EU Data-Sharing Plan
The European Parliament has approved legislation establishing new rules to allow for quicker distribution of information about aviation safety incidents.
The legislation, passed in late February, calls for all segments of the aviation community within the European Union (EU) — airlines, manufacturers, pilots, air traffic controllers, maintenance personnel, national aviation authorities and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) — to “gather and exchange incident information and ensure that action is taken where it is most effective.”
EASA will coordinate a network of safety analysts responsible for identifying trends and safety issues across Europe and recommending action.
“Most aircraft accidents result from a combination of smaller errors or malfunctions, which, taken together, cause an accident,” said Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president responsible for transport. “By gathering more information about isolated safety incidents and taking action to address them, we will help to prevent future accidents. With the expected increase in air traffic in the next two decades, we need to deliver such a system and make sure that the EU remains the leading region in the world for aviation safety.”
Flight Safety Foundation praised the European Parliament’s action as “an important step forward in aviation safety.”
Ken Hylander, the Foundation’s acting president and CEO, added, “Sharing data and applying powerful analytics to develop mitigation strategies represent leaps forward in further improving aviation’s outstanding safety record. Through data sharing, we can collect evidence of small problems across the industry, identify the risk and work to develop solutions — before the accident occurs.”
The new rules are expected to apply in full in November 2015, after the adoption of implementing regulations and the development of guidance material and technological applications for data recording, exchange and analysis.
FAA Appeals Ruling on UAS Fine
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is appealing an administrative law judge’s action that could have allowed flights of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) vehicles before the FAA develops rules governing their operations.
Patrick Geraghty, a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative law judge, dismissed the FAA’s $10,000 reckless flying penalty against Raphael Pirker, who used a UAS vehicle weighing less than 5 lb (2.3 kg) in making a promotional video for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in October 2011. Published reports said the video documented the UAS vehicle’s flight under bridges and over pedestrians.
The appeal means that Geraghty’s decision will not take effect until after the full NTSB has ruled in the case.
In his opinion, Geraghty said that the FAA has no authority over small UAS.
The FAA says, however, that it has authority over “anyone who wants to fly an aircraft, manned or unmanned, in U.S. airspace.
“Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations. Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. … Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a certificate of waiver or authorization. The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely populated areas on a case-by-case basis.”
Model aircraft hobbyists do not need specific FAA approval, but they must comply with FAA guidance for model aircraft, including a prohibition on operating in populated areas. In addition, the FAA says, “You may not fly a UAS for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the model aircraft guidelines.”
A 2012 law says that the FAA has until September 2015 to develop a plan for the “safe integration” of UAS into the National Airspace System. The FAA says that safe integration will be “incremental” and that it plans to publish a proposed rule later this year for small UAS vehicles — those weighing less than 55 lb (25 kg). Rules for larger UAS vehicles will be issued later.
Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), said his organization was reviewing the judge’s decision and that AUVSI’s “paramount concern is safety. We must ensure the commercial use of UAS takes place in a safe and responsible manner, whenever commercial use occurs. The decision also underscores the immediate need for a regulatory framework for small UAS.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed an airworthiness directive (AD) that would require operators of some Boeing 737s to take steps to avoid an autothrottle problem associated with premature deceleration before landing.
The FAA said the proposed AD was prompted by “reports in which a single, undetected, erroneous radio altimeter output caused the autothrottle to enter landing flare retard mode prematurely on approach.”
This situation could lead to a flight crew’s loss of control of the airplane, the FAA said.
The FAA said it would accept comments until April 17 on the proposed AD, which would apply to certain 737-600s, -700s, -700Cs, -800s and -900s. The measure was proposed because of reports of loss of control associated with the problem, the FAA said.
The proposed AD calls for the removal of autothrottle computers and the subsequent installation of a new or reworked autothrottle computer as specified by Boeing in Alert Service Bulletin 737-22A1215, issued in November 2013. The action would affect about 500 airplanes registered in the United States; civil aviation authorities in other countries are expected to issue similar directives affecting airplanes in their jurisdictions.
Crackdown on Laser Strikes
U.S. authorities have begun a 60-day regional reward program to prevent the deliberate targeting of aircraft by people with handheld lasers.
The program — announced in February by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), along with the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) — offers rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who aims a laser at an aircraft. FBI field offices in 12 cities are participating: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Chicago; Cleveland; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Sacramento, California; San Antonio; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington.
The FBI said that it also will work with state and local law enforcement authorities to educate young people about the dangers of targeting aircraft with lasers.
“It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta added, “Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot, jeopardizing the safety of everyone on board.”
ALPA President Lee Moak described the risks of laser illuminations as “unacceptable. Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public.”
FBI data show that there were 3,960 reported incidents in 2013 involving laser illuminations of aircraft, compared with 384 incidents in 2006. Thousands of additional incidents go unreported every year, the FBI said.
The FAA has had the authority since June 2011 to impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per incident against individuals for aiming lasers at aircraft.
Common Airport Safety Rules
New rules are in effect providing for common safety standards for design, operation and maintenance in more than 700 airports across Europe.
The European Commission says the rules, which took effect in early March and will apply to the largest airports in the European Union and the European Economic Area, “put in place a European legal framework for national aviation authorities to certify airports’ compliance with technical and operational requirements, as well as for the oversight of certified airports.”
The rules allow for flexibility in cases of existing infrastructure and set forth steps for converting existing national airport certificates to certificates based on the new European rules.
“With the application of these new rules, airports will be safer and so will be the airline operators and the passengers using those airports,” said Siim Kallas, European Commission vice president responsible for transport.
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, 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.”
Assad Kotaite, 1924–2014
Assad Kotaite, who served 30 years as president of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), died in February at age 89.
His tenure, from 1976 until his retirement in 2006, was one of the longest among top executives in United Nations organizations. A statement released by ICAO praised Kotaite for devoting his life to “the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation” and noted that his career “mirrored the evolution of ICAO for over half a century.”
A lawyer, Kotaite’s career with ICAO began in 1953 with an appointment to the ICAO Legal Committee. He also served as Lebanon’s representative on the Council of ICAO and secretary general of ICAO.
New Runway Safety Kit
A new Runway Safety Implementation Kit (iKit) — developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in collaboration with one dozen other aviation organizations, including Flight Safety Foundation — has been released “in line with … efforts to resolve what remains the number one priority for global aviation safety experts,” ICAO says.
The iKit contains many of the runway safety resources developed in recent years by ICAO’s Runway Safety Programme, along with updated guidance.
ICAO said that it also would begin, along with its partners, a Runway Safety GO-Team program to help establish runway safety teams at airports around the world and to conduct regional runway safety seminars in Africa and the Middle East.
In Other News …
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is simplifying the design requirements for adding an angle-of-attack (AOA) indicator to the cockpits of small aircraft. Until now, the effort and cost of adding an AOA indicator has limited use of the device in general aviation aircraft. The FAA says the indicators may help prevent loss of control in small aircraft because they are more reliable than other instruments in indicating the flow of air over the wings. … Azerbaijan has received a Category 1 rating from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), signifying that the country meets safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Azerbaijan previously did not hold an FAA International Aviation Safety Assessment rating, and no Azerbaijani air carriers provide service to the United States. The Category 1 rating means Azerbaijani air carriers could add such service or participate in a code-sharing agreement with a U.S. carrier.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.