TSB Urges Mandatory Flight Recorders
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is reiterating its call for mandatory installation of lightweight flight recording systems in aircraft not currently required to carry flight recorders.
The TSB said a lightweight recording system would have aided its recently completed investigation of the fatal crash of a Piper PA-31 Navajo during low altitude flight after a surveying mission.
The TSB said that Exact Air, the operator of the Navajo, was “unaware that the occurrence pilots had frequently flown at very low altitudes while transiting between survey areas and the [Schefferville, Quebec] airport.”
The Navajo was flying between 40 ft and 100 ft above ground level on April 30, 2017, when it struck power transmission wires and crashed to the ground as the pilots headed back to Schefferville after their second survey flight of the day, the TSB said. Both pilots were killed.
The TSB said that “sensation seeking, mental fatigue and an altered risk perception” likely contributed to the crash. The pilots did not detect the power lines, 70 ft above the ground, until it was too late to avoid them, the TSB said.
“In addition to providing investigators with information on the sequence of events prior to an occurrence, a lightweight flight recording system can also help a company conduct flight data monitoring and flight [operational] quality assurance programs, to ensure that pilots follow company procedures and operational limits,” the TSB said.
The TSB has previously recommended that Transport Canada require installation of the recording systems, including one recommendation issued earlier this year in a report on the Oct. 13, 2016, crash of a Cessna Citation 500 near Kelowna, British Columbia. The pilot and all three passengers were killed. The TSB said that, because of the absence of flight, voice and video data recordings, it could not determine why the airplane crashed.
The TSB said that after the Navajo accident, Exact Air held staff meetings and an awareness campaign to emphasize the risks of low-altitude flying.
New EU Pilots Face Psychological Testing
Newly hired pilots for European airlines will be required to undergo psychological assessments before they begin employment, according to new European Union safety rules.
The rules, published in July, also call for alcohol testing of pilots and cabin crewmembers employed by airlines that fly into European Union member states, and the establishment of a support program to assist pilots who work for European airlines in “recognising, coping with and overcoming problems which might negatively affect their ability to safely exercise the privileges of their licence.” The announcement of the new rules did not mention a requirement for drug testing.
The new rules were developed in the aftermath of the March 24, 2015, crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps. All 150 passengers and crew in the Airbus A320 were killed and the airplane was destroyed in the crash, which the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses said was planned by the first officer, who wanted to kill himself.
“These new European rules take up the proposals EASA [the European Aviation Safety Agency] made in its swift follow-up of the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “With these rules, Europe introduces the right tools to safeguard the mental fitness of air crew.”
The rules will take full effect following a two-year transition period to allow EASA member states and airlines to establish the infrastructure needed for compliance, EASA said. The agency said it plans to issue guidance material to support implementation of the new rules and will work with the industry and member states to aid in implementation of the regulation.
Surge Detected in Fatal Helicopter Crashes
U.S. helicopter pilots and operators are being urged to intensify their safety efforts to ensure that a “short-term surge” in fatal accidents in late June and early July, “does not stretch into a long-term trend.”
The U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) said in July that during the 10-day period that ended July 8, U.S. helicopters were involved in four fatal crashes. The accidents marked “the worst short-term surge in fatal accidents we’ve experienced within the past six years,” since four fatal crashes occurred within one week in late November and early December 2012, USHST said. A fifth fatal crash occurred nine days later.
Of the four recent crashes, two occurred during private flights and two involved aerial observation missions. One fatality was attributed to each of the crashes.
“The series of fatal helicopter accidents is a reminder to our community: There is sometimes a fine line between a flight that ends uneventfully and one that ends disastrously,” USHST said.
In comments addressed to pilots, mechanics, operators, instructors and others in the U.S. helicopter community, USHST said, “In the wake of this recent surge in fatal accidents, let us take some time to think through how we can make sure the rest of the summer is spent with enjoyment rather than grief.”
USHST urged pilots to review basic procedures, think about how they would respond in emergencies, consider the effects of hot temperatures on aircraft performance, be especially aware of pilot fatigue and “practice real-time risk management, even with small decisions. Make a habit of mentally asking yourself, ‘What could go wrong with what I’m doing right now? What could I do to make sure the worst case scenario doesn’t kill me?’”
Two Theories on 2016 EgyptAir Crash
French accident investigators have challenged Egyptian authorities over their handling of the investigation of the May 19, 2016, crash of EgyptAir Flight 804, an Airbus A320 that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea, killing all 66 passengers and crew.
Egyptian authorities have not released a final report on the accident and have instead turned over the investigation to their country’s attorney general, arguing that the traces of explosives that were found on human remains indicated that a “malicious act” had occurred.
The French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA), however, said in July that it believes the most likely scenario is that a fire broke out in the cockpit of the A320 during its flight from Paris to Cairo and spread rapidly, resulting in a loss of control and subsequent crash. The BEA had been participating in the Egyptian accident investigation as a representative of the state of design of the airplane.
The BEA noted that, early in the investigation, Egyptian authorities released information that indicated there was smoke in the lavatories and the avionics bay, that the crew was heard on the cockpit voice recorder discussing a fire in the airplane and that some of the debris recovered from the accident site apparently had been subjected to high temperatures.
The BEA said that its proposals concerning further work on the debris and recorded data were not followed up, and that technical elements of the investigation already collected by Egypt, including those provided by the BEA, are “protected by the Egyptian judicial investigation.”
In an effort to continue the safety investigation, BEA representatives met with the attorney general in May. At that time, Egyptian authorities explained that because it had been determined that there had been a malicious act, the investigation now fell within the sole jurisdiction of the judicial authorities.
“The BEA’s Egyptian counterpart did not publish the final report, which would have allowed the BEA to set out its differences of opinion as authorized by the international provisions. The BEA considers that it is necessary to have this final report in order to have the possibility of understanding the cause of the accident and to provide the aviation community with the safety lessons which could prevent future accidents,” the BEA said.
The BEA said it is prepared to continue collaborating with its Egyptian counterpart “should the latter restart the safety investigation into this accident.
Landmark Number for U.S. Drones
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has issued more than 100,000 remote pilot certificates to operators to fly drones for commercial and recreational (not “model aircraft”) uses.
The certificates have been issued since the FAA’s small drone rule went into effect in August 2016.
Under Federal Aviation Regulations Part 107, the operator of a (non-model aircraft) drone — also known as an unmanned aircraft system or remotely piloted aircraft system — must have a remote pilot certificate or be directly supervised by someone who does. (Model aircraft may be flown by people without remote pilot certificates.)
In a related matter in the U.K., new laws, which took effect July 30, restrict drones from being flown above 400 ft or within 1 km (0.6 mi) of airport boundaries.
The changes had the support of U.K. citizens, according to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, which said research showed that 77 percent of U.K. citizens favor more regulation of drone operations. Members of the drone community themselves supported increased regulation, the CAA said, noting that 75 percent of those questioned agreed with regulatory involvement.
In Other News …
U.S. airports in all 50 states and five territories are scheduled to receive $1.6 billion in infrastructure grants for improvements to runways, taxiways, terminals, aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles, and other projects, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says. The projects are intended to maintain safety and improve efficiency, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in the July announcement. … The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not promptly mitigating security risks involving its new Data Communications (DataComm) system, designed to upgrade communication between air traffic controllers and flight crews. In a July report, the OIG said that, as of May 10, the FAA had not addressed two security control vulnerabilities in its high-impact plans of action and milestones, which were originally scheduled for completion in October 2017.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.
Flight data recorders: © Aerotoons | iStockphoto
Psychological testing: © kmimtz66 | iStockphoto
Helicopter crash: © leremy | Adobe Stock
EgyptAir: © Mehmet Mustafa Celik | Wikimedia CC-BY-SA 4.0
Drones: © ahasoft | Vector Stock