Transmission time should be extended from 30 days to 90 days for the underwater locating devices (ULD) installed in large commercial airplanes to help searchers find flight recorders in the event of a crash into a large body of water, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says.
In proposals released in early May, EASA also said that large airplanes that fly over oceans should be equipped with a new type of ULD with a longer locating range than the ULDs now in use. As an alternative, EASA said that these airplanes could be equipped with “a means to determine the location of an accident within 6 nm [11 km] accuracy.”
Another proposal said that the recording capacity of cockpit voice recorders should be increased to 20 hours, up from the current requirement of two hours.
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said that the proposals, coming as the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was about to enter its second month, were intended to enhance safety “by facilitating the recovery of information by safety investigation authorities.”
The proposals must be adopted by the European Commission before they take effect; if adopted, they would apply to aircraft registered in EASA member states.
Air Ambulance Rules
Medical transfer flights in Australia would be reclassified as air transport category operations under a proposal from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The flights currently are regulated as aerial work, and CASA says that Australia is the only nation using that designation.
“This classification subjects Australia’s medical transfer operations to a different standard of regulation than the International Civil Aviation Organization standards and those of most other nations,” CASA said.
CASA’s proposal calls for medical transfer flights to be subject not only to air transport regulations but also to “specific air ambulance operational requirements … to provide the flexibility needed for medical flights,” the agency said.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have agreed on a plan for sharing safety information and jointly analyzing safety trends.
The two organizations said that their analyses would be based primarily on information derived from EASA’s Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft program — which conducts about 11,000 ramp inspections on randomly selected aircraft and their crews, focusing on flight preparation and aircraft technical condition — and the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which evaluates airline operational safety management.
“Safety is aviation’s highest priority, and IOSA is the global benchmark for airline operational safety management,’ said IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler. “Working together through this information and trend-sharing partnership will contribute to making aviation even safer, while offering the potential to optimize the audit processes.”
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky added that the partnership with IATA will “facilitate the demonstration of compliance to the new rules affecting non-European Union airlines.”
Both organizations said that the information-sharing program will help identify safety issues and lay the groundwork for improvements in the safety auditing process, including the European Union’s third-country operator assessments and authorization requirements.
The European Commission (EC) has made a formal request to five countries to “make a decisive move” to improve their functional airspace block (FAB) — a regional air traffic control unit designed as a central part of the Single European Sky.
Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland are the first European member states to receive letters of formal notice from the EC. Their FAB was formally established in June 2013, six months later than required by regulations, and subsequent progress in reorganizing airspace has been slow, the EC said.
Several other FABs also are not yet compliant with regulations, the EC said, adding that they may receive similar letters of formal notice in the future.
“We have to finally overcome national borders in the European airspace,” said Siim Kallas, EC vice president responsible for transport. “FABs are a necessary, vital component of the Single European Sky. Right now, these common airspaces exist only on paper; they are formally established but not yet functional. I urge member states to step up their ambitions and push forward the implementation of the Single Sky.”
The EC considers its system of FABs “a cornerstone towards a single airspace that reduced the fragmentation along national borders in air traffic management.”
Benefits of the system include higher safety standards, the EC said, adding, “By enabling airplanes to fly without dealing with border crossings, FABs will remove the risk of border interference and national inconsistencies in safety procedures.”
Other benefits include reductions in fuel usage, costs, travel delays, noise and emissions, the EC said.
Member states have two months from the receipt of a letter of formal notice to respond.
Ice-Detection Study Sought
Civil aviation authorities should examine the possibility of installing infrared cameras or other sensors to detect the presence of ice or frost on aircraft wings, the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) says.
The BEA included the recommendation in its final report on the March 4, 2013, crash of a Beechcraft Premier 1A shortly after takeoff from an airport in Cranves-Sales that killed the general aviation pilot and one passenger, seriously injured the other passenger and destroyed the airplane. Accident investigators determined that the airplane had stalled on takeoff and that its “observed behaviour … was consistent with a stall due to contamination of the wings with frost or ice,” the report said.
The report said that the pilot’s “insufficient appreciation of the risks associated with ground-ice led him to take off with contamination of the critical airframe surfaces” — and added that the same lack of understanding may have contributed to 32 other accidents since 1989. In those accidents, the aircraft were not deiced before takeoff.
“The investigation … showed that an onboard device for the detection of ice on the ground could have prevented the  accident,” the report said.
As a result of its investigation, the BEA issued three safety recommendations, including its call for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other non-European civil aviation authorities to “study the technical and regulatory means to put in place … systems for the detection of frozen contaminants on the critical surfaces of aircraft.”
Another recommendation called for EASA and national civil aviation authorities to change pilot training requirements to include “periodic reminders on the effects of contaminants such as ice on stall and loss of control on takeoff.”
The final recommendation said that the French Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile should “define criteria to make it mandatory for aerodrome operators to have deicing/anti-icing facilities at aerodromes.”
Safety standards in the Philippines have improved and the country now merits a Category 1 rating from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — the rating that signifies compliance with safety oversight standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The Philippines had held a Category 2 rating — signifying that a country lacks laws or regulations to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards — since January 2008, when it was downgraded as a result of an earlier FAA review.
The FAA conducts the reviews under its International Aviation Safety Assessment program, which is intended to determine whether civil aviation authorities meet ICAO standards.
UAS Sites Operating
Two of the six U.S. test sites selected for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research have begun operating, one in North Dakota and the other in Alaska, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says.
The North Dakota site, under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Commerce, was the first to receive a certificate of waiver or authorization (COA) from the FAA for flights using a Draganflyer X4-ES small UAS at a site in Carrington. The flights were scheduled to begin in early May.
A primary goal of the Department of Commerce is to use UAS in “precision agriculture,” including checking soil quality and crop status, the FAA says.
The second COA was issued to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, authorizing the use of an Aeryon Scout small UAS for wild animal surveys at a test range in Fairbanks. Flights began in early May and were intended to demonstrate how a UAS can locate, identify and count caribou, bears and other large animals.
Both sites also will collect safety-related operational data needed for the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System, the FAA said, adding that the information “will help the FAA analyze current processes for establishing small UAS airworthiness and system maturity.”
The FAA said that the Alaska flights also “will evaluate procedures for coordination with air traffic controllers, as well as the type and frequency of operational data provided to them.”
In North Dakota, operators will collect maintenance data “to support a prototype database for UAS maintenance and repair,” the FAA said.
Making a List
The European Commission’s 23rd update of its list of airlines banned from operating in the European Union (EU) has returned flying privileges to all airlines from Swaziland and to others from the Philippines and Kazakhstan.
The updated list prohibits operations in the EU for 294 airlines from 20 countries, plus two individual airlines. Ten additional airlines may operate under specific restrictions.
Swaziland is the second country to be removed from the list because of aviation safety improvements; Mauritania, removed from the list in 2012, was the first.
Crash Site Designated as Landmark
The area where wreckage fell after a 1956 midair collision 21,000 ft over Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, U.S., has been designated as a national historic landmark.
The collision, on June 30th of that year, of a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation L-1049 and a United Airlines DC-7 killed all 128 people in the two airplanes and is seen as the impetus for a new emphasis on aviation safety and the modernization of airways across the United States.
The Civil Aeronautics Board — a predecessor of the National Transportation Safety Board — found the probable cause of the crash was each pilot’s failure to see the other’s airplane.
The National Park Service said that the hundreds of pieces of aircraft wreckage in the remote section of the Grand Canyon, along with “evidence of land disturbance” associated with the crash, convey “a sense of the accident’s improbability due to the area’s uncongested airspace [and] the challenges associated with recovering accident victims.”
In Other News…
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $547,500 civil penalty against Hawaiian Airlines for allegedly operating a Boeing 767-300 between July 2004 and July 2012 even though it was out of compliance with regulations that required inspections of some thrust reverser components. The FAA said that the airline had requested a conference to discuss the matter. … The European Commission has approved a plan to allow airlines outside the European Union (EU) to obtain a single safety authorization to operate within the entire EU.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.