Enhancing aerodrome safety: an ACI APEX journey
Davy Maddick-Semal, Aerodrome Operations Manager at Cairns Airport, writes exclusively for International Airport Review, of his experience of the ACI APEX in Safety review programme.
c: Davy Maddick-Semal
A surprising opportunity came to me when I was contacted by ACI World, asking if I was available to join the next ACI Airport Excellence (APEX) in Safety review at Almaty International Airport (ALA), Kazakhstan.
I had heard of the programme whilst undertaking the joint ACI-ICAO Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP). The APEX programme facilitates improvement in aerodrome safety and standards by way of a multi-national peer review of the host airport. It piqued my interest and I left a note in the course material (thinking could this something to do at my own airport?).
The call upended the note, with the opportunity to assist another airport and keep the momentum from AMPAP going. It would allow collaboration and forging more professional relationships in the global aviation space.
Preparation for destination Almaty, Kazakhstan
I am lucky to work with supportive leaders at Cairns Airport and did not have any issue getting time away from the usual job. Without delay, I booked my flights and started reading up on the essential documentation that would help me during the review, and just as importantly, the country.
ACI World scheduled a teleconference call to introduce the A-Team (A for Almaty!) and to hear all about the programme, its objectives and expectations. The team leader set up a WhatsApp group so we could start collaborating right away and debriefed some specific ALA challenges to look over prior to arrival in Almaty.
The recipe for success
Spoiler-alert! From all accounts, the mission was a success. There were five aspects to set up the mission success:
- Leadership: the team leader led charge with exceptional prowess, expertise, charisma and a touch of magic
- Diversity: seven fresh airport perspectives from Ireland, Switzerland, Bucharest, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia and Australia were chosen to leave an indelible mark on the airport’s safety legacy
- Aviation professionalism: all team members showed unwavering determination, displaying professionalism in every single activity and outside work, setting the stage for a superb peer safety review.
- Strong admin support: ACI HQ in Montreal was always available for exquisite admin support
- A welcoming and committed host airport: without the resolute commitment of the airport’s staff, from the front line to top management, success is less obvious. From the outset, it was evident that ALA had dedicated significant efforts to prepare for the review. The airport personnel were not only welcoming, but extremely helpful in facilitating inspections and providing existing documentation.
This cooperative approach, palpable in every interaction, fostered an environment of collaboration, enabling a comprehensive assessment of the airport’s safety practices.
Apex in Safety review
The ACI APEX in Safety review process employed a meticulous methodology, combining site inspections, interviews and data analysis. It encompassed a broad range of areas, including but not limited to SMS, Aerodrome Manual, airport infrastructure, emergency preparedness and wildlife hazard management.
A formal inaugural presentation and signing ceremony showcasing all parties’ commitment preluded the inspections. Once proceedings were complete, off went the suits into a more comfy attire for the airside inspections. Following four days of inspections, the final day was presentation day. Like day one, which was very much a formal proceeding, the final day concluded on-site APEX review.
Thanks to the strong collaboration between the assessors and airport personnel, the inspections yielded several noteworthy recommendations for ALA, the primary objective. We presented the ‘tip of the iceberg’ on day five with the comprehensive written report ensuing in the following weeks ahead.
Implications and future outlook
The ACI APEX in Safety review at ALA has far-reaching implications for the aviation industry. It serves as a reminder that safety is a shared responsibility that extends beyond individual airports. The learnings and experiences gained from the review process can inspire other airports worldwide to enhance their safety practices. The experience not only benefits the host airport but also provides a unique opportunity for all participating assessors to learn from each other and bring back knowledge and experience to their respective airports, aligning with the vision of the ICAO founders back in 1944.
“Is APEX in Safety something to do at my own airport?” became a rhetorical question. Without doubt, this is something every airport should consider.
The APEX programme consist of peer-to-peer assessment and the reviews are conducted by teams composed of subject matter experts from airports within the ACI membership.
Participating airports (Airport Partners) lend their expertise, and their employees which contribute by sharing their knowledge and experiences with other host airports. This contributes to growing the community of experts and promoting the development of industry best practices. The only cost to a participating airport would be the donation of the expert’s time.
Davy Maddick-Semal is an aviation professional with over 15 years’ experience. Davy obtained his commercial pilot’s license in Cairns, gaining him employment as a freelance pilot, sharing the spectacular views of the Great Barrier Reef with travellers.
From tropical Far North Queensland, Davy moved to the Red Centre and gained aviation operations management expertise as regional manager of one of the largest general aviation operators in the Northern Territory connecting some of the most remote locations throughout Australia.
Davy moved on to airport operations working in senior management roles at Airport Development Group (Darwin International, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek Airports). Over two years, Davy returned to Cairns where his aviation career began and is now Aerodrome Operations Manager at Cairns Airport. Davy is passionate about aerodrome safety and compliance and finding and driving continuous improvement initiatives.
Davy recently obtained the ACI/ ICAO IAP designation (AMPAP), holds qualifications in Leadership and Management, and a Bachelor of International Tourism and Leisure.