The European Commission (EC) says it is proposing “ambitious and comprehensive” steps to develop a proactive, evidence-based aviation safety system, with an emphasis on comprehensive data-gathering.
“The current aviation regulatory system is primarily a reactive system relying on technological progress, the adoption of legislation overseen by effective regulatory authorities and detailed accident investigations leading to recommendations for safety improvements,” the EC said in a December memo.
“However, whilst the ability to learn lessons from an accident is crucial, systems which are essentially reactive are showing their limits in being able to drive further improvements in the accident rate.”
The answer, the EC said, is to gather and analyze all available aviation safety information.
The EC proposals include establishing “an appropriate environment to encourage aviation professionals to report safety-related information by protecting them from punishment except in cases of gross negligence” and ensuring that “the scope of mandatory reporting covers major potential risks and that the appropriate means to capture any safety threat are established [through] voluntary reporting schemes.”
In addition, the proposals call for confidential safety information to be made available only to maintain or improve aviation safety. The EC added that its intent is to “diminish the negative effect that the use of such data by judicial authorities may have on aviation safety.”
Other proposals call for improving the “quality and completeness” of occurrence reports, developing a better exchange of information among EC member states and improving data analysis at the European Union (EU) level so that it complements analysis performed at the national level.
The EC proposal must be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of member states before it takes effect.
EU transport ministers also called for an external aviation policy that will strengthen the competitiveness of the European aviation industry, in part by developing EU-level air transport agreements with neighboring countries.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed $633,000 in civil penalties against Trans States Airlines for its operation of two Embraer 145 regional jets on 3,660 passenger flights while the aircraft allegedly were out of compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.
The FAA said that the airline operated two airplanes on 268 revenue passenger flights while the airplanes were equipped with improperly installed radio altimeter antenna cables. One aircraft was operated on 3,392 passenger flights with improperly installed electrical wiring in its fuel supply system, the FAA said.
In an unrelated case, the FAA proposed a $275,000 civil penalty against Pinnacle Airlines for allegedly operating a Bombardier CRJ on 11 flights after maintenance personnel failed to install a required part when they replaced an engine. The FAA said that, because Pinnacle is being reorganized under U.S. bankruptcy laws, the notice of proposed penalty is not a demand for payment.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Jan. 16 grounded all U.S.-registered Boeing 787s, citing an in-flight “battery incident” earlier in the day on an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787. The FAA said it would issue an emergency airworthiness directive to address the risk of battery fires in the airplanes.
Other civil aviation authorities worldwide immediately took similar action to keep 787s out of the skies. ANA and Japan Airlines had grounded their 787s prior to the FAA action.
“The FAA will work with the manufacturer and carriers to develop a corrective action plan to allow the U.S. 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible,” the agency said. “Before further flight, operators of U.S.-registered Boeing 787 aircraft must demonstrate to the [FAA] that the batteries are safe.”
Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney said the company is “committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. …We are confident the 787 is safe, and we stand behind its overall integrity.”
Published reports said the in-flight incident involved warning lights indicating a battery problem in a 787 on a domestic flight in Japan and quoted Yoshitomo Tamaki, director general of the Japan Transport Safety Board, as saying there was a bulge in the metal case that housed the battery.
The grounding came five days after the FAA announced a review of the 787’s critical systems, especially its electrical systems; that action came in the wake of a battery fire in a Japan Airlines 787 parked at Logan International Airport in Boston.
Fifty 787s had been in service worldwide.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should consider asking Congress to provide additional protections for data gathered through safety management systems (SMS), a U.S. government watchdog agency says.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a December report on the FAA’s progress in SMS implementation — both within the agency and throughout the aviation industry — that data protection concerns “could prevent aviation stakeholders from fully embracing SMS implementation, thus hindering its effectiveness.
“Without assurance of protection from state [freedom of information] laws, some aviation stakeholders may choose to collect only the bare minimum of safety-related data or may choose to limit the extent to which collected information is shared among aviation stakeholders.”
In addition, GAO said, “the ability of FAA to identify safety risks, develop mitigation strategies and measure outcomes is hindered by limited access to complete and meaningful data.”
GAO said that the FAA and the aviation industry are making progress in SMS implementation, although it will take years to accomplish the “cultural and procedural shift” in FAA internal operations and in the agency’s oversight of airlines, airports and other aviation stakeholders.
“Going forward, if FAA is to attain the full benefits of SMS, it will be important for the agency to remain committed to fully implementing SMS across its business lines,” GAO said. “FAA has taken a number of steps that align with practices we identified as important to successful project planning and implementation but has not addressed or has only partially addressed other key practices … [that] are important for large-scale transformative projects such as SMS.”
GAO’s other recommendations included calls for development of a data-collection system to be used in evaluating whether SMS is meeting designated goals and implementation of a system of evaluating employee performance as related to SMS.
GAO also recommended developing a system to track SMS implementation and conducting a workforce analysis to identify employee skills and strategies for addressing SMS-related skills gaps.
Flight Simulation Goals
The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), urging the increased use of flight simulators throughout the aviation industry, has established six related goals for flight simulation over the next two years.
The goals include adopting the International Civil Aviation Organization framework for simulator classification, mandating that simulators be used for training and checking of high-risk emergency procedures in some aircraft types, and encouraging operators to upgrade and maintain their simulators.
“Technological advances have seen significant improvement in the fidelity of flight simulation devices at all levels,” CASA said in its Flight Simulation Operational Plan 2012–2014. “Flight simulators provide more in-depth training, particularly in the practice of emergency and abnormal operations, than can be accomplished
CASA said that Australia currently has 34 full-flight simulators; five flight training devices, which do not have motion; and 91 instrument flight trainers.
Workplace safety standards for flight attendants should be enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in proposing a regulation to expand OSHA’s authority.
“While the FAA’s aviation safety regulations take precedence, the agency is proposing that OSHA be able to enforce certain occupational safety and health standards currently not covered by FAA oversight,” the FAA said.
Under the proposal, flight attendants could report workplace injury and illness complaints to OSHA, which would have the authority to investigate. Workplace issues could include exposure to noise and disease-causing microorganisms, the FAA said.
“The policy … [would] not only enhance the health and safety of flight attendants by connecting them directly with OSHA but will by extension improve the flying experience of millions of airline passengers,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis.
A final policy will be announced after authorities have reviewed public comments on the proposed regulation. The comment period was scheduled to end Jan. 22.
Operators of aircraft with Rolls-Royce RB211-524 engines have been warned of a potential for degradation of the engines’ intermediate-pressure turbine blade interlocking shrouds, which, if not corrected, could result in the cracking and loss of turbine blades, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says.
The ATSB cited the May 9, 2011, malfunction of an engine on a Qantas Airways Boeing 747-400 during a flight from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to Singapore. The crew observed abnormal indications from the no. 4 engine during a climb from 36,000 ft to 38,000 ft. The crew shut down the engine, continued the flight to Singapore and landed without further incident.
The ATSB investigation traced the problem to the “failure and separation of a single intermediate-pressure turbine blade … [which] fractured following the initiation and growth of a fatigue crack from an origin area near the blade inner root platform.”
The cause of the blade failure was not immediately identified, but the manufacturer’s post-accident analysis revealed that “wear and loss of material from the turbine blade outer interlocking shrouds had reduced the rigidity and damping effects of the shroud and may have contributed to the high-cycle fatigue cracking and failure.”
The manufacturer’s analysis was continuing.
The ATSB said that Rolls-Royce issued non-modification service bulletin 72-G739 in October 2011, directing operators to inspect the intermediate-pressure turbine blades in the affected engines to determine if any shroud interlock material was missing. Qantas had completed the required inspections and found no instances of excessive wear, the ATSB said.
The agency said three similar events have been reported in RB211-524 history and the probability of further events is “extremely low.” Blade separation probably will result in engine malfunctions and an in-flight engine shutdown, but risks to the safety of continued flight are minor, the ATSB said.
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.”
William R. Voss, then FSF president and CEO, 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 …
Michael Huerta was sworn in as administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in early January, after serving as acting administrator for more than one year. … The European Union and Eurocontrol have agreed to establish a new framework for cooperation in implementing the Single European Sky program. … The European Commission has removed all air carriers certified in Mauritania from its list of those banned from operating in the European Union. The December revision added to the list air carriers certified in Eritrea.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.