The aviation industry should recognize the importance of improved cockpit monitoring by flight crewmembers as a tool in reducing safety incidents, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says.
The CAA said its new Monitoring Matters safety package — consisting of guidance material and five video re-enactments of actual incidents in which poor monitoring compromised safety — is aimed primarily at flight training instructors and will be of interest to all commercial pilots in multicrew operations.
“Effective monitoring really does matter on the flight deck,” said Gretchen Haskins, director of the CAA Safety Regulation Group. “Pilot monitoring skills play an absolutely vital role in ensuring the safety of aircraft operations. However, we do see significant variations in the quality of this monitoring. If we are to maintain the U.K.’s excellent safety record, we need to ensure all operators are focusing the relevant components of their ab initio and recurrent training on high quality cockpit monitoring.”
The CAA described monitoring as “the behaviour and skills used by pilots to maintain their own ‘big picture’ by cross-checking each other’s actions and diligent observation of the flight path, aircraft system and automation modes.”
The CAA said effective monitoring is a “key safety net” in preventing — and recovering from — loss of control events, which the agency cited as one of the “significant seven” risks to aviation safety. Many loss of control events can be traced to the failure of pilot training to keep pace with advances in cockpit technology, the CAA said.
Call for Action
The Canadian aviation community should “step up and find solutions on their own” to some of the most persistent safety problems plaguing the industry, Wendy Tadros, chairwoman of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), says.
In a column written for The Hill Times, a weekly publication covering the Canadian government, Tadros noted that the TSB has “talked repeatedly about what needs to be done to improve safety — and by extension, save lives.”
However, she added, “when it comes to implementation, progress can easily get bogged down in layer upon layer of ‘consultation’ and ‘process,’ leaving the regulatory system so slow it’s almost broken.”
She referred specifically to recent events involving controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), runway overruns and runway incursions — three items that have been emphasized for several years on TSB’s Safety Watchlist, a document in which the agency identifies the greatest risks to transportation safety in Canada.
“Now is the time for Transport Canada to take concrete action,” Tadros said, adding that industry also should act by “being proactive and adopting stricter safety measures, and no longer waiting for government to eventually legislate what best practices should be implemented.”
She suggested that the industry improve approach procedures and fully utilize technology to help prevent CFIT accidents; extend runway end safety areas and provide pilots with timely information about runway conditions to help curtail runway overruns; and ensure that pilots are given warnings of collision risks to prevent runway incursions.
Risks of Corrosion Inhibitors
CASA issued an airworthiness bulletin describing a recent study that found that, when applied to highly loaded or fatigue-critical joints, the compounds can reduce fatigue life by as much as half and accelerate the growth of fatigue cracks.
When used appropriately, the corrosion-inhibiting compounds can provide substantial benefits, CASA said.
The FAA originally had planned to close the facilities in April, but the agency said more time was needed to resolve legal challenges to the closure decisions.
“Safety is our top priority,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
Operators of about 50 of the airports have said that they may attempt to finance tower operations themselves, and the extra time will aid in the transition, the FAA said. Tower operations at the other airports will cease.
New Fatigue Rules in Australia
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has adopted new rules for fatigue management for flight crewmembers, along with a timetable that calls for a three-year transition to the new rule set.
The new approach is designed as a three-tier system, designed in recognition that “fatigue is a complex aviation safety issue, that there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” CASA said.
The first tier is a basic prescriptive system, with “relatively restrictive flight and duty time limitations,” designed for use by operators that “do not have the capacity or experience to integrate additional risk management concepts,” CASA said.
The first tier rules include requirements that a flight duty period be no longer than nine hours in any one day, with no more than seven hours of flight time; under certain circumstances, the duty period may be extended by one hour and the flight time, by 30 minutes. Flight crewmembers also must have at least 12 consecutive hours off during any 24-hour period and at least two days off during any seven-day period.
The second tier is a fatigue management system, with more flexible flight and duty time limits for pilots, and requirements for operators to identify fatigue hazards and set appropriate flight and duty time limits after taking those hazards into account.
The third tier is a fatigue risk management system (FRMS), intended for operators that “seek to demonstrate an alternative approach to fatigue management,” with requirements for operators to develop appropriate policies for risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion processes.
In its discussion of the final rule set, CASA said that data from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau indicates that human fatigue was a possible contributory factor in about 78 aviation accidents or incidents in Australia between 2002 and 2012.
“Fatigue can undermine the crew’s capacity to deal effectively with threats and errors,” CASA said. “Crews must be adequately alert to perform competently in normal and abnormal operations, and this capacity needs to be protected at all times, regardless of how benign a flight appears to be.”
Plotting Progress in India
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging the Indian government and industry to cooperate on projects that IATA says will enhance aviation safety, security and efficiency throughout the country.
IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler praised as “a step in the right direction” the Indian government’s plan to replace the Directorate General of Civil Aviation with a civil aviation authority (CAA).
He said the new CAA should consider incorporating the standards of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) into the national safety oversight framework for airlines.
“Safety is the industry’s number one priority,” Tyler said, noting that IOSA has played a significant role in establishing voluntary global safety standards.
“India is the great potential market of the future, and the industry here has only just begun to realize its tremendous promise,” he said. “If we are to realize that future, we must successfully overcome some major issues.”
Loss of Separation
The number of reported operational errors by air traffic controllers resulting in air traffic losses of separation increased more than 50 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The report said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration attributes the increase primarily to increased reporting through voluntary programs such as the air traffic safety action program and the automated traffic analysis and review program.
The OIG report, however, said the increase in reported errors “was linked, in part, to a rise in actual errors. … For example, FAA’s air route traffic control centers, which have had an automated system in place for years to detect and investigate reported errors, had a 39 percent increase in operational errors during the same period.”
The report also said that nearly 25 percent of the increase stemmed from a procedural change at one terminal radar approach control that resulted in the reclassification of a number of routine approach and landings as operational errors.
The FAA has adopted new policies and procedures to reduce the number of loss of separation events and to improve reporting, “but their effectiveness is limited by incomplete data and implementation challenges,” the OIG report said.
In Other News …
Certification tests have been completed for the new battery system for Boeing 787s. Boeing next must analyze test-related data and submit materials to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which grounded the 787s in January because of battery problems. … The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will pay a $3.5 million fine under a settlement agreement with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stemming from the FAA’s allegations of aircraft rescue and fire fighting violations at four Port Authority airports. The affected airports were John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia airport, Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.