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Runway Reality Check - Adventures of YVR Co-op Students

We are lucky enough to have Terry Chou, an SFU Communications student, as a Summer Co-op Student in the YVR Communications Department. Terry recently went on an airside adventure and chronicled his experience for us all:

Being the second-busiest airport in Canada, Vancouver International Airport has seen its fair share of travellers through the terminal. Like most passengers, I never realized how much it takes to operate an airport. So this week, we caught up with Heather Pablico, our Airside Safety Officer, to see what it’s like to go on a runway safety check.

As we drove around and waited for the Air Traffic Controller to clear us for the runway check, she explained YVR conducts these runway safety checks four times a day, every six hours, because objects from all shape and sizes sometimes find their way to the runways and it’s part of her job to remove these items to ensure it’s safe for departing and arriving aircrafts.

Sometimes a set of eyes on the runway is not enough to detect every small object. YVR also uses high-resolution radars called Foreign Object Debris (FOD) radar system that continuously monitors and scans the runway for foreign objects. The FOD radar system is so precise it can even detect items as small as a golf ball. When objects are detected on the radar, Heather is contacted to locate and remove the items off the runways.

It wasn’t long until we were cleared by the Air Traffic Controller and found ourselves racing down the runway at 80 km/h trying to spot for any unusual items. As we sprinted down the runway, she told us the grass fields at YVR are always maintained to specific height levels. For instance, the grass fields along the runway are kept to specific minimum levels to deter animals and outlying fields are left at higher levels to draw them away from the runways.


Admittedly, we were a bit sad when the runway check came to a conclusion, knowing how exciting her job was compared to ours. The role of an Airside Safety Officer is definitely not easy but the outdoors excitement is certainly a perk. Thanks again Heather for giving us a taste of what it’s like to be an Airside Safety Officer!

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1 Comment

  • Jamaly wrote on Jun 28 2013 AT 4:58 PM

    How refreshing that there is still an offciial viewing point. When I first saw your photos on Flickr I have to admit I thought you would be visited by the UK equivalent of Homeland Security! In the airport itself they have managed to screen off much of the viewing area between Terminals 1 and 2, which is a shame. Children (adults too) like to see the plane they are waiting for land.
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