Global Flight Tracking
Spurred by the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, government and aviation industry experts are scheduled to meet this month to discuss how to implement worldwide flight tracking.
The planned meeting, to be convened by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), will examine “specific aircraft- and satellite-based capabilities” that would permit flight tracking on a global basis (ASW, 8/09, p. 24).
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared March 8 during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard. At press time, searchers were trying to locate the source of acoustic signals that matched those emitted by flight recorders, coming from deep in the Indian Ocean.
ICAO said that its Flight Recorder Panel is reviewing suggested methods of speeding up the location of accident sites, “including deployable flight recorders and the triggered transmission of flight data.”
Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, Council president of ICAO, added, “No matter how safe or secure we make the air transport network, these types of events remind our entire sector that no effort is ever enough, no solution ever a reason to stop seeking further improvement.”
Announcement of the May 12–13 special meeting followed calls from several international aviation organizations, including Flight Safety Foundation, for such a gathering.
“Emerging technology exists to provide much more real-time data about aircraft operations and engine performance,” said David McMillan, chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Governors. “That data can help us unlock mysteries, leading to timely safety improvements and more focused search and rescue missions, while avoiding some of the pain and anguish felt by victims’ loved ones in the wake of a tragedy.”
A report on the review of the design, manufacture and assembly processes for the Boeing 787 has made seven recommendations for improvements in Boeing’s processes and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) oversight.
The FAA said that its review team concluded that the airplane was “soundly designed, met its intended safety level and that the manufacturer and the FAA had effective processes in place to identify and correct issues that emerged before and after certification.”
Nevertheless, the panel issued recommendations that included calls for Boeing to address manufacturing and “supplier-quality” issues and for the FAA to institute “improved, risk-based … oversight to account for new business models.”
The team — made up of Boeing technical experts and FAA engineers and specialists who had not been closely involved in the 787 certification process — was appointed in January 2013, in the aftermath of a fire in a Japan Airlines 787 while it was parked at a gate at Boston Logan International Airport. One firefighter was injured fighting the blaze.
A preliminary report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board traced the origin of the fire to the lithium-ion battery in the auxiliary power unit.
The FAA said that the review team also examined service-reliability data for the 787 and found that its “reliability performance in the first 16 months of service was comparable to the reliability of other new Boeing models over the same time period.”
New Moves to Regulate UAS
The European Commission (EC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency are preparing to develop a policy framework for integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — also being called remotely piloted aviation systems or drones — into European airspace.
“Drones are already beginning to appear in our skies, but there are no clear general rules, at a national or at European level, which put in place the necessary safeguards [to] protect the safety, security and privacy of people,” said Siim Kallas, EC vice president responsible for transport.
EC plans call for the integration of UAS into civil airspace “based on the principle that all operations will have an equivalent level of safety in comparison to regular manned aviation.”
The European Council has said that rules should be developed for integrating UAS into civil airspace beginning in 2016.
In related action, in the United States, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has urged the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite its consideration and approval of the notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the safe use of small UAS — those with vehicles weighing less than 55 lb (25 kg).
“Only after issuance of the proposed rule can we begin a transparent dialogue between government, industry, users and other interested parties to allow the safe use of these systems by American businesses,” said a letter signed by AIA President Marion Blakey and Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association.
The FAA is required by law to issue a final rule on the matter by August.
MD-11 Hard Landings
Citing 13 hard-landing accidents over the last two decades involving the global fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-11s, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for action to review the effectiveness of flare-cueing systems to determine whether they could provide useful information for MD-11 flight crews.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing should work together on the review and produce a formal report on their findings, the NTSB recommended. If they determine that the systems would “assist pilots in making timely and appropriate inputs during the landing flare,” they should distribute copies of the report to U.S. operators of MD-11s and encourage the operators to install flare-cueing systems on these airplanes, the NTSB said.
Accompanying recommendations call for the FAA and Boeing to conduct a similar assessment of methods of providing “weight-on-wheels cueing” to enhance awareness of bounced landings and effective responses, with reports to operators if they determine such cueing would be useful; and to “evaluate the effect of brief power increases on simulated MD-11 landing distances,” with adjusted landing distance tables, if necessary.
Another recommendation said that the FAA should reconvene the MD-10/MD-11 flight standardization board to determine whether currency requirements should be strengthened for MD-11 pilots.
“MD-11 hard landing accidents have frequently involved a pilot’s late or ineffective flare and/or mismanagement of bounced landings, which can cause the airplane to porpoise,” the NTSB said. “This sequence of events could be particularly hazardous in the MD-11 because overloading of the main landing gear in the vertical direction could cause the main wing spar to fracture and the airplane to subsequently roll over.”
The NTSB said that a review of data showed that the MD-11 had the highest rate of hard-landing events of 27 large Western-built transport category airplanes — 5.63 per 1 million flight cycles.
Factors that might have contributed to the problem include the MD-11’s high landing speed, which “increases the difficulty of a properly timed and executed flare because it must be initiated within a narrow timeframe,” the NTSB said. Other factors include the location of the cockpit ahead of the center of gravity and the main landing gear, the automatic reduction of thrust during the landing flare and the MD-11’s extensive use in long-range cargo flights, which offer pilots relatively few opportunities to maintain landing proficiency.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), distressed by two recent incidents in which the crews of air carrier aircraft landed at the wrong airport, has issued a safety alert urging pilots to always verify that they are landing at the correct airport.
“The consequences for pilots mistaking a nearby airport for the intended one, or landing on the wrong runway or a taxiway, can have catastrophic consequences,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said.
The safety alert directed flight crews to comply with standard operating procedures, verify the airplane’s position relative to the airport, and “use available cockpit instrumentation to verify that you are landing at the correct airport.” The document urged “extra vigilance when identifying the destination airport at night and when landing at an airport with others in close proximity.”
Other recommended precautions are to be familiar with the destination airport’s layout, use the most precise navigational aids in conjunction with a visual approach and “confirm that you have correctly identified the destination airport before reporting the airport or runway is in sight,” the NTSB said.
The two incidents cited by the NTSB were:
- The Jan. 12 landing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 on a 3,738-ft (1,140-m) runway at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Branson, Missouri, instead of on the 7,140-ft (2,178-m) runway at Branson Airport, as planned; and,
- The Nov. 21, 2013, landing of a Dreamlifter 747 on a 6,100-ft (1,860-m) runway at Colonel James Jabara Airport in Wichita, Kansas, instead of the planned destination 12 nm (22 km) away — a 12,000-ft (3,660-m) runway at McConnell Air Force Base.
Both landings were made in night visual meteorological conditions and both ended without further incident.
New FSF President and CEO
Jon L. Beatty, a former top executive at International Aero Engines, is the new president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation.
He officially took over at the Foundation on April 21, succeeding Kevin L. Hiatt, now senior vice president of safety and flight operations at the International Air Transport Association.
Beatty was president and CEO of International Aero Engines from 2007 through 2009 and from 2012 until his retirement earlier this year. He also held several executive positions at Pratt & Whitney, BF Goodrich and AlliedSignal Aerospace.
David McMillan, chairman of the FSF Board of Governors, said Beatty
“brings an international executive perspective that will be instrumental in moving the Foundation into its next chapter as the leading voice of aviation safety around the world.”
During a two-month transition period after Hiatt’s departure in February, Kenneth J. Hylander was the Foundation’s acting president and CEO, and William G. Bozin was acting chief operating officer.
In Other News …
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has updated regulations governing the reporting and investigation of aviation accidents and incidents — as well as occurrences in other modes of transportation — to take full advantage of electronic information sharing and to harmonize definitions with international standards. … The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority has won a conviction in its first prosecution of an unmanned aircraft pilot for “dangerous and illegal flying.” The man was found guilty in early April of flying the unmanned aircraft system vehicle in restricted airspace above a nuclear submarine facility. … The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority says it is developing a package of improvements in airport safety standards to clarify the intent of some rules and limit the need for exemptions. Changes will be focused on specific areas, including apron parking clearances and lighting levels, approach slope guidance for large aircraft, wind direction indicators and movement-area guidance signs.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.