[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 18 (Monday, January 28, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 5861-5864]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-00778]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration


National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems: Clarification of 
Wildlife Hazard Management Requirements for Non-Certificated Federally 
Obligated Airports

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice; extension of comment period.

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SUMMARY: This action extends the comment period for a Notice that was 
published on December 10, 2012. Nothing has changed from the original 
document published on December 10, 2012. In that document, the FAA 
proposed to clarify Grant Assurance No. 19, ``Operation and 
Maintenance,'' which is required of an airport sponsor as a condition 
of receiving a development grant under the Airport Improvement Program 
(AIP). This clarification would require non-certificated, federally 
obligated airports that, after the effective date of this Federal 
Register Notice, accept a new airport development grant funded under 
the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), or accept a transfer of land 
under the Surplus Property Act for airport purposes (``Subject 
Airports''), to conduct Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) or Wildlife 
Hazard Assessments (WHAs). Non-certificated airports are airports that 
do not have a Part 139 certificate, and may include both commercial 
service airports as well as non-primary airports that serve mostly 
general aviation traffic. The Secretary of Transportation is required 
to provide notice and comment in the Federal Register and an 
opportunity for the public to comment upon proposals to modify the 
assurances or add new assurances. The FAA has elected to extend the 
comment period closing date to allow respondents additional time to 
adequately analyze the Notice and prepare comments.

DATES: The comment period for the notice that published on December 10, 
2012 (77 FR 73511) is extended. Send your comments on or before January 
31, 2013. The FAA will consider comments received on the proposed 
interpretation of the existing grant assurances. The FAA may adopt 
revisions resulting from comments as of the date of a subsequent Notice 
in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments [identified by Docket Number FAA-2012-
29591] using any of the following methods:
     Government-wide rulemaking Web site: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Docket Operations, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Routing 
Symbol M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Hand Delivery: To Docket Operations, Room W12-140 on the 
ground floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.
    Privacy: We will post all comments we receive, without change, to 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you 
provide.
    Docket: To read background documents or comments received, go to 
http://www.regulations.gov at any time or to Room W12-140 on the ground 
floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, 
between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal 
holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael J. O'Donnell, Director, Office 
Airport Safety and Standards, Room 621, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; 
telephone: (202) 267-3053, email: mike.o'donnell@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The purpose of this notice is to clarify the 
FAA's interpretation of 49 U.S.C. 47107(a)(19) and the corollary Grant 
Assurance No. 19, relating to airport operations and maintenance. The 
FAA proposes to require sponsors of federally obligated, non-
certificated airports that, after the effective date of this Federal 
Register Notice, accept a new airport development grant funded under 
the Airport Improvement Program, or accept a transfer of land under the 
Surplus Property Act for airport purposes to identify and mitigate 
wildlife hazards at their airports. These actions will take the form of 
initial Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) or Wildlife Hazard 
Assessments (WHAs), depending on the size of the airport, potentially 
followed by more detailed Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMPs).
    The purpose of a WHSV is for the sponsor to identify any immediate 
hazards and for the FAA to determine whether a more comprehensive WHA 
is necessary. A WHSV is typically conducted over a period of one to 
three days. A WHA is a far more comprehensive survey, typically 
conducted over a 12-month period. WHMP is the plan the airport proposes 
to mitigate any wildlife hazards found.
    The Secretary must receive certain assurances from a sponsor 
(applicant) seeking financial assistance under title 49 U.S.C. 47107, 
as amended. Sponsors must submit and attest to these assurances as part 
of their application for Federal financial assistance, and the FAA 
incorporates these assurances into all AIP grant agreements. From time 
to time, as necessary, the FAA clarifies, modifies or supplements these 
assurances to reflect new requirements deemed reasonably necessary to 
carry out the Airport Improvement Program. A complete list of the 
current grant assurances is available at: http://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/grant_assurances/. The FAA amended and published the current 
assurances in the Federal Register on April 13, 2012 (see ``Airport 
Improvement Program (AIP) Grant Assurances,'' 77 FR 22376). The FAA 
uses a standard set of assurances for Airport Sponsors (owners/
operators) called Appendix 1. The FAA is interpreting 49 U.S.C. 
47107(a)(19) and the corollary grant assurance, No. 19, relating to 
airport operation and maintenance, to require airport sponsors to 
conduct wildlife hazard assessments or site visits and other actions as 
necessary, as detailed in this notice, to detect and identify wildlife 
hazards. The clarification relates to Appendix 1, Airport Sponsors 
assurances.
    Grant Assurance No. 19, ``Operation and Maintenance,'' requires a 
sponsor to operate ``the airport and all facilities which are necessary 
to serve the aeronautical users of the airport [* * *], in a safe and 
serviceable condition and in accordance with the minimum standards as 
may be required or prescribed by applicable Federal, state and local 
agencies for maintenance and operation.'' Under Assurance No. 19, 
sponsors are also required to ``have in effect arrangements for [* * *] 
promptly notifying airmen of any condition affecting aeronautical use 
of the airport.''
    The airports affected by this clarification of Grant Assurance No. 
19

[[Page 5862]]

(Subject Airports) are non-certificated airports. Non-certificated 
airports include smaller commercial service airports, as well as non-
primary airports that service mostly general aviation (GA) operations. 
These airports are typically smaller and have less air traffic, more 
piston-powered aircraft, and smaller jet aircraft, than certificated 
airports. This notice does not apply to Part 139 certificated airports. 
All Part 139 certificated airports will continue to follow Part 139 
regulations for determining when WHA's are required.
    The FAA has divided the Subject Airports into four categories based 
on based aircraft and total operations. The four categories are:
    a. Subject Airports with 100 or more based turbine-powered aircraft 
or 75,000 or more total annual operations. The WHA must be initiated 
within three years of receiving a development grant after the final 
Federal Register notice. The airport sponsor must update its WHA at 
least once every 10 years thereafter.
    b. Subject Airports with between 20-99 based turbine-powered 
aircraft or 30,000-74,999 total annual operations. The WHSV must be 
initiated within three years of receiving a development grant after the 
final Federal Register notice. The airport sponsor must update its WHSV 
at least once every five years thereafter.
    c. Subject Airports with between 0-19 based turbine-powered 
aircraft or between 10,000-29,999 total annual operations. The WHSV 
must be initiated within five years of receiving a development grant 
after the final Federal Register notice. The airport sponsor must 
update its WHSV at least once every five years thereafter.
    d. Subject Airports with no based turbine-powered aircraft and 
fewer than 10,000 total annual operations. The WHSV must be initiated 
within eight years of receiving a development grant after the final 
Federal Register notice. The airport sponsor must update its WHSV at 
least once every five years thereafter.
    Data for these categories comes from the FAA Form 5010-1, Airport 
Master Record database. The FAA classifies airports to fit within the 
highest applicable category: That is, if an airport's number of based 
turbine-powered aircraft would place it into one category, while the 
airport's number of annual operations would place it into a higher 
category, the FAA classifies the airport to be within the higher 
category.
    When a WHSV is completed, the airport sponsor will provide a letter 
to the FAA along with the WHSV report. This letter will summarize 
pertinent wildlife information, any immediate mitigation activities the 
airport can do to alleviate or reduce wildlife hazards, and a 
recommendation as to whether a more comprehensive WHA is necessary. The 
FAA will then determine the need for a comprehensive WHA. Similarly, 
the FAA will determine if the conclusions and recommendations within a 
WHA warrant a WHMP.
    The FAA further interprets the statutory and grant assurance 
obligations to require airport sponsors to update their WHAs every 10 
years, and WHSVs at least once every five years thereafter. WHAs are 
granted a longer time before expiration because they cover a full year 
and are more comprehensive than WHSVs. WHSVs are one to three days in 
length, and are not nearly as comprehensive as WHAs. Like other WHAs, 
sponsors must submit the updated WHAs to the FAA Administrator for 
approval and determination of the need for a WHMP.
    The clarification the FAA proposes represents the FAA's desire to 
continue to enhance safety and prevent accidents before they occur, and 
is consistent with its previous safety enhancement efforts. These 
efforts include rulemaking on the subject of Safety Management Systems 
(SMS), as well as Cert Alert No. 09-10 ``Wildlife Hazard Assessments in 
Accordance with Part 139 Requirements'' (June 11, 2009), which the FAA 
issued to remind Part 139 airport operators of their obligations to 
conduct Wildlife Hazard Assessments if certain criteria are met. In 
this Cert Alert, the FAA also recommended that Part 139 airports that 
had not experienced a triggering event voluntarily conduct a WHA. In 
addition, the Cert Alert recommended that airports update WHAs more 
than five years old. The FAA believes sponsors who accept new grants at 
Subject Airports need to be more proactive in the future and take steps 
to understand and alleviate the risks of wildlife strikes.
    The FAA published Advisory Circular 5200-33B (``Hazardous Wildlife 
Attractants on or Near Airports'') on August 28, 2007. Paragraph 2 
states, ``Airports that have received Federal grant-in-aid assistance 
must use these standards.'' The word ``standards'' in this section of 
the AC refers to the separation criteria for proposed land use 
practices, described in Section 1 of the AC and referenced in Section 
4-3 of the AC. The FAA considers the grant assurances to require 
federally funded airports to adhere to the separation criteria.
    The AC also recommends that federally funded airports near 
woodlands, wetlands, and water prepare wildlife hazard assessments 
(WHAs). Specifically, Paragraph 2-7(c) states, ``The FAA recommends 
that operators of airports surrounded by woodlands, water, or wetlands 
refer to Section 2.4 of this AC.'' The FAA has not interpreted this 
statement or the grant assurances to mean that non-certificated 
airports were required to do WHAs. This interpretation of the AC was 
reasonable based on the AC's plain language, its history, as well as 
the requirements for federally funded airports under Part 139, which 
were less stringent with regard to WHA triggering events.
    The FAA is concurrently publishing the draft Advisory Circular, No. 
5200-33C, on the FAA's Web site at http://www.faa.gov/airports/resources/draft_advisory_circulars/ for public comment. To comment on 
the draft Advisory Circular, follow the instructions on the Web site.
    Proposed changes to Advisory Circular 5200-33B include the removal 
of Section 2.7(c), ``Airports Surrounded by Wildlife Habitat.'' The FAA 
also proposes to modify the Applicability section to be consistent with 
the FAA's interpretation of Grant Assurance No. 19. The FAA proposes 
interpreting the grant assurance to require non-certificated, federally 
obligated airports that accept a new airport development grant under 
the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), or a new surplus property 
conveyance, to monitor, evaluate, and mitigate risks associated with 
wildlife hazards. The FAA also proposes recommended procedures 
concerning off-airport attractants (i.e., notification and review of 
proposed land-use practice changes in the vicinity of public-use 
airports).
    We are also clarifying in this Federal Register Notice that we 
interpret the phrase ``farthest edge of the airport's AOA'' in Para 1-4 
of Advisory Circular 150/5200-33 (``Hazardous Wildlife Attractants on 
or Near Airports'') to refer to the edge of the air operations area 
(AOA) closest to the wildlife attractant.
    This serves as notice pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 47107(h) that the FAA 
interprets Grant Assurance No. 19 to include a requirement for all 
Subject Airports to undertake either a Wildlife Hazard Assessment (WHA) 
or Wildlife Hazard Safety Site Visit (WHSV), and to mitigate wildlife 
risks according to criteria set forth in this notice. This is done in 
accordance with the authority of the Secretary of Transportation to 
take such action that the Secretary considers necessary to carry out 
the Airport Improvement Program, including grant assurance requirements

[[Page 5863]]

for sponsors. 49 U.S.C. 47107(g)(1)(A), 47122(a). To comment on this 
Notice, follow the instructions set forth under ``Addresses,'' above.
    Currently, Grant Assurance No. 19 reads, in part, ``[The sponsor] 
will suitably operate and maintain the airport and all facilities 
thereon or connected therewith, with due regard to climatic and flood 
conditions.'' To clarify, the FAA proposes to add language addressing 
wildlife hazards to this sentence, so that it would read: ``[The 
sponsor] will suitably operate and maintain the airport and all 
facilities thereon or connected therewith, with due regard to issues 
including, but not limited to, climatic and flood conditions, and 
wildlife hazards.''
    This Federal Register Notice does not apply to Part 139 
certificated airports. Specific requirements for certificated airports 
to alleviate wildlife hazards whenever detected are published at 14 CFR 
139.337.
    Under the Surplus Property Act of 1944, now codified at 49 U.S.C. 
47151-47153, Congress authorized the conversion of surplus military 
airports to civilian public use airports. State or local governments 
request the Federal Government to convey land that is desirable for 
developing, improving, operating, or maintaining a public airport. The 
property is transferred to the new public-entity owner through an 
instrument of property conveyance. The transfer instrument contains 
deed covenants similar to the grant assurances, which the FAA enforces 
through 14 CFR Part 16. One of the deed covenants is a provision 
substantially similar to Grant Assurance No. 19 (See FAA Order 5150.2A, 
Appendix 3, paragraph 6(b)). This is to provide notice that the FAA 
will be interpreting this parallel provision of Grant Assurance No. 19 
in a similar manner.
    In summary, the FAA proposes to interpret the statutory and grant 
assurance provisions relating to safety, and the parallel deed covenant 
included in instruments of conveyance of surplus property, on a 
prospective basis, to require all Subject Airports to conduct either a 
WHA or WHSV, and to prepare a WHMP if necessary, upon acceptance of a 
new grant for a development project, or a new instrument of conveyance 
for surplus property after the effective date of the final Federal 
Register Notice. The FAA believes this will enhance safety in managing 
wildlife hazards at general aviation airports.
    Additional Information: On March 4, 2008, a catastrophic wildlife 
strike involving a Cessna 500 Citation and an unknown number of 
migratory white pelicans resulted in five fatalities near Wiley Post 
Airport in Oklahoma City, OK. Following the National Transportation 
Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, the NTSB recommended the FAA 
``[v]erify that all federally obligated general aviation airports that 
are located near woodlands, water, wetlands, or other wildlife 
attractants are complying with the requirements to perform wildlife 
hazard assessments as specified in Federal Aviation Administration 
Advisory Circular 150/5200-33B, Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or 
Near Airports.'' In response, the FAA stated it would:
    ``[* * *] modify Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5200-33B and our 
grant assurances to clarify the responsibility of federally 
obligated National Plan of Integrated Airport System/General 
Aviation (NPIAS/GA) airports, to conduct wildlife hazard assessments 
(WHA). To assist the airports in conducting the WHAs, we will make 
Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funds available to them and 
we will prepare a plan to establish the priority and subsequent 
schedule for completing the WHAs * * *.''

    Many populations of wildlife species commonly involved in aircraft 
strikes in the United States have increased markedly in number in the 
last few decades. For example, from 1980 to 2009, the resident (non-
migratory) Canada goose population in the USA and Canada increased at a 
mean rate of 13.3 percent per year. Other species showing significant 
mean annual rates of increase included bald eagles (3.6 percent), wild 
turkeys (11.1 percent), turkey vultures (2.6 percent), American white 
pelicans (8.4 percent), double-crested cormorants (6.6 percent), and 
sandhill cranes (6.4 percent). Thirteen of the 14 bird species in North 
America with mean body masses greater than 8 lbs. have shown 
significant population increases over the past three decades. The 
white-tailed deer population increased from about 15 million in 1984 
and to over 28 million in 2010.
    In May 2009, the FAA authorized a study through the FAA Airport 
Technology Research and Development Branch to review the National 
Wildlife Strike Database and determine the current level of reporting 
and if it is sufficient to determine national trends. The two parts of 
this study, ``Trends in Wildlife Strike Reporting, Part 1--Voluntary 
System 1990-2008,'' DOT/FAA/AR-09/65 (December 2009) and ``Wildlife 
Strike Reporting--Sources of Data in Voluntary System,'' DOT/FAA/AR-09/
63 (December 2009), also reviewed whether strike reporting should be 
mandated and how the FAA can increase its data collection.
    This study identified an increase in the total number of strikes 
reported from 20 percent of all strikes occurring from 1990 to 1994 to 
39 percent of all strikes occurring from 2004 to 2008 at airports 
certificated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 139. 
Although there was a higher level of reporting, the total number of 
damaging strikes did not increase. The study attributes this to the 
successful implementation of professionally run wildlife hazard 
programs to mitigate significant wildlife hazards at many certificated 
airports (See Trends in Wildlife Strike Reporting, section 6).
    The study did identify substantial reporting gaps in the reporting 
of bird strikes among certificated airports, air carriers, and GA 
airports. The report addressed GA airports listed in the NPIAS (and 
therefore eligible to receive grants of federal funding) separately 
from other GA airports. Less than 6 percent of all strike reports come 
from NPIAS GA airports, and reporting rates average less than \1/20\ of 
the rates at Part 139 airports.
    Although the current overall reporting rate of 39 percent is 
adequate to: (1) Track national trends in wildlife strikes; (2) 
determine the hazard level of wildlife species that are being struck; 
and (3) provide a scientific foundation for FAA policies and guidance 
regarding the mitigation of risk from wildlife strikes, the study 
concluded that NPIAS GA airport strike reporting is underrepresented 
(see ``Trends in Wildlife Strike Reporting,'' section 5.2).\1\ Whereas 
about 11 percent of the strikes reported from Part 139 airports 
indicated damage to the aircraft, about 50 percent of the strikes 
reported from NPIAS GA airports indicated damage. Thus, even though 
NPIAS GA airports report fewer total damaging strikes compared to Part 
139 airports, such strikes constitute a much higher percentage of their 
total reporting. This raises the concern that non-damaging strikes are 
occurring at these airports but going unreported.
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    \1\ This underreporting may be partly due requirement in part 
139 that Class I-III airports conduct a wildlife hazard assessment 
and then implement a wildlife hazard management plan should one of 
four specified triggering events occur at the airport.
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    Increased monitoring of general conditions and reporting of even 
non-damaging strikes by GA airports is important because it allows for 
identification of potential and minor hazards before they become major 
hazards, which in turn allows airports to prevent damaging strikes 
before they occur.
    Turning to strike rates for GA aircraft at Part 139 compared to 
NPIAS GA airports, the reported strike rate for GA

[[Page 5864]]

aircraft at Part 139 airports was nine times higher than the reported 
strike rate for GA aircraft at NPIAS GA airports. ``GA aircraft'' is 
defined in the study as non-commercial private, business, or government 
aircraft--see ``Trends in Wildlife Strike Reporting,'' section 4.3.3. 
However, the damaging strike rate for GA aircraft at Part 139 airports 
was three times higher than it was for GA aircraft at NPIAS GA 
airports. It is notable that of the 49 reported civil aircraft 
destroyed or damaged beyond repair because of wildlife strikes in the 
U.S. from 1990-2008, 33 (67 percent) occurred on or near GA airports.
    According to the study, the number of Part 139 airports reporting 
at least one wildlife strike increased from 234 (42 percent of the 552 
airports) in 1990 to 333 (60 percent) in 2008. The overall reported 
strike rates at individual Part 139 airports were 15 to 47 times higher 
compared to NPIAS non-certificated airports in each year (1990-2009). 
The average strike rate of all Part 139 airports compared to NPIAS non-
certificated airports was 23 times higher during this same time. 
Although this may be explained by a different mix of aircraft using 
these two different categories of airports, the magnitude of the 
difference indicates that actual reporting rates for NPIAS GA airports 
are much lower than for Part 139 airports. This is supported in the 
study by an examination of reporting rates for damaging strikes where 
the magnitude of difference is much less. Whereas Part 139 airports had 
a 23-fold higher average reporting rate for all strikes compared to 
NPIAS GA airports, the reporting rate for damaging strikes was only 5-
fold higher. Thus, even though fewer total damaging strikes are 
reported compared to Part 139 airports, there is more of a tendency at 
NPIAS GA airports to report damaging strikes compared to non-damaging 
strikes. As stated above, increased monitoring of wildlife conditions 
and reporting of even non-damaging strikes are important to prevent 
dangerous conditions and damaging strikes before they occur.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2013.
Elliott Black,
Acting Director, Office of Airport Planning and Programming.
[FR Doc. 2013-00778 Filed 1-24-13; 4:15 pm]
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