Citing the March 24 crash of a Germanwings Airbus A320, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued a temporary recommendation calling on airlines to require at least two crewmembers in an airplane cockpit at all times.
“The agency recommends operators to reassess the safety and security risks associated with flight crewmembers leaving the flight crew compartment due to operational or physiological needs during non-critical phases of flight,” EASA said in Safety Information Bulletin 2015-04, issued March 27.
The temporary recommendation will be reviewed as the investigation of the Germanwings crash proceeds, EASA said.
Preliminary information from accident investigators indicated that, while he was alone in the cockpit, the A320 first officer deliberately set the autopilot for a descent to 100 ft and then modified the autopilot setting to increase the airspeed. The airplane, at Flight Level 380 (approximately 38,000 ft) en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, descended and crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 passengers and crewmembers. The airplane was destroyed.
Streamlined UAS Procedures
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it is taking steps to speed the issuance of airspace authorizations for some commercial operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
The new policy says that the FAA will grant a certificate of waiver or authorization (COA) for flights being conducted at or below 200 ft with a “Section 333” exemption for aircraft weighing less than 55 lb (25 kg) provided they are flown in daytime visual flight rules conditions, within the visual line of sight of their operators and specific distances from airports or heliports. (The distances vary, depending on certain airport characteristics.)
Section 333 is a provision of the 2012 FAA reauthorization law that authorizes the transportation secretary to determine whether some UAS flights can be approved before the proposed rules for small UAS operations take effect. The proposal was made in February; its review and approval processes are expected to be lengthy.
The new policy will eliminate the need for repeated analyses of exemption requests if a similar UAS operation already has been approved, the FAA said.
In a related development, the FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon Logistics UAS design that will be used by the company for research and development and crew training. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said he hopes eventually to use UAS for package delivery.
Under terms of the certificate, flights may be no higher than 400 ft and must be conducted during day visual meteorological conditions, within the visual line-of-sight of the pilot and an observer. The pilot must possess at least a private pilot certificate and medical certification.
The certificate — like other experimental airworthiness certificates — also requires Amazon to turn over data every month to the FAA about the number of flights, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions, deviations from air traffic control instructions and unintended losses of communication links (see “First, Do No Harm”).
India has been granted a Category 1 rating under the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), signifying that the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) complies with international standards.
India had held a Category 1 rating in the past, from 1997 until 2012, when an IASA audit “identified some deficiencies” that prevented the DGCA from meeting global aviation safety oversight standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the FAA said.
As a result of that audit, India received a Category 2 rating, which signifies that a country “either lacks the laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with the minimum international civil aviation standards, or that its civil aviation authority … is deficient in one or more areas of safety oversight,” the FAA said.
The April upgrade to Category 1, which follows a reassessment of India’s compliance, means that India’s air carriers will be permitted to add flights to and from U.S. airports to their schedules.
General Aviation Alerts
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued four safety alerts to general aviation pilots and mechanics to discuss safety issues that were raised during its investigations of several recent accidents and incidents (ASW, 12/14–1/15).
Two of the safety alerts — one for mechanics and the other for pilots — were prompted by the same group of accidents and incidents, the most recent of which was a Dec. 12, 2014, incident in which the pilot of a Cessna T182T realized shortly after takeoff on a post-maintenance test flight that the elevator trim control had been reversed. He was able to adjust the trim and complete a normal landing.
The NTSB’s final report on the incident said the probable cause was “the mechanic’s improper installation of the elevator trim actuator, which resulted in reversed elevator trim control, and his subsequent failure to detect the misrigging of the elevator cables.”
The maintenance service alert called on mechanics to “become familiar with the normal directional movement of the controls and surfaces,” follow manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance, and brief aircraft owners and pilots on work that is performed.
The alert for pilots emphasized the need to check control systems after maintenance “more thoroughly than the normal preflight checklist implies.”
The other safety alerts for pilots discussed mountain flying skills and “survival equipment considerations,” and transition training before flying an aircraft with different flight characteristics.
Cooperation in Australia
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have signed a new three-year memorandum of understanding that emphasizes increased cooperation between the two agencies.
The agreement, signed in late March, “spells out how the two agencies will cooperate,” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan. “We are working together, with the ATSB identifying safety issues through its investigations and findings, and CASA and the industry responding to those issues, as appropriate, to promote high standards of aviation safety.”
The agencies added, in a joint statement, “Significantly, both agencies have reiterated a commitment to tell the other agency about matters they reasonably believe the other agency needs to know for safety purposes.”
The agreement comes one year after a panel of independent aviation experts issued a report recommending that the Australian government encourage “a more collaborative approach to regulatory oversight.”
CASA Director of Aviation Safety Mark Skidmore added, “It is important for the agencies to share safety information while recognising that there are limits to what the accident investigator can provide to the regulator. CASA will only ask for information if it is clearly in the interests of safety. The ATSB makes the decision on what information is provided to CASA. If CASA has information it believes relevant to an ATSB investigation, it will let the ATSB know.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed civil penalties of $328,550 against Southwest Airlines for two alleged violations of Federal Aviation Regulations.
In the first case, which carries a proposed penalty of $265,800, the airline did not properly inspect a Boeing 737 that lost cabin pressure during a flight from Boston to St. Louis on May 13, 2013, the FAA said in a statement issued in late March. The crew conducted an emergency landing in Baltimore.
“After the event, Southwest mechanics failed to complete a mandatory inspection to check whether the change in cabin pressure damaged the aircraft and to ensure used oxygen bottles were replaced,” the FAA said, adding that the airplane was operated on 123 flights before the inspection was completed about three weeks after the event.
The airplane also was used for two days after the event while two of its four portable oxygen units were unserviceable, the FAA said. Southwest’s minimum equipment list (MEL) allowed for flight with a minimum of three of the bottles in service, the agency said.
On about 120 additional flights, one of the portable oxygen units did not meet MEL conditions, the FAA said.
In the second case, Southwest was cited for failing to comply with regulations involving the accurate recording of repairs in an aircraft’s logbook. The problem involved a faulty air conditioning system component.
Southwest has requested meetings with the FAA to discuss both cases, the agency said.
Managing Oversight Duties
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is proposing that, if national aviation authorities in Europe lack resources or expertise in particular areas, they should be permitted to turn some of their oversight duties over to other authorities or to EASA.
In a proposal published in mid-March, EASA said the turnover of responsibilities would be aimed at ensuring “that no safety risks are overlooked.”
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said the proposed changes would allow the agency and the national authorities to “be more proportional, flexible and proactive to increase the level of safety in European aviation. … There is nothing wrong with being ambitious about safety.”
EASA said the proposal would be sent to the European Commission for further action.
In Other News …
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has proposed changes in regulations governing performance based navigation (PBN) in light of a risk assessment that concluded that most PBN operations are considered part of a normal navigation mode. EASA said in late March that the proposed changes would require improved pilot training and checking and effective rules, rather than operational approvals, to ensure safety. … Eurocontrol has published its “Release of the Network Operational Concept,” outlining changes that must be made to meet Single European Sky performance targets over the five-year period ending in 2019. The overall concept will allow for free routing above Flight Level 310 (approximately 31,000 ft), and will be supported through increased efficiency in communication, navigation and surveillance infrastructure, as well as exchanges of data, according to the document, which was released in late March.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.