Dealing With the Coronavirus
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is urging countries to avoid imposing travel restrictions that are inconsistent with international health regulations to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Exceeding those recommendations — included in guidance material from the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) — without first conducting an appropriate risk assessment “could lead to unnecessary and negative impacts, especially for the many vulnerable or isolated populations which rely so importantly on their global aviation connections,” ICAO said.
WHO’s Feb. 10 update said that 40,554 cases of the virus had been confirmed worldwide, with about 99 percent of those in China. Outside China, 319 cases had been confirmed in a total of 24 countries. Some 909 people in China, and one person in another country, had died of the virus.
An unspecified number of flights have been canceled or rerouted, ICAO said.
WHO guidelines recommend that travelers who experience acute respiratory illness before, during or after travel seek medical attention and tell health care providers about their travel history.
Passenger screening should be conducted at international airports in affected areas, and at certain domestic airports, as needed, “with the aims of early detection of symptomatic travelers for further evaluation and treatment,” the guidelines say. Individuals who had contact with people who have the disease or direct exposure to a potential source of infection should be placed under medical observation.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) added that airlines are working with public health authorities on any steps that might be needed to contain the virus, as they typically do, using “well-developed standards and best practices.”
NTSB Warns of EMB-175 Wire Chafing
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued safety recommendations to address problems associated with wire chafing and pitch trim switch installation in certain Embraer models.
The agency cited its preliminary investigation of a Nov. 6, 2019, incident in which the crew of a Republic Airways EMB-175 reported a flight control issue related to the airplane’s pitch trim and declared an emergency after takeoff from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (Georgia, U.S.) International Airport. They returned to the airport and landed safely.
The preliminary investigation found chafing on the wires that connect the horizontal stabilizer actuator control electronics and the captain’s pitch trim switch and autopilot/trim disconnect button. The NTSB said in a statement issued in late January that the chafing resulted from “contact with the incorrectly untucked pigtail of the mechanical stop bolt safety wire.”
Examination of the captain’s pitch trim switch found that it had been installed upside-down, the NTSB said, noting that Embraer previously had issued three service bulletins to address problems regarding errors in the switch installation after receiving reports from flight crews in 2015. Neither the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) nor the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC) had required the actions described in the service bulletins.
The recommendations to the FAA and ANAC called for, among other things, inspections of control column wiring and replacement of the wiring, if necessary; and the mandatory incorporation of Embraer Service Bulletins 170-27-0051, 190-27-0039, and 190LIN-27-0019 on the affected airplanes. In addition, the NTSB called on the FAA, ANAC, Embraer and airplane operators to work together to determine whether changes are needed in the Pitch Trim Runaway checklists for EMB-170/175/190/195/Lineage 100 airplanes.
ECA Offers Plan for Conflict Zone Flights
The European Cockpit Association (ECA) is suggesting a short-term measure to address issues surrounding flights by commercial aircraft in conflict zones.
The organization, which represents 40,000 European pilots, said in a January statement that its goal is to prevent tragedies like the recent shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in Iran.
One of ECA’s proposals is a “two out–all out” rule: If two European Union (EU) member states or two major airlines suspend flights in a conflict zone, then all European airlines would cease flying to the area in question.
“Whilst many believe there should be an EU or international authority to take responsibility for the closure of hostile airspace, it is not something that shows any sign of happening soon, and so we need a pragmatic, industry-based setup that can provide meaningful protection in the here and now,“ ECA President Jon Horne said.
The Iranian government said its military mistakenly shot down the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 on Jan. 8, killing all 176 passengers and crew, during a period of heightened tensions in the region.
In a related development, Flight Safety Foundation has called for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to protecting civilian aircraft operating in conflict zones, noting that the downing of a civilian aircraft in civilian airspace, whether mistaken or not, represents a violation of international law and an attack on the safety of international civil aviation.
Foundation President and CEO Dr. Hassan Shahidi added that International Civil Aviation Organization guidance says that the state civil aviation agency is responsible for closing its airspace and providing “timely risk information to airlines during military conflict.” Shahidi added that Iran’s civilian authority “appears not to have followed the guidance, which would have prevented this tragic outcome.”
FAA Criticized Over Drone Data
A U.S. government watchdog agency says data from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) seven drone test sites is not being fully utilized to support efforts to integrate drones into the National Airspace System.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a January report that the sites have been used by private and public organizations to test technologies “in preparation for varied UAS [unmanned aircraft systems, as drones are sometimes called] activities, from inspecting utilities to carrying passengers.”
The FAA has said that the programs provide research results that are required to enable full integration of drones into the airspace.
The GAO document said that FAA reports on the research projects have included limited information about how the research relates to the drone integration plans. The report added that the FAA’s reasoning has been that the agency was concerned about protecting the site users’ proprietary data.
The report included recommendations that the FAA develop a data analysis plan for information coming from the test sites and share more information while still protecting proprietary data.
Agency to Examine FAA Oversight Practices
A watchdog agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation says it plans a review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight and certification practices and the process used by the FAA to establish pilot training requirements for the Boeing 737 MAX.
The department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in mid-February that the review, scheduled to begin later in the month at the request of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, was prompted by concerns associated with the fatal crashes of two 737 MAX airplanes.
The crashes involved Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, after departure from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, after departure from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All passengers and crew in both airplanes ─ a total of 346 people ─ were killed.
The FAA certified the 737 MAX in March 2017.
“These fatal accidents have drawn widespread attention to FAA’s oversight and certification practices, including the agency’s process for establishing pilot training requirements for the aircraft,” the OIG said. “For example, at the time of the October 2018 fatal accident, pilots were reportedly unaware of the new automation system ─ known as the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) ─ that Boeing included on the MAX aircraft to improve aircraft performance.”
The report by the Indonesian accident investigation authority said that a contributing factor to the crash was “the pilots’ response to erroneous activation of MCAS.” The pilots’ actions raised “international concerns about the role of pilot training” in the accident, the OIG said.
In a separate report, the OIG said its review of the FAA’s safety oversight of Southwest Airlines identified several safety concerns, including that the airline “regularly and frequently communicated incorrect aircraft weight and balance data to its pilots” and that it operates aircraft “in an unknown airworthiness state, including more than 150,000 flights on previously owned aircraft that did not met U.S. aviation standards.”
The report also said that FAA inspectors have not evaluated Southwest’s risk assessments or safety culture as part of their oversight of the carrier. “This is because FAA has not provided inspectors with guidance on how to review risk assessments or how to evaluate and oversee a carrier’s safety culture,” the report said.
The report included 11 recommendations to the FAA, including several designed to address those concerns, and said that the FAA had agreed to implement them all.
In Other News …
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has accused UPS of violating hazardous materials regulations by shipping improperly packaged lithium batteries on a Nov. 15, 2018, flight and is proposing a $120,000 civil penalty. UPS has 30 days after receiving the official notice of the FAA’s proposal to respond to the allegations. … The Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia has established a panel of fatigue specialists to update guidance material for the transition, beginning July 1, to new flight crew fatigue rules.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.
Checking for illness: © seahorsevector | Vectorstock
Embraer EMB-175: formulanone | Wikimedia CC-BY-SA 2.0
Conflict zone: Illustration, Susan Reed; map, NuclearVacuum | Wikipedia Public Domain
Oversight: Illustration, Susan Reed; eye and figures, Gregor Cresnar | The Noun Project CC-BY-SA; document, Tanuj Abraham | The Noun Project CC-BY-SA