FSF Calls for International Symposium on Aircraft Monitoring and Communication Systems

On 01/04/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve

fssIn the wake of the Malaysian government’s announcement that flight MH 370 ended in the Indian Ocean and the continuing search, the Flight Safety Foundation today called on the commercial aviation industry and national civil aviation authorities to gather for an international symposium on the current state of technology and need to incorporate practical in-flight aircraft monitoring and communications systems to enhance location tracking.

“We will hopefully know soon what happened on this tragic flight,” said David McMillan, Chairman of the FSF Board of Governors. “We do know, however, that emerging technology exists to provide much more real-time data about aircraft operations and engine performance. That data can help us unlock mysteries, leading to timely safety improvements and more focused search and rescue missions, while avoiding some of the pain and anguish felt by victims’ loved ones in the wake of a tragedy.”

“Satellite communications, navigation, and surveillance systems also represent efficient ways of tracking aircraft, especially over water,” said Kenneth Hylander, FSF’s acting president and CEO. “Given existing technology, we simply should not be losing contact with aircraft for unknown reasons. Out of respect for the families, it’s also time for the media speculation to stop, and for a knowledgeable, responsible, professional dialogue to begin to examine technological options for practical tracking of aircraft.”

Click here to read the full article


FAA Issues Final Rule to Improve Helicopter Safety

On 20/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve

foxnewshelicopterThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today issued a final rule that requires helicopter operators, including air ambulances, to have stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment. The rule represents the most significant improvements to helicopter safety in decades and responds to government’s and industry’s concern over continued risk in helicopter operations.

“This is a landmark rule for helicopter safety,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These improvements will better prepare pilots and better equip helicopters, ensuring a higher level of safety for passengers and crew.”

All U.S. helicopter operators, including air ambulances, are required to use stricter flying procedures in bad weather. This will provide a greater margin of safety by reducing the probability of collisions with terrain, obstacles or other aircraft.

Within 60 days, all operators will be required to use enhanced procedures for flying in challenging weather, at night, and when landing in remote locations. Within three years, helicopter air ambulances must use the latest on-board technology and equipment to avoid terrain and obstacles, and within four years, they must be equipped with flight data monitoring systems.

“This rule is a significant advancement in helicopter safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This rule will help reduce risk and help pilots make good safety decisions through the use of better training, procedures, and equipment.”

Under the new rule, all Part 135 helicopter operators are required to:

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Reverse technology flow

On 10/02/2014, in Safety is no accident, by steve

mapNot so long ago I punched an address into the navigation software of my smartphone and after pondering the information for a few seconds, the well-known female voice announced: Caution, your destination is in a restricted area. Mind you, the address was in a quiet, relatively new area of Budapest so her knowledge of such details was really impressive. In short order our 20 thousand Euro rental car with 4 people on board was led to the address… Compare this to what happened on 22 December 2013 at Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport when a 350 million bucks 747 with 185 passengers punched a hole with its right wing in a building after the crew, using paper charts to navigate, failed to heed a warning printed on the chart about the presence of a narrow taxilane which they entered by mistake.

The taxi lane versus the taxiway...

The taxi lane versus the taxiway…

In 2011 an Airbus 380 struck a building while taxiing in broad daylight… during the Paris airshow of all places!

In May 2012, an Eva Air 747’s wing sliced through an American Eagle regional jet in Chicago…


But there is more.

Moving map ground navigation displays have been available in cars for several years when they first appeared in airliner cockpits but initially they carried a sticker, saying that the display was not be used for operational purposes. The reason? Most existing airport maps were so inaccurate, the plane would have been shown taxiing anywhere except on the taxiways. When I saw this, I was wondering: would I ever buy a car with a sticker like that?

Still more?

According to some statistics, on average there are 2 noteworthy runway incursion incidents per day… A runway incursion is an event when an aircraft or ground vehicle enters the runway and gets in the way of another aircraft. The problem has been long recognized and efforts are underway to reduce the incidence of such events. One system will generate a warning when an incursion is about to happen. The warning rings the bell… in the Tower!!!! Just think about it. A 747 is about to become a problem and someone thought the best place to start the shouting is in the tower… by the time the controller reacts and passes the warning to the pilots, it is probably all over… except for the shouting (sorry, no pun intended).


According to Flight Safety Foundation data, there are some 27 thousand ramp accidents per year world-wide resulting in a cool 10 billion bucks of damage.

Clearly, there is something very wrong here. How is it possible that multimillion dollar jets with hundreds of passengers on board are still lumbering around airports using technologies that date back to 30-40 years ago?

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What is the definition of a pilot?

On 27/12/2013, in Safety is no accident, by steve

A while back somebody answered this question, admittedly rather unkindly as: a pilot is an expensive source of accidents. My pilot friends, please bear with me… and read on.

Social-Media-Automation1While I do not agree with this definition as such, it does dovetail with a number of recent incidents (Turkish Amsterdam, Calgon Air Buffalo, Air France South-Atlantic and Asiana SFO) as well as the long lasting debate about the erosion of basic piloting skills in an environment where highly automated aircraft have become phenomenally reliable and predictable.

A recent article in Aviation Week and Space Technology also discusses the issue, highlighting the disturbing truth that in spite of the widespread recognition of the existence of the problem, there is no agreement on “why a pilot’s hand flying skills decay, what to do about it and what constitutes an adequate set of manual piloting skills”.

The recommendations from the FAA flight path management working group are also telling. Inter alia they state: Pilots must be prepared for dealing with the unexpected, and the equipment design, training, procedures and operations must enable them to do so.” They keep mum about this should be done…

So, to over simplify things a little, we have aircraft that fly themselves most of the time and on the few occasions when they do not, the pilots turn out to have forgotten how to fly manually. How do we solve such a dilemma?

Obviously, there are to possible options here: eliminate the pilot and make the aircraft totally capable to do its own thing; or find a way to keep the pilot current and ready to handle “the unexpected”.

Does the first choice sound outlandish? Well, if you listen to the box shifters, they think it is not and they at least can hardly wait until the technology is there to make their MD-11s and other big metal fly from A to B without the benefit (and costs) of a pilot. Packages do not care if the front office is empty. Opponents will argue that while we have news of accidents where the pilot was to blame, we seldom hear about the cases where things did work out ok with the pilots actually saving the day. Indeed, the Air France accident was preceded by several incidents of loss of airspeed indications… While it is true that we do not have full statistics of how many times the pilots as the last line of defense saved the day, it is worth pointing out an inherent flaw in this argument.

Click here to read the full article


Operational Use of Flight Path Management Systems

On 17/12/2013, in Safety is no accident, by steve

wgThe report of the FAA’s Flight Deck Automation Working Group, originally submitted to them in September, has been released to the public on 21 November. The Working Group found that the use of modern, highly automated flight path management systems can lead to degradation of piloting skills as well as other new risks not sufficiently recognized. They formulated 18 recommendations aimed at mitigating this worrying tendency.

The FAA will establish a new government-industry group early next year charged with developing measures to reduce identified risk areas via encouraging voluntary changes in pilot, flight attendant and dispatcher training. The group will review 25 safety recommendations from the NTSB and the FAA itself and decide the top 5 focus areas that will have to be addressed with priority. Some of the 25 recommendations stem from the 18 recommendations referred to above.

You can read the full report here.


FAA Boosts Aviation Safety with New Pilot Qualification Standards

On 10/07/2013, in Safety is no accident, by steve

In a final rule to be published soon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it is increasing the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.

FOThe rule requires first officers – also known as co-pilots – to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot. Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

“Safety will be my overriding priority as Secretary, so I am especially pleased to mark my first week by announcing a rule that will help us maintain our unparalleled safety record,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots.”

The new regulations stem in part from the tragic crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009, and address a Congressional mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 to ensure that both pilots and co-pilots receive the ATP certification. Today’s rule is one of several rulemakings required by the Act, including the new flight duty and rest requirements for pilots that were finalized in December 2011, and new training requirements expected this fall for air carrier training programs to ensure pilots know how to react properly in difficult operating environments.

Click here to read the full article


Minimizing the risk of midair collisions

On 13/11/2012, in Safety is no accident, by steve

FAA and industry partners have come up with a possible solution to minimize the risk of midair collisions where low-level commercial airliners, general aviation aircraft, military jets, and helicopters all fly together in the same complex airspace.

What do you think about the new prototype VFR navigational chart for the LA Basin? Learn more in the Nov/Dec issue of the FAA Safety Briefing magazine here.


Listening Session on the Protection of Safety Information Scheduled for December in Washington, DC

On 10/11/2012, in Safety is no accident, by steve

The Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, non-profit, international organization engaged in research, education, advocacy and publishing to improve aviation safety. The Foundation’s mission is to be the leading voice of safety for the global aerospace community.

They have just announced that a working group of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Safety Information Protection Task Force (SIP TF) announced today that it will be holding a listening session on 5 December 2012 in Washington, DC at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel.

The ICAO SIP TF is charged with making findings and recommendations to improve ICAO standards, recommended practices, and guidance materials on the protection of safety information, and expects to conclude its work in the early part of 2013. The purpose of this listening session is to assist the SIP TF in its efforts to (1) understand the needs and perspectives of interested groups and individuals, and (2) identify a sound basis on which to consider approaches to balancing the protection of safety information with the administration of justice, safety-related regulatory action, and the public’s right to know.

Click here to read the full article


NORAD pilots talk flight restrictions, intercepts with civilian pilots

On 05/09/2012, in Safety is no accident, by steve

Sometimes you need pilots to talk to pilots…     

Working under this premise, three pilots from North American Aerospace Defense Command, the binational U.S. and Canadian military organization charged with intercepting aircraft that violate temporary flight restrictions, attended the AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wis., July 23 – 29, to talk face-to-face with general aviation pilots on how to avoid TFRs and what to do if they’re intercepted.

A pair of F-15 fighters performing an intercept and escort during an exercise over the Pacific Ocean.

General aviation aircraft make up the majority of over fifteen hundred intercepts NORAD has made since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the command is attempting to cut down that number through outreach and education programs.

“The ultimate goal of the pilot outreach is to educate civilian pilots on how to avoid TFRs and on what they should do if intercepted,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Roethe, one of the NORAD officers who conducts the outreach operations.”

Click here to read the full article


FAA Announces Plans for Industry Working Group to Study Portable Electronics Usage

On 28/08/2012, in Safety is no accident, by steve

Given the widespread consumer use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is forming a government-industry group to study the current PED policies and procedures aircraft operators use to determine when these devices can be used safely during flight. Current FAA regulations require an aircraft operator to determine that radio frequency interference from PEDs are not a flight safety risk before the operator authorizes them for use during certain phases of flight.

“With so many different types of devices available, we recognize that this is an issue of consumer interest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is our highest priority, and we must set appropriate standards as we help the industry consider when passengers can use the latest technologies safely during a flight.”

The government-industry group will examine a variety of issues, including the testing methods aircraft operators use to determine which new technologies passengers can safely use aboard aircraft and when they can use them. The group will also look at the establishment of technological standards associated with the use of PEDs during any phase of flight. The group will then present its recommendations to the FAA. The group will not consider the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications during flight.

Click here to read the full article


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