The Importance of Part 139 on Small Airport Operations


Story and photos by
 Garrett Watson, Airport Associate

In learning to fly, we all are no doubt familiar with the very first critical step of flight, the pre-flight inspection. The instructor walks us around the plane and explains the importance of ensuring there’s no obstructions where there shouldn’t be, no broken or inoperable lights or equipment, and check that the fuel is clear of particulate and void of water. Once the checkride is passed and there is no one making you do your pre-flight inspection, does that mean its ok not to do it? Of course not!

As with any aircraft, the airport is a critical element of flight being the preferred landing destination for 100% of pilots in the air. As such, airport operators, Cleburne Regional included, must likewise check that there are no obstructions on the runway or taxiway, no broken or inoperable lights or equipment such as PAPI’s, and check that our fuel is clean and clear. Since we’re open for operations just about every day of the year that means we need to do those checkups every day of the year.

At Cleburne Regional Airport, every day starts with inspecting and sumping our fuel trucks and tanks as well as a general check of the runway and taxiways. Maintenance Supervisor Mark Zelder regularly checks the conditions of runway/taxiway lighting, signage, and windsocks to ensure maximum visibility and holds a high standard for grounds maintenance in the ROFA (runway object free area) or safety area.

“I tend to think about maintenance on a personal level,” said Zelder. “Someone’s family is on every plane that flies in and out of here and it’s our responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure safe operations so they can get back to their families.”

As with aircraft, the FAA has provided helpful checklists for Part 139 inspections to ensure airports certificated under Part 139 have all their bases checked. This is also a very helpful tool for smaller airports, providing a basis for safe operations regardless of size.

The Part 139 certification is broken down into several sections including a master record, records of employee training, fuel storage and handling, self-inspections and condition reports, runway safety areas, marking/lighting/signs, emergency planning, wildlife hazard management, and more. 

At Cleburne Regional, though we don’t have a massive master record of operational procedures a Part 139 certification requires, we do in one form or another meet many of the requirements for each section.

All of our personnel take fuel handling and movement area training at least once every two years, in line with Part 139 requirements. We also regularly ensure our runway safety area information is up to date and regularly check to ensure all of our lights, signage, and equipment are operational.

As for emergency operations, we are minutes away from the nearest fire department and response times are within minutes after a call out in the case of fire.

Being a city entity, environmental safety and wildlife management is a high priority as well and we keep up to date records of runoff water quality and keep a close watch on wildlife that frequent the area such as coyotes, birds, and other animals that could be a danger to aircraft coming in or leaving the airport.

On top of these diligent operational considerations, we continue to push ourselves to be able to check more and more items off the Part 139 checklist of requirements, not only as a matter of pride for our airport, but even more so an act of our dedication to safety for all those who choose to stop by Cleburne Regional Airport.

For more information or questions about the airport’s operations, reach out to us at [email protected] or give us a call at 817-641-5456.