Aviation and weather are soul mates and have been so from the days of the first motorized flights. Weather at the airport and its vicinity is a critical factor in this equation. There is a popular misconception that risks to crew, passengers and staff cease to exist once the aircraft engines are turned off. This is simply not so. It is a common feature at airports that injury and death is caused to ground handling staff during thunderstorms. Adverse weather also portends a serious threat to activities such as refuelling, de-icing and baggage handling operations. Other hazards that might seriously affect those working on the airside are windstorms (which have, in certain instances lifted baggage containers off the ground) and ice and snow which pose a serious threat of injury to passengers climbing aircraft steps who could slip on accumulated black ice. Catastrophic events such as tsunamis, tropical cyclones, snow storms, floods and dust and sand storms are real threats to airports, requiring vigilance and responsibility of both the State concerned and the airport authorities.
Most aviation accidents occur at airports or in their immediate vicinities. In January 2007, the Air Navigation Commission of ICAO addressed the subject of dissemination of aerodrome warnings, in particular a recommendation to Annex 3 to the Chicago Convention which suggested that aerodrome warnings should relate to the occurrence or expected occurrence of volcanic ash, tsunami and other phenomena as agreed locally. This article elaborates on the dangers posed by bad weather at airports and inquires into the liability and responsibility of the State and the airport in this regard.Air and Space Law