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45 CHAPTER 4 Conclusions Current Systems What is needed is a balanced system that preserves or improves ramp safety, while better defining the hazard area From a safety point of view, the existing lightning warning and duration for maximum efficiency. A system that is too systems for airports seem to be doing a very good job. Because conservative and generates prolonged shutdowns will even- airports and airlines are safety conscious and closely monitor tually be ignored or disregarded. the weather, lightning injuries to ramp and other outdoor Lightning warning systems in the United States are gener- workers have been infrequent and fatalities rare. At the same ally based on lightning observations from the national light- time, however, there appears to be no systematic attempt to ning detection networks, primarily the NLDN. These systems collect or maintain lightning-related ramp injury records for are a national resource and provide high-accuracy location of the cases that do occur, and the information that is available cloud-to-ground lightning strokes from Seattle to Miami and is mostly in the form of anecdotal stories or in the corporate from Maine to San Diego. With real-time access to lightning memory of long-term employees. On the federal side, no data, an airport monitoring system can track the develop- statistics on aviation-related lightning injuries are collected ment of lightning storms and their movement toward the by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the airport. Warnings and ramp closures are then generated on National Transportation Safety Board, or the FAA. the basis of the distance of flashes from the airport and the With increasing pressure for on-time operations and effi- time since the most recent nearby stroke. This is an efficient ciency, ramp closures resulting from nearby lightning can system since it is based on directly detecting and monitoring have a serious impact on local airport operations and reduce the cloud-to-ground lightning strokes that pose the hazard. the efficiency of the national air transportation system. Although lightning frequently halts ramp operations at many Appropriate Systems for Airports airports, it is difficult to analyze the true scope and magnitude of All Sizes of the problem because neither airlines nor airports routinely record the frequency or duration of ramp closures. The serious Ramp safety is essential for all airports. All commercial air- impact of lightning on ramp safety and operational efficiency, ports with scheduled operations in lightning-prone areas and the potential impact on the national air transportation should have lightning detection and warning systems to alert system, need to be reflected in better efforts to collect and managers and ramp personnel of approaching hazards. While maintain records. our study has concentrated on the higher-end lightning On the industry side, lightning safety studies emphasize warning systems designed for large airports, there are also less techniques designed to improve lightning detection capabil- sophisticated and less expensive lightning warning systems ities and predictions. Researchers examine "gaps" in warning appropriate for smaller airports. detection systems and try to eliminate potential "failures to Smaller airports may be well served by Internet-based warn" of imminent lightning strikes. At the same time, how- lightning monitoring systems that provide real-time access to ever, it is important to examine proposed system improve- lightning information from the NLDN, but without the ded- ments for their potential to increase the number or duration icated high-speed communication lines, sophisticated display of ramp closures without any increase in worker safety, and workstations, or automatic sirens and alarms typically used at to focus on identifying the earliest time at which the "all larger airports. Smaller airports with fewer operations have clear" can be announced and ramp operations resumed. more flexibility and can more easily absorb delays caused by