An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200 crashed short of the landing runway at San Francisco International Airport after a flight from Seoul, South Korea. Three of the 307 people in the airplane were killed and dozens were injured in the July 6 accident, and the airplane was destroyed. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) investigation of the accident was continuing.
Preliminary NTSB findings noted that, in the seconds before the airplane struck a sea wall just short of the runway, its airspeed dropped to about 30 kt below the target threshold speed of 137 kt.
The airplane was being flown by an experienced 747 pilot undergoing initial operating experience in the 777, under the supervision of an instructor pilot who was conducting his first trip in that capacity, the NTSB said.
It was the first accident involving an airliner in the United States since Feb. 12, 2009, when a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 crashed during approach to Buffalo Niagara (New York, U.S.) International Airport, killing all 49 people in the airplane and one person on the ground (ASW, 3/10, p. 20). It also was the first crash of a major airline’s aircraft in the United States since Nov. 12, 2001, when an American Airlines Airbus A300 crashed after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport in New York, killing all 260 people in the airplane and five people on the ground.
Citing five recent incidents in which air carrier aircraft on go-arounds came dangerously close to other landing or departing aircraft, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended new requirements to ensure safe aircraft separation.
The NTSB said, in a safety recommendation letter to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), that it was “concerned that existing FAA separation standards and operating procedures are inadequate to prevent such events and need to be revised.”
The FAA should establish new separation standards similar to those governing aircraft departing from intersecting runways or on intersecting flight paths, the NTSB said.
FAA requirements specify that air traffic controllers must separate aircraft that depart from intersecting runways or on intersecting flight paths “by ensuring that the departure does not begin takeoff roll until … the preceding aircraft has departed and passed the intersection, has crossed the departure runway or is turning to avert any conflict [or] a preceding arriving aircraft is clear of the landing runway, completed the landing roll and will hold short of the intersection, passed the intersection or has crossed over the departure runway.”
Requirements also call for timed separation intervals behind heavy aircraft.
“However … there is no requirement for controllers to provide the same protections for the potential go-around flight path of a landing aircraft even though, in the event of a go-around, the arriving aircraft effectively becomes a departure. … There appears to be no safety justification for treating the situations differently,” the NTSB said.
In the five incidents cited by the NTSB, the “nature of the geometry of the encounters and the unexpected nature of the go-arounds” made it impossible for controllers to provide effective instructions to the pilots to ensure that the aircraft would avoid each other. Instead, the pilots performed “impromptu evasive maneuvers … during critical phases of flight,” the NTSB said.
Four of the five incidents cited occurred between April and July 2012; the fifth occurred in January 2006. No injuries were reported in any of the incidents, and none of the airplanes was damaged.
Runway Safety Campaign
The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) has begun a new campaign — focusing on airport personnel and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) — to improve runway safety by reducing unstable approaches.
The campaign offers runway safety checklists for airports and ANSPs, and recommendations for pilots and air traffic controllers. The Runway Safety Maturity Checklist — intended for use by ANSPs, airlines, airport operators, regulators and aeronautical telecommunication and radio navigation providers — is designed to help “benchmark their levels of maturity with regard to managing runway safety risks,” CANSO said. “The checklist identifies key elements of risk control and uses a series of questions to assess the maturity of an organization against each element.”
CANSO cited data from the International Air Transport Association that showed that an unstable approach was cited as a contributing factor in 17 percent of accidents between 2008 and 2012.
“Air traffic control plays an important role in contributing to safe, stable approaches and reducing the risk of runway excursions,” said CANSO Director General Jeff Poole. “This includes ensuring that controllers appreciate what is required for a pilot to achieve a stabilized approach, issuing proper clearances and providing timely and accurate weather information.”
An earlier campaign to promote runway safety — the Runway Safety Initiative, involving about 20 organizations in the worldwide aviation community and coordinated by Flight Safety Foundation — produced sets of countermeasures to address veer-offs and overruns and emphasized the importance of stabilized approaches. The Runway Safety Initiative’s final report, Reducing the Risk of Runway Excursions, was released in 2009 (see “Continued Takeoffs”).
Investigating the Investigators
Australian lawmakers, challenging the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB’s) conclusion that the Nov. 18, 2009, ditching of an emergency medical services flight resulted primarily from the pilot’s actions, has asked the ATSB to re-open its investigation.
The Australian Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee said, in a report released in May, that the ATSB has defended its conclusions “without … a solid evidentiary base.”
The report added, “The ATSB repeatedly deflected suggestions that significant deficiencies with both the operator [Pel-Air], … and CASA’s [the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s] oversight of Pel-Air … contributed to the accident. The committee takes a different view and believes that ATSB processes have become deficient.”
The crew of the Israel Aircraft Industries Westwind 1124A ditched the airplane off Norfolk Island — where they had planned a refueling stop during their trip from Apia, Samoa, to Melbourne, Australia — rather than risk a flameout while attempting another approach in darkness and deteriorating weather. All six occupants survived the impact and escaped from the Westwind before it sank (ASW, 10/12).
The Senate committee said in its report that members were “surprised by the [ATSB’s] near-exclusive focus on the actions of the pilot and lack of analysis or detail of factors that would assist the wider aviation industry” and “troubled by allegations that agencies whose role it is to protect and enhance aviation safety were acting in ways which could compromise that safety.”
The report also said that the committee had “strong concerns about the methodology the ATSB uses to attribute risk.” That methodology “appears to defy common sense by not asking whether the many issues that were presented to the committee in evidence but not included in the report” could add to understanding of the crew’s actions, offer lessons for the aviation industry and help prevent a similar incident in the future.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), citing the 2012 ditching of two Eurocopter EC225 Super Pumas in the North Sea, has issued an airworthiness directive (AD) calling for action to prevent failures of the main gear box (MGB) bevel gear vertical shaft.
AD 2013-0138-E describes what the EASA calls “a set of modifications and inspections which aim at monitoring and detecting vertical shaft crack conditions and reducing the likelihood of any shaft crack initiation.”
The new AD follows an emergency AD issued in November 2012 in response to a May 2012 ditching that occurred after a warning indication of a loss of MGB oil pressure and an additional alarm indicating problems with the MGB emergency lubrication system.
Subsequent inspections revealed a crack in the lower vertical shaft of the MGB bevel gear; the crack caused the vertical shaft to stop driving the main oil pump and its backup, the EASA said. The crack was traced to “an oxidation pit found in the chamber of the vertical shaft welding stop hole,” the EASA said.
An increasing number of European airports will be operating at or near capacity by 2035, causing not only an increase in delays but also an inability to accommodate 1.9 million flights — 12 percent of total demand, Eurocontrol says.
In its fourth Challenges of Growth study, Eurocontrol said that, under the most likely scenario, more than 20 European airports would be operating at 80 percent or more of capacity for at least six hours a day in 2035. In comparison, three airports fell into that category in 2012.
The study suggested several steps to ease the problem, including adjusting flight schedules, construction of new runways and other infrastructure, and the increased use of larger airplanes.
Flight Training Proposals
Applicants for an air transport pilot license or a position as a pilot in multi-crew operations would be required to complete training in “multi-crew cooperation,” according to a proposed change in Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) included the new requirement in its proposed revision of Part 61 standards for flight crew licensing, which specify the flight training and knowledge required for all licenses, ratings and endorsements. Proficiency checks for ratings and English language proficiency requirements also are included.
CASA says that, in addition to the proposed multi-crew cooperation training, the draft calls for two other significant changes in existing requirements. One change would require flight tests as a prerequisite for an air transport pilot license, low-level rating or night vision imaging system rating. The other change would require pilots seeking a private or commercial pilot license with a helicopter rating to complete basic instrument training.
CASA planned to accept comments on the proposals until Aug. 2 and to issue final regulations late this year.
In Other News…
The European Commission (EC) is proposing to extend until 2024 the mandate of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking — a move the EC says is intended to demonstrate its commitment to the Single European Sky project. … The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority has begun reviewing fire protection at helicopter landing sites to determine whether current requirements are appropriate and to harmonize requirements aimed at airports, temporary helicopter landing areas, offshore helidecks and hospital landing sites. CAA Chief Executive Andrew Haines says the goal is “to assess all potential risks and take account of the availability of new technology for detecting and controlling fires.”
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.