow. Airplanes on pavement behind them. Blue sky.

Photo: Standing in front of an airport snow plow are the airport teammates certified to do our FAA inspections: (from left) David Erhart, John Gray, Jonathon Young, Mitch Dadow, Jim Tobias, Chuck Orr

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The city’s Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field is unique in many ways, and one of those is its most recent Federal Aviation Administration inspection – which it passed in mid-December 2021.

Because BTL – the shorthand for the airport – does not offer commercial service, the FAA does not require document and field checks. The state would typically handle that for us. But new Interim Aviation Director Philip Kroll said there are several reasons why BTL chooses to receive these annual inspections – backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Helps us comply with requirements for grants we receive
  • Makes it easy for us to keep following airport safety requirements
  • Helps us identify any problems, and keep up with records

“Being the third busiest airport in the state, we are holding ourselves to the highest federal standard,” Kroll said. “Even though we don’t have commercial service, we want to meet that safety standard.”

BTL’s late 2021 document inspection found three technical issues to correct – but with no legal enforcement necessary – we were a month off checking specific field lights within six months of each other; we have to ensure proof of Battle Creek Fire Department Airport Rescue Fire Fighting training (much different than typical firefighting), and we have some staff behind on field driving training (staff including airport tenants, like Duncan Aviation and WACO Aircraft). The airport corrected all of these issues in February 2022.

We have not received an FAA inspection of the air field since 2019, with no major issues at that time. Kroll doesn’t know yet when BTL will get its next field inspection.

But that inspection involves doing what our airport team does every day – someone must drive around the roughly 1,260-acre airfield to inspect every light, sign, and piece of pavement. Once a week they do the same check at night. They will do special inspections due to weather, or a problem with a plane (like it lands, and pops a tire).

The daily inspection typically takes an hour or two, and most of the BTL staff can do it; they must have FAA training and certification.

“They assess what they find,” Kroll said. “If it’s an immediate action, like a pavement crack where an aircraft could lose control, they would get the crack sealant out there to fix the problem.”

They might have to remove a piece of trash, cut grass in an area where it has grown too tall, or fix a pothole caused by a lightning strike.

While airports are all similar, they all have a unique layout and factors that dictate their operations and inspections. The FAA checks an airport’s certification manual, unique compliance document, training records, emergency plans, snow and ice plan, wildlife management plan, and other documents critical to operating an airport safely.

The city’s Battle Creek Executive Airport has operated for nearly a century, and also is home to the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, the Battle Creek Air National Guard, and 55 private tenants. With many recent business expansions around the airport, and consideration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems drone operations, it is an incredible city asset, and important to our economic development. Learn more at flybtl.com.

Paved airport taxiway with yellow stripe down middle. B 31 sign to left. Grass to left and far end.

BTL airport taxiway - every day our team inspects the signs, pavement, pavement markings, and lights to make sure they meet FAA regulations.

 Drifts and arcs of snow with airport blow shadowed in the middle.

Snow plowing doesn't just happen on city streets! The BTL team must remove snow from runways, taxiways, and ramps, and update pilots throughout every snow storm.