Managing Risk: Best Practices for Pilots
Wilson, Dale; Binnema, Gerald. Newcastle, Washington, U.S.: Aviation Supplies & Academics, 2014. 231 pp. Figures, resources, index.
This book — written, the authors say, to help pilot-readers “learn from the mistakes of others [because] you will not live long enough to make them all yourself” — is a compendium of the risks faced by anyone who flies, from new private pilots to seasoned veterans.
The authors — a professor of aviation at Central Washington University in the United States and an aviation safety consultant in British Columbia, Canada — say the book’s title “captures its essence. It documents and describes most of the significant risks associated with flight.”
Discussions of those risks include descriptions of related accidents involving aircraft as diverse as a Cessna 172, an Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia and a Boeing 747, and specific risk-mitigation recommendations.
The 10 chapters cover runway incursions; midair collisions; icing, wind shear, inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions and other weather-related issues; hypoxia; the limitations of night vision; visual illusions and spatial disorientation; and controlled flight into terrain.
Each chapter examines the nature of the hazard, as well as the conditions under which it is most likely to occur, “the human aspects that make pilots particularly vulnerable” to a particular hazard and the strategies that a pilot could use to mitigate the risk. In addition, each chapter includes a list of resources providing additional information on the subject.
Over the years, most of these risks have been “managed down to remarkably low levels,” the authors say. “Rather than deny the existence of these risks … the key is to acquire a thorough knowledge of them and the strategies necessary to identify, eliminate and/or reduce them to acceptable levels. Because ‘pilot error’ is responsible for the majority of aircraft accidents, and because you can’t treat an illness without first knowing its cause, this book is as much about identifying the internal human limitations of pilot performance as it is about identifying the nature of the external threats to safe flight.”
Biomathematical Fatigue Models Guidance Document
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of Australia. March 2014. 73 pp. Figures, glossary, references, tables.
This document, an update of CASA guidance published in 2010, discusses the application of biomathematical fatigue models as components of fatigue risk management systems (FRMS).
“The science and application of fatigue modelling continues to evolve, and … this report includes a survey of the capabilities of currently available biomathematical fatigue models and discusses important considerations regarding the incorporation of such models into an FRMS,” the report says.
Biomathematical models can be used to predict crewmember fatigue levels, taking into account “a scientific understanding of the factors that contribute to fatigue,” the report says. Nevertheless, biomathematical models have limitations, and these limitations must be understood to ensure that they are used appropriately.
The review begins with background information on how the guidance material was developed, including references to the regulatory context for biomathematical models, and explains the science involved in biomathematical modelling and the limitations of the models.
“Biomathematical models of fatigue essentially make the tacit assumption that changes in levels of fatigue will be paralleled by similar changes in risk, but the available evidence suggests that this may not always be the case,” the report says. “It is obviously true that if an individual’s level of fatigue is such that they fall asleep, the risk of failing to respond appropriately when required will be high. … However, most accidents seem to occur while the worker is awake and are linked with slow or inappropriate responses rather than a total failure to respond.”
A primary limitation of biomathematical fatigue models, the report says, is that they typically are based on averages and on measures obtained from a limited number of people, and “individuals clearly differ from one another on an enormously wide range of factors, many of which may impact on their fatigue and safety performance levels.”
Another section of the report describes seven primary applications for biomathematical fatigue models — forward scheduling, non-scheduled/irregular operations, work/rest cycles in augmented crew, evaluation of countermeasures, individual fatigue prediction, training and safety investigation.
The document also includes a directory of the seven biomathematical models and explains their various elements “in terms of their internal structures and formulae (components), the variables that can be entered into the models (inputs) and the prediction methods or outcomes that are produced (outputs).” These elements are used in comparing the seven biomathematical models to help potential users select one model that is most suitable for them.
In addition to the report, related information is available on the fatigue page of CASA’s website.
Aviation Workforce: Current and Future Availability of Airline Pilots
GAO-14-232. U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). Feb. 28, 2014. 61 pp. Appendixes, figures, tables.
This report, requested by members of the U.S. Congress because of concerns that the United States might lack a sufficient supply of available and qualified pilots, said that researchers had found “mixed evidence” of any shortage.
The report cited forecasts by the aviation industry and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicated that between 1,900 and 4,500 new pilots will be needed each year over the next decade. Those numbers are consistent with the airlines’ hiring expectations, the report said.
The report also cited, as an indication of an adequate pilot supply, earlier studies that have concluded that there are a large number of U.S. pilots working in other countries, in the military or in other occupations.
“However, whether these pilots choose to seek employment with U.S. airlines depends on the extent to which pilot job opportunities arise and on the wages and benefits airlines offer,” the report said. “Another study concludes that future supply will be insufficient, absent any actions taken, largely resulting from accelerating costs of pilot education and training. Such costs deter individuals from pursuing a pilot career.”
Researchers found that pilot schools had fewer students entering their programs and attributed the lower enrollment to concerns about the high cost of training and low entry-level pay at regional airlines. The report said that the regional airlines complained of difficulty finding qualified entry-level first officers, in part because of a new law that raised hiring requirements for these pilots. Mainline airlines, which hire experienced pilots, have not reported similar problems.
The report concluded, “The supply pipeline is changing as fewer students enter and complete collegiate pilot-training programs and fewer military pilots are available than in the past.” The document added that new pressure on pilot availability will result from “the projected number of mandatory age-related pilot retirements at mainline airlines over the next decade and beyond, the increasing demand for regional airlines to address attrition needs and the reported lower number of potentially qualified pilots in the applicant pool for filling regional airlines’ first officer jobs.”
If predictions of rising demand come to pass, airlines might be forced to make “considerable operational adjustments” to compensate for the pilot shortage, the report said.
Those adjustments might include “employment pathway partnerships” with pilot schools and financial and career support for new pilots as they accumulate flight time, the report said.
“With the mandate to increase pilot qualifications for airline pilots having only recently gone into effect, opportunities exist to develop new training methods and pathways for students to gain experience relevant to an airline environment,” the report said. “It is unclear at this point what adjustments could occur within the pilot-training system that would help to respond to … stakeholders’ concerns about the current regulations or if government action may be necessary to enable certain changes. Therefore, we encourage FAA [the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration] to continue its efforts in working with the airline and pilot training industries in considering additional ways for pilots to build quality flight time that contributes directly to working in airline operations.”