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CITY OF LAS CRUCES

Las Cruces airport earns improved compliance report

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The Las Cruces International Airport received the close-out letter stating all deficiencies identified during Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 139 inspection have been successfully addressed. Andy Hume, airport administrator, described the report as “great news!”

Annually, the airport must undergo a comprehensive review of its operations, systems, facilities or procedures to meet FAA Part 139 certification requirements. Part 139 certification means that the airport meets criteria for passenger air service. Las Cruces International Airport has successfully maintained this certification since 1981.

“It was a very good report,” Hume said. “We went from having 18 discrepancies two years ago, to having only three of a lesser degree and none repeated, which is also very important. All-in-all, it’s a positive outcome.”

The inspection, conducted in October 2020, focused on the vast administrative requirements to remain in compliance with FAA Part 139 certification for Las Cruces International Airport.

The yet-to-be-scheduled second phase of the inspection will review conditions ranging from runways and taxiways, preparing for aircraft rescue and firefighting emergencies, to ridding animals from the airport’s property. Hume said the facility must also conduct self-assessments daily to maintain the airport’s certificates and meet safety requirements. The thorough, daily checklist takes at least an hour every day and looks at lights, signs, pavement, security measures, clearing brush and trees, and much more.

One of the three deficiencies cited in the recent report focused on “self-inspections not being completed” on several dates. Hume discovered the inspections were in fact done and were a documentation error.

“We conduct inspections diligently and we have notified the FAA that the cited discrepancies have been resolved,” Hume said.

The two other discrepancies have also been corrected. He said one requires a qualified wildlife biologist to train airport personnel with regard to intruding animals. Due to COVID-19, Hume said the training was temporarily delayed, but has since been finished.

The airport is located along Interstate-10 on the city’s west mesa. With the assistance of a $750,000 FAA grant, combined with additional dollars from the City of Las Cruces and the New Mexico Department of Transportation, an upgraded, six-mile perimeter fence was erected last July to help prevent wildlife from roaming onto runways or into the facilities.

“Foxes, coyotes, javelinas and cows are just a sample of the wildlife we have in the area,” Hume said. “The great thing is, since we have our new perimeter fence, the chances for those wildlife hazards have greatly diminished and safety has increased for airport users.”

Regarding the final citation, Hume said an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) drill has to be conducted at some point during a 12-month period. This year’s drill was delayed due to the pandemic but has since been completed and reported to the FAA.

The ARFF personnel must be trained and ready for the worst-case scenario. Hume explained they have to be trained on how to handle aircraft emergencies, how to fight fires that involve different types of fuel, and how to rescue anywhere from two to 30 passengers. Hume described the drill as “a rigorous three-days of training with different scenarios to face. I have a lot of confidence in our team. They know how to handle aircraft crises,” he said. Hume said his goal for next year’s inspections will be “mission zero-discrepancies.”

The FAA inspection has an additional impact on the community — attracting commercial passenger airlines to Las Cruces. Recently, the City Council has discussed whether to resurrect passenger air service, in addition to the existing charter and private flights that come-and-go on a daily basis. Hume said maintaining all levels of security, training, and certifications are imperative to entice a company to initiate regularly scheduled passenger service to areas such as Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix or Denver, as an example.