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City explains ‘hot spots’ at Columbia Regional Airport

Columbia Regional Airport has been flagged with three “airport surface hot spots” in addition to the issues that led to a runway shutdown this week, according to Federal Aviation Administration documents.

City officials say the hot spots are common at airports and the Columbia airport has a “stellar safety record for over 50 years.”

A hot spot is a runway-related problem area or intersection on a runway. According to an FAA runway safety brochure, a “hot spot” is usually a confusing or complex intersection between taxiways and runways.

Factors that play into airport “hot spots” can be a combination of the airport geometry, ground traffic flow, markings, signage, lighting and other human factors.

The FAA says pilots should be aware of the “hot spots” and report any concerns that they have with runway issues. Three hot spots are listed on an FAA report that catalogued such issues at airports around the country between Nov. 8 and Jan. 3.

ABC17 News recieved a statement from the director of community relations for the City of Columbia, Steve Sapp.

Hot spots are very common at many airports. The reason that these areas are selected is to increase pilot awareness for increased safety. These areas do not necessarily need repairs, rather they need to be brought to the attention of pilots to reduce the risks of a surface incident. I would compare this to a “children playing” or “Deer crossing” sign in a public roadway. You may not be able to immediately change anything about a road in this instance, however drivers need to be aware of this activity so they can be vigilant.

Hot spot #1- This hot spot has been determined due to the geometry of the intersection. If an aircraft fails to make a turn before the hold short bars they would immediately be on the active runway.

Hot spot #2 and #3 – These hot spots are very closely related. These are due to aircraft using the crosswind runway to taxi and hold short while using the full length of runway 20 for takeoff.

Hot spot #2 and #3 will be nearly eliminated or reconsidered when the extension is built on the approach of Runway 20 in 2021. This will allow aircraft to hold on a taxiway and remain clear of the crosswind runway while taking off. Items such as this will be reviewed and determined at a later time.

Remember that these hot spots are determined to ensure that pilots use extra vigilance to ensure the safe operations at the airport. The airport has an annual Runway Safety Action team to determine any changes to these hot spots and to talk about any other runway safety related items. We might add that other than an aircraft dropping a wheel off the pavement a couple of times, or an aircraft experiencing mechanical issues, Columbia Regional Airport has a stellar safety record for over 50 years.

One of the items warns pilots to use caution at the intersection of two taxiways while the other two items warn pilots not to confuse holding position markings for the airport’s two runways. The hot spots are not related to the problem that closed down the runway this week.

The airport’s main runway, 2-20, was closed April 1 for a massive rehabilitation project. Air traffic had been using the secondary runway, 13-31, after recent renovations to prepare it for larger commercial planes. However, the runway was shut down Tuesday so the city can rebuild a structure called a “crown” that helps water drain from the runway after pilots had complained the structure causes a rough landing.

Repairs are expected to wrap up next week. Until then no commercial flights can use the airport.

An FAA spokesman told ABC17 News that hot-spot issues can be solved as easily as adding new signage, but might require more time to fix depending on the problem.

He also said that a “hot spot” designation does not mean there has been an incident at the site.

Check back for updates to this developing story

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