The FAA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) in November requiring either a design change to the rudder control system on all A300-600s and A310s or the installation in those airplanes of a stop-rudder-inputs warning modification.Eleven years after the fatal crash of an American Airlines Airbus A300-600 that was traced to excessive rudder-control inputs, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered action to prevent excessive loads on the vertical stabilizers of several models of A300s and A310s.
The AD was intended to “prevent loads on the vertical stabilizer that exceed ultimate design loads, which could cause failure of the vertical stabilizer and consequent reduced controllability of the airplane,” the FAA said.
The FAA said its action was prompted by “events of excessive rudder pedal inputs and consequent high loads on the vertical stabilizer on several airplanes.”
Among those events was the Nov. 12, 2001, crash of the American Airlines A300 after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. All 260 people in the airplane were killed, along with five on the ground.
The airplane’s vertical stabilizer and rudder, and then its engines, separated in flight. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the probable cause of the accident was the separation of the vertical stabilizer “as a result of the loads beyond ultimate design that were created by the first officer’s unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs. Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program.”
Concorde Convictions Rejected
A French appeals court has thrown out the criminal convictions of Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics in connection with the July 25, 2000, crash of an Air France Concorde during takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
All 109 people in the airplane and four people on the ground were killed when the Concorde burst into flames and crashed into a hotel.
The French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) identified the probable causes of the crash as the passage of one of the Concorde’s tires over a part lost by another airplane, the “ripping out” of a piece of the fuel tank and the ignition of leaking fuel. Accident investigators said the lost part was a metal strip that had fallen from a Continental DC-10.em>
Published reports said that, although criminal charges were dismissed, the appeals court upheld a lower court order requiring Continental — which has since merged with United Airlines — to pay the equivalent of more than $1 million in civil damages to Air France.
Flight Safety Foundation praised the appeals court’s rejection of the criminal convictions.
“We’re very pleased that courts are recognizing that professional human error does not amount to criminal conduct, even where it can lead to catastrophic consequences,” said FSF General Counsel Kenneth Quinn, also the vice chair of the International Civil Aviation Organization Task Force on Safety Information Protection (see “Shaping Safeguards,” p. 8).
“The tragedy of this accident and others is only compounded by decades-long efforts to find someone to blame, rather than focus on human factors, training and technology to make sure that the tragedy does not reoccur,” he said. “Undue prosecutorial and judicial interference can not only create further victims of accidents but, more importantly, [can] harm the integrity and timeliness of the accident investigation process, with an adverse effect on aviation safety.”
Upgrade for Israel
Israel’s civil aviation authority has been found in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) safety standards, according to an October review by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA upgraded Israel to Category 1 status from the Category 2 rating it had received in a 2008 review by the FAA.
A Category 2 rating means that a country’s civil aviation authority is deficient in at least one of several areas, including technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping and inspections procedures. A Category 1 rating indicates compliance.
If a country is assigned a Category 2 rating, its air carriers may not establish new service to and from U.S. airports; existing service is unaffected, however.
Under its International Aviation Safety Assessment program, the FAA conducts safety reviews of all countries with air carriers that operate to the United States or that have applied for such operations.
The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) and other aviation organizations have signed a declaration urging governments in the region to “facilitate the timely development of air transport infrastructure.”
Others to sign the declaration during the 9th ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City, Panama, in November, included the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, Airports Council International (ACI), ACI-Latin America and Caribbean, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler told the forum that the region’s top aviation priorities are improvements in safety and infrastructure.
Airport and air navigation infrastructure “has not kept pace with rising demand for air connectivity in Latin America,” he said.
He noted the 32 percent improvement in the hull loss rate for Western-built jets in the region in 2011, compared with 2010, but noted that the region lags behind the global hull loss rate. In 2011, the global rate was one hull loss of a Western-built jet for every 2.7 million flights; the rate in Latin America was one accident for every 780,000 flights.
Accident Fatalities Decline
A total of 414 fatalities were recorded in 2011, down from 707 in 2010, according to the report, which said the decline resulted in one of the safest years on record in terms of loss of life.
The report, published in November, also said that no fatalities were recorded in 2011 in runway-related accidents involving scheduled commercial operations. In 2010, 165 people were killed in runway-related accidents — an accident category that has been designated as a safety priority by ICAO and other aviation organizations.
Overall, there were 126 accidents involving scheduled commercial flights in 2011, up from 121 in 2010. The report said the increase was “consistent with the related [3.5 percent] increase in traffic and therefore did not significantly affect the global accident rate.”
The 2011 rate of 4.2 accidents per million departures was unchanged from 2010.
NTSB’s Most Wanted
Improving safety in airport surface operations is among the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) top 10 safety challenges for 2013.
Surface operations and general aviation safety are the only aviation-specific items on the agency’s list, announced in November, but several others — preserving the integrity of transportation infrastructure, eliminating distraction and improving fire safety — touch on aviation, as well as other modes of transportation.
“Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can and must do better,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said.
The NTSB called for more and better ground movement safety systems, such as cockpit moving maps and runway status lights, and for pilot training that includes simulator sessions involving gusty crosswinds and other realistic conditions.
“The problem … requires all parties involved in airport operations to work together to create a safer, more vigilant environment,” the NTSB said. “Ground movement safety systems, such as cockpit moving map displays that provide a timely warning to flight crews to prevent runway incursions, are just one potential solution. Another is a system of cross-checking the airplane’s location at the assigned runway before preparing for takeoff.
“New technology — such as runway status lights and enhanced final approach runway occupancy signals — can provide a direct warning capability to the cockpit, thereby eliminating the delay in warning the pilots by relaying it through an air traffic controller.”
For general aviation, the NTSB recommended improved pilot education, including training on the use of electronic flight displays, and screening for risky behavior.
Other specific recommendations called for increased investment in aviation infrastructure, including engineered materials arresting systems to mitigate injury and damage from runway overruns, and improved weather information for pilots; the installation of fire suppression systems and fire retardant materials in airplane cargo compartments; and enhanced efforts to eliminate distraction in aviation and other modes of transportation.
Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have begun a new cooperative effort to promote and share aviation safety information and metrics.
The new worldwide initiative is designed to support ICAO guidance for safety management systems, which calls for increased monitoring, analysis and reporting of safety data.
“The establishment of this framework for enhanced cooperation with FSF is an important step in helping us achieve the highest levels of aviation safety worldwide,” said Roberto Kobe González, president of the ICAO Council. “Aviation safety knows no borders, and these types of collaborative data sharing and risk mitigation efforts are essential to help states and industry address safety risks before they lead to a serious incident or accident.”
The memorandum of cooperation calls for ICAO and the Foundation to work together to encourage compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices and related guidance material.
The memorandum also “promotes joint activities between the organizations in the areas of data sharing and analysis, training and technical assistance,” according to the announcement of the agreement. “The joint analyses developed will facilitate the harmonization of proactive and predictive safety metrics and the promotion of a just safety culture globally.”
Foundation President and CEO William R. Voss, noting that some U.S. air carriers and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration already operate under cooperative data-sharing agreements, said the new cooperative agreement would help other countries “establish models that are suited to their unique needs and constraints.”
Regional forums will be convened soon to aid in establishing information-sharing goals.
In Other News …
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has issued recommendations calling for the installation of active fire suppression systems in all cargo containers or compartments of cargo aircraft. … All 191 member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization have begun using a new aircraft flight plan designed to aid in managing the increasing volume of air traffic. … The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, airlines and aviation labor unions have agreed to a new information-sharing program designed to identify systemic risks and help prevent related accidents.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.