ICAO Safety Plans
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says it plans to rely on “more intensive engagement with all regional players” to enhance aviation safety worldwide.
ICAO cited actions in October by the 38th ICAO Assembly that reaffirmed the role of the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) in reducing the rate and number of aviation accidents.
“The GASP gives ICAO a clear mandate to continue driving greater transparency, collaboration and responsiveness in safety improvement through real-time analysis and reporting cycles and greater regional responsibility,” ICAO said. “It also sends a strong message that collaboration and partnership on air transport’s sector-wide safety challenges remain essential to delivering positive results.”
The organization said that related plans call for the “sensible protection and sharing, where appropriate, of critical safety information.”
The Assembly also endorsed a revision of the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP), which ICAO says will permit it to “practically and flexibly realize the long-sought-after goal of a globally harmonized air navigation system.”
The revised GANP calls for “unprecedented levels of transparency and planning certainty,” and provides guidance on meeting the operational targets and supporting standards that will be needed during the next 15 years, ICAO said.
Green Light for PEDs
Airlines operating in the United States have been given the go-ahead to allow passengers to use many of their portable electronic devices (PEDs) during flight, beginning as early as late 2013.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in late October that it had determined that airlines could “safely expand passenger use of … PEDs during all phases of flight,” although cell phones will be required to be in airplane mode and must not be used for voice communications, in accordance with U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.
Otherwise, the FAA said, “passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. … If your air carrier provides WiFi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.”
The FAA said its decision followed recommendations by the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which called on the FAA to establish guidance to help airlines implement the new procedures after determining that their airplanes could tolerate radio interference from PEDs.
“Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use hand-held, lightweight electronic devices — such as tablets, e-readers and smartphones — at all altitudes,” the FAA said. “In rare instances of low visibility, the crew will instruct passengers to turn off their devices during landing. The group also recommended that heavier devices should be safely stowed under seats or in overhead bins during takeoff and landing.”
The FAA added that the ARC had called for consultation with the FCC about a review of current rules on the use of cell phones for voice communications and noted that cell phones, unlike the PEDs affected by the new rules change, are capable of sending out strong signals that can be received at great distances.
The FAA issued Information for Operators bulletin 13010, along with supplemental information, to provide guidelines on implementation of the policy change.
Language Proficiency Check
The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched what it says will be an extensive study of language communication problems in the aviation industry, and especially “whether poor command of English … amongst some pilots and air traffic controllers, is leading to increased safety risks.”
The CAA said there are indications that some pilots operating in the United Kingdom and some air traffic controllers in other countries have not achieved the required proficiency in aviation English.
The study, being conducted by Barbara Clark, a linguist and anthropologist who specializes in aviation communication and safety at Queen Mary University of London, is expected to be completed in 2014.
Clark said that most pilot-controller communications are free of misunderstanding, “but there are still instances where meaning is unclear, not everyone is on the same page, and mistakes can happen.
“Given the global nature of aviation and the many different cultural backgrounds of pilots and controllers, it’s understandable that some misunderstandings occur.”
Citing the fatal May 25, 2012, crash of a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has called for action to require installation of shoulder harnesses in seaplanes used in commercial operations and certificated for nine or fewer passengers.
The TSB also called for underwater egress training for all flight crewmembers working in commercial seaplane operations.
“Egress training and shoulder harnesses would have improved the chances for survival” in the crash of the Cochrane Air Service floatplane in Lillabelle Lake in northern Ontario, the TSB said.
The pilot and two passengers survived the initial impact with the water, but only one passenger escaped from the partially submerged airplane; the pilot and the other passenger drowned, the TSB said.
The TSB’s final report on the accident said that the pilot was attempting to land when gusty winds prevented the airplane from settling on the water. As the pilot began a go-around, the airspeed dropped, and the airplane yawed left, rolled, stalled, flipped over and struck the water.
“In an emergency, you only have seconds to orient yourself and escape, and the right training can make the difference between life and death,” said TSB Chair Wendy Tadros. “Pilots with underwater egress training stand a better chance of helping themselves and their passengers survive.
“Another thing that will help immeasurably is shoulder harnesses. Too many passengers survive a floatplane crash only to drown because they have suffered some kind of head trauma and can’t get out of the aircraft.”
Ground Safety Campaign
Airport ground personnel are being urged to report safety events as part of a new campaign by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to improve safety standards in airport ground handling operations.
The CAA said that its campaign will “specifically target a general culture of low reporting of safety-related incidents amongst airside workers. The CAA is … promoting a just culture that is fair and encourages staff to openly report incidents.”
The campaign’s goal is to improve the collection and sharing of safety information — not to “attribute blame or liability” for problems, the CAA said.
The agency said that it wants “to see every member of staff, from the boardroom to the ramp, buy into a culture of full disclosure. Open reporting and investigation ultimately helps all parties involved in the aircraft turn-around process appreciate and understand where potential risks lie and deal with them before incidents occur.”
U.S. airline pilots will be required to undergo enhanced stall-prevention and stall-recovery training under new rules that also call for air carriers to improve training in pilot monitoring, runway safety procedures and crosswind procedures.
Air carriers will have five years to comply with the rules, which also require them to track remedial training for pilots who fail proficiency checks or show other performance deficiencies.
“This pivotal rule will give our nation’s pilots the most advanced training available,” said Michael Huerta, administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He planned to meet with commercial aviation safety leaders late in November to discuss additional, voluntary actions that would improve safety.
The FAA said the rule focuses on providing pilot training for events that, “although rare, are often catastrophic. Focusing on these events will provide the greatest safety benefit to the flying public.”
Although the FAA had proposed revising the training rules early in 2009, before the fatal crash of a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 during approach to Buffalo Niagara (New York, U.S.) International Airport, legislation enacted after the crash mandated several specific changes. The same legislation also required action to prevent pilot fatigue and to institute more demanding qualification requirements for airline first officers; those changes were imposed previously.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is struggling with a backlog of more than 1,000 aircraft operators and repair stations awaiting certification, and the workload will increase along with the need for certification of new NextGen technologies and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), an official of a government watchdog agency says.
In a statement in late October to the aviation subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Jeffrey B. Guzzetti, assistant inspector general for aviation audits in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), blamed “management and oversight weaknesses” within the FAA for interfering with the efficiency of the certification process.
“Because FAA’s resources are limited, FAA relies on designees and delegated authorities to certify aircraft or components on the agency’s behalf,” Guzzetti said. “Our previous work has identified vulnerabilities with FAA’s oversight of this program, which increased the risk that individuals without proper training or qualifications or with known performance problems could approve critical aircraft components. FAA is continuing its efforts to resolve these vulnerabilities.”
Guzzetti said that, following previous OIG recommendations, the FAA has implemented new policies and new guidance at various points in the certification process, including the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, through which designees outside the FAA are used to certify aircraft or components on the agency’s behalf.
“Effectively using ODA will be key to managing FAA’s resources and meeting the industry’s certification needs,” he said. “However, it remains critical that adequate oversight controls are in place to ensure that qualified individuals are properly certifying critical aircraft components. Accordingly, we plan to begin a follow-up review early next year to assess the status of the ODA program, including the roles of government and industry, and the effectiveness of program controls and FAA oversight.”
If the certification delays are not effectively addressed, they will be exacerbated by the need to certify new equipment, systems and procedures associated with NextGen — formally known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the effort to overhaul the National Airspace System and transition away from ground-based navigation aids in favor of a satellite-based system — and with UAS, Guzzetti said.
In Other News …
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) plans an audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Hazardous Materials Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program. The OIG says the audit is intended to determine whether the FAA is ensuring that air carrier disclosure reports conform to program requirements and whether the FAA uses data from the reports to identify safety risks. … The Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia is implementing new rules for performance-based navigation. Aircraft equipment mandates were scheduled to begin taking effect in mid-December 2013.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.