Category 2 Rating for India
India has been downgraded to a Category 2 rating under the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) International Aviation Safety Assessment program.
The rating, which signifies that India’s oversight of civil aviation safety “does not currently comply with the international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” means that Indian carriers will not be permitted to begin any new service to the United States. Existing service may continue, however.
The FAA said it would work with India’s Directorate General for Civil Aviation to identify actions that must be taken to regain a Category 1 safety rating, which signifies compliance with ICAO safety standards.
The Indian government has begun addressing the issues identified during the FAA’s September 2013 assessment of Indian aviation safety oversight, the FAA said, noting that 75 additional full-time inspectors have been hired.
The FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment program evaluates the civil aviation authorities in all countries where air carriers operate to the United States to determine whether those authorities meet ICAO safety oversight standards.
NTSB Pushes Helicopter Safety
An “unacceptably high” number of helicopter accidents has prompted the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to add improving helicopter safety to its annual “Most Wanted” list of transportation safety improvements.
“In the last 10 years, 1,470 accidents occurred involving helicopters used as air ambulances, for search and rescue missions and commercial helicopter operations such as tour flights,” the NTSB said, adding that the accidents killed 477 people and caused serious injuries to 274 others. “Safety improvements to address helicopter operations have the potential to mitigate risk to thousands of pilots and passengers each year.”
The NTSB reiterated its call for implementation of sound risk management practices, especially for inspection and maintenance; flight risk evaluation programs and formal dispatch and flight-following procedures for emergency medical services helicopters; and improved training that includes scenarios involving inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has reiterated its call for action to reduce the risks of runway collisions, citing its new report on an Aug. 29, 2011, occurrence in which a passenger airplane was taxied across an active runway as a twin-engine turboprop was taking off.
No one was injured, and damage was minor, but the TSB said that it was “concerned that unless better defenses are put in place to reduce these occurrences, the risk of a serious collision between aircraft remains.”
The agency noted that the risk of collisions on runways is cited on its Watchlist of transportation safety issues that present the greatest risks to Canadians.
The TSB said that the 2011 occurrence followed the landing of a Sky Regional Airlines Bombardier DHC-8-402 with 29 people aboard at the Montreal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport.
“The ground controller gave the crew taxi instructions to the gate, which included stopping before Runway 28 until instructed to cross it,” the TSB said. “The DHC-8 flight crew read back the instruction correctly, meaning that they understood and would comply. Meanwhile, the air traffic controller cleared a Beech King Air with three crewmembers aboard to take off on Runway 28.
“Two minutes later, the DHC-8 entered Runway 28 without stopping, while the King Air was nearing takeoff speed. The King Air aborted the takeoff and while slowing down, veered right on the runway centerline and passed about 40 ft [12 m] behind the DHC-8.”
The King Air received minor mechanical damage that the TSB said was related to the airplane’s rapid deceleration. There was no damage to the DHC-8.
Using criteria established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Transport Canada and Nav Canada, the TSB characterized the occurrence as “extremely serious,” noting that it would have resulted in a collision if the King Air crew had not rejected their takeoff and veered to the right.
Data show that between 2001 and 2009, there were 4,140 runway conflicts across Canada. “Not all 4,140 occurrences involved a risk of high-speed collision,” the TSB said. “However, in those that did, the outcomes could have been catastrophic.”
Changes implemented after the occurrence included improved signage on the taxiway on both sides of the runway and the creation of a local runway safety committee. In addition, Sky Regional modified its checklist to limit distractions during taxiing, the TSB said.
Night Flight Review
Spurred by the fatal 2011 crash of a Eurocopter AS355 F2 in dark night conditions in South Australia, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has begun a review of regulations concerning night visual flight rules (VFR) flight.
CASA said its primary focus is “the need for a defined external horizon to be visible for aircraft attitude control.”
CASA’s review follows the issuance by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) of a report on an Aug. 18, 2011, crash 145 km (78 nm) north of Marree that killed the 16,000-hour pilot and his two passengers. The ATSB said the pilot probably was spatially disoriented and that factors contributing to his disorientation probably included the dark night conditions that prevailed at the time (ASW, 2/14, p. 23).
In describing its project, CASA noted that the ATSB report had characterized dark night visual meteorological conditions (VMC) as “effectively the same” as instrument meteorological conditions.
“The only real difference,” the ATSB said, “is that, if there are lights on the ground, they can be seen in VMC. In remote areas, where there are no lights or ambient illumination, there is no difference. Pilots cannot see the ground and have no external cues available to assist with their orientation.”
CASA said that its review is intended to clarify the term “visibility” in dark night conditions and to develop additional guidance material that emphasizes “the importance of maintaining a discernible external horizon at night.”
In a separate discussion of accidents that occur during flight under night VFR, the ATSB said that pilots could effectively manage the risks inherent in night VFR flight, in part by ensuring that they remain current and proficient and by ensuring that the aircraft is appropriately equipped.
“Always know where the aircraft is in relation to terrain, and know how high you need to fly to avoid unseen terrain and obstacles,” the ATSB said. “Remain aware of illusions that can lead to spatial disorientation — they can affect anyone. Know how to avoid and recover from illusions by relying on instrument flight.”
The European Commission and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) say they are taking steps to enhance cooperation on aviation safety and other related issues.
A February summit meeting in Singapore included discussion of aviation safety regulations and the potential for cooperation between ASEAN and the European Union.
“ASEAN is developing, by 2015, an ASEAN single aviation market, which will have many similarities to the single aviation market that the EU has successfully created over the past two decades,” the EU said. “The summit will offer an excellent opportunity to explore the potential for a closer cooperation between the two regions, including the prospect of an ‘open skies’ agreement.”
The EU noted that air traffic between the EU and ASEAN totaled 10 million passengers in 2012, and projections indicate that half of the wordwide growth in air traffic over the next 20 years will involve operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
The agenda included discussion of air traffic management issues and the possibility of a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and ASEAN.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $150,000 civil penalty against Talon Air for allegedly violating Federal Aviation Regulations when it allowed four pilots to fly the company’s Hawker 4000 “without proper training or examinations.”
The FAA says that the pilots flew at least 64 times in 2011 and 2012 while they were not qualified to serve as crewmembers.
The company has 30 days from its receipt of the FAA enforcement letter to respond.
R44 Fuel Tank Retrofitting
Citing seven accidents in the United States and Australia involving Robinson R44 helicopters, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says owners and operators of R44s should be required to implement fuel tank retrofitting outlined in a manufacturer’s service bulletin.
The NTSB said that, in each of the seven accidents, “impact forces were survivable for the occupants, but fatal or serious injuries occurred because of a post-crash fire that resulted from an impact-related breach in the fuel tanks.”
The most recent accident, still under investigation, involved an R44 II that struck a fueling structure at Corona (California, U.S.) Municipal Airport on Nov. 25, 2012; fire and an explosion followed. The pilot was killed.
The NTSB said that since 2008, it has investigated three other R44 accidents involving a breach of the fuel tanks, followed by leaking fuel and a fire. Since 2011, three similar R44s were involved in similar accidents in Australia, the NTSB said.
All of the accidents should have been survivable, “with minor or no injuries to the occupants,” the NTSB said. “However, the accidents in the United States … resulted in two fatalities and two serious thermal injuries, and the accidents in Australia resulted in eight fatalities and one serious injury.”
Robinson Helicopter Co. issued Service Bulletin (SB) 78 in 2010, advising owners and operators of R44s with all-aluminum fuel tanks to retrofit the helicopters with bladder-type fuel tanks that are “designed to contain fuel and prevent it from spilling out of the tank after a survivable impact.” The SB said the corrective action should be taken by Dec. 31, 2014.
Later, Robinson moved up the completion date to April 30, 2013. In December 2013, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued Special Airworthiness Bulletin SW-13-11 to inform R44 owners and operators about the revision and the availability of bladder-type fuel tanks.
Robinson said that, although a number of retrofits have been completed, some owners have delayed having the work done, sometimes citing the absence of a formal requirement.
The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued an airworthiness directive in 2013 (AD/R44/23) requiring operators to comply with a revised service bulletin, SB-78B.
In Other News …
The European Commission has published rules for operational suitability data (OSD), intended to ensure that data needed for safe aircraft operations is available to — and used by — aircraft operators. Types of data in the OSD category include aircraft reference data to support qualification of simulators, a minimum syllabus for training in pilot type ratings, and the master minimum equipment list. … The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has merged its airspace and safety functions, now under the jurisdiction of the Safety and Airspace Regulation Group.
Correction A note in a figure accompanying a December 2013–January 2014 ASW article about line operations safety audits (LOSA; “Intentionally Noncompliant,” p. 17) incorrectly stated the number of airlines involved in the LOSA observations discussed in the article. The note in Figure 1 should have said that the observations took place at more than 70 airlines. Additionally, James Klinect, chief executive officer of The LOSA Collaborative, said, in a clarification after publication of the article, “It’s not really how a flight crew responds to intentional noncompliance (INC) errors that dictates INC mismanagement. It’s the outcome, regardless of how a crew responds. … In LOSA we call bad outcomes, regardless of response, mismanagement.”
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.