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Cleveland Officials Dispute FAA Fines Totaling $735,000

Photo by Flickr.com's A.Currell
Photo by Flickr.com's A.Currell

By ideastream’s Brian Bull

Not quite a month after the FAA slapped the Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport with $735,000 in fines, city officials are disputing the violations and penalties.

In a 17-page letter to the FAA, city officials address four separate incidents which happened between late December 2013 and March 1 st of this year.  The city is asking the agency to review its actions and reconsider the fines.

Ed Rybka is Cleveland’s Chief of Regional Development.  He says the city is responding to concerns about the airport’s safety as the holiday travel season approaches.

“Twice we agree that there was human error that caused concerns out in the airfield, and in both of those cases, the city took appropriate action,” Rybka tells ideastream. “Disciplined those employees, and in fact, suspended them for a period of time.

“But the bottom line is we feel that a more full, complete review of the facts indicated that city was doing what it needed to do to ensure the traveling public that this airfield would be safe.” 

Rybka says the FAA has acknowledged the letter but has not yet taken the city up on its offer to meet and discuss the violations. 

“When a complete review of the facts is made, one can conclude that the airfield at Hopkins was still being maintained in a safe manner, and therefore that the civil penalties that are being suggested by the FAA be reduced, or in some of those circumstances, be eliminated.”

Fred Szabo, Interim Director of the airport, says two cases involved human error, and two employees were appropriately disciplined and retrained. 

The other two were pilot’s calls as to whether runways were safe to land on. Szabo says one pilot changed his mind after landing, causing another incoming jet to circle the airport.

“But once we approached the scene, with the aircraft still sitting there, we did a measurement of the friction of that pavement he was on. It was well within limits,” says Szabo. 

“And in fact, the pilot of the aircraft powered up and taxied out under his own power. So those are just the facts, and those are the things we can discuss with the FAA.” 

Both Szabo and Rybka say they want to alleviate safety concerns about Cleveland-Hopkins.  This includes hitting a staffing goal by November 1 st, which is the start of the winter season at the airport.