Ground Anti-Collision Systems
Large airplanes should be equipped with an external-mounted camera system or other anti-collision aid to help pilots determine wingtip clearance while taxiing, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says.
In safety recommendations to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency, the NTSB said that the agencies should require the anti-collision aids, which would provide a cockpit indication of wingtip positions, on “all newly manufactured and newly type-certificated large airplanes and other airplane models where the wingtips are not easily visible from the cockpit.”
The agencies also should require the retrofitting of such equipment on existing large airplanes and others with wingtips that cannot easily be seen from the cockpit, the NTSB said.
In issuing the recommendations, the NTSB said that, since 1993, it has investigated 12 taxiing accidents — including three currently under investigation — that occurred when the wingtip of a large airplane collided with another airplane or an object on a taxiway.
“These accidents … highlight the need for an anti-collision aid,” the NTSB said.
The three accidents now under investigation include:
- A May 30, 2012, accident in which an American Eagle Embraer 135 on the ramp was struck by the wingtip of an EVA Air Boeing 747-400 as the 747 taxied at Chicago O’Hare International Airport;
- A July 14, 2011, accident in which the winglet of a taxiing Delta Air Lines 767-300ER struck an Atlantic Southeast Airlines Bombardier CRJ900, which was on a perpendicular taxiway at Boston Logan International Airport; and,
- The April 11, 2011, collision of a taxiing Air France Airbus A380 and a stationary Comair Bombardier CRJ701 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
No one was injured in the accidents. Preliminary investigations revealed that in each case, the pilots of the large airplanes “could not easily view the airplanes’ wingtips from the cockpit” and had difficulty determining their exact position, the NTSB said.
“Typically, pilots look out the cockpit window at the wingtips to determine wingtip path and clearance,” the NTSB said. “On large airplanes, … the pilot cannot see the airplane’s wingtips from the cockpit unless the pilot opens the cockpit window and extends his or her head out of the window, which is often impractical.”
Speed Brake Warnings
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), citing a Boeing 757’s runway overrun in 2010, says airplanes need better warning systems and pilots need better training on what to do if speed brakes fail to deploy after landing (ASW, 9/12, p. 34).
The NTSB called on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require all operators of transport-category airplanes with speed brakes to “develop and incorporate training to specifically address recognition of a situation in which the speed brakes do not deploy as expected.”
An accompanying recommendation said the FAA should require newly type-certificated transport-category airplanes to “have a clearly distinguishable and intelligible alert that warns pilots when the speed brakes have not deployed during the landing roll.”
The NTSB also recommended that the FAA require Boeing to “establish guidance for pilots of all relevant airplanes to follow when an unintended thrust reverser lockout occurs.”
The recommendations were prompted by the NTSB’s investigation of a Dec. 29, 2010, incident in which an American Airlines 757 ran off the end of a runway after landing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, U.S., and stopped in deep snow. None of the 185 people in the airplane were injured in the incident, which resulted in minor damage to the aircraft.
The NTSB said the probable causes of the incident were a manufacturing defect that prevented automatic deployment of the speed brakes, “the captain’s failure to monitor and extend the speed brakes manually” and the initial failure of the thrust reversers to deploy.
Mental Health Check-Ups
Aviation medical examiners should devote more attention to mental health issues during routine aeromedical assessments of pilots, the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) says (ASW, 5/12, p. 29).
In a letter to Michael Huerta, acting administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), AsMA President P. Glenn Merchant wrote that “quick and effective methods to assess pilot mental health” could easily be included in aeromedical exams.
By asking specific questions, aviation medical examiners could identify depression, anxiety/panic disorders and substance misuse — conditions that can be diagnosed early and treated successfully, Merchant said.
His comments reflected the opinions of an AsMA working group — specialists in aviation medicine and mental health — formed after a March incident in which a JetBlue Airbus A320 captain allegedly turned off the airplane’s radios and began yelling about terrorists. A federal judge has since ruled that he was suffering from a mental disease at the time and ordered him to a government mental health facility.
The working group also concluded that “serious mental health illnesses involving sudden psychosis are relatively rare, and their onset is impossible to predict. … [Therefore,] an extensive psychiatric evaluation as part of the routine pilot aeromedical assessment is neither productive nor cost effective and therefore not warranted.”
Blacklist Called ‘Misguided’
The European Union’s (EU’s) list of airlines barred from operating within the EU does “little if anything to improve safety,” says Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The list, first published in 2006 and revised about 20 times since then, was intended to publicly identify airlines that the EU considered unsafe and to spur the named operators to make improvements that would lead to their removal from the list.
However, Tyler, in a speech to aviation professionals in Astana, Kazakhstan, said, “The banned list is a misguided approach. … There is no transparency — no clarity on why some carriers are put on the list and no clear indication on what is required to get off the list.”
The current version of the EU blacklist, issued in April, includes 279 air carriers from about two dozen countries, including all air carriers certified in Kazakhstan except for one carrier that operates under specific limitations.
Helicopter Safety Management
The European Helicopter Safety Team (EHEST) has developed a Safety Management Toolkit for European operators of complex aircraft.
The three-part tool kit includes:
- A safety management manual, designed as a sample to help operators in the development of their own safety management manuals;
- An emergency response plan, which the European Aviation Safety Agency eventually will require of operators; and,
- A safety management database user guide, which will include “example registers of typical helicopter hazards and risks in commercial air transport operations,” EHEST said.
EHEST said that, because regulatory requirements will change over time, the tool kit will be reviewed and updated regularly.
Weaknesses in Wildlife Mitigation
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been limited in its effectiveness in mitigating wildlife hazards, largely because its policies for monitoring, reporting and mitigating the hazards are voluntary, a government watchdog agency says.
A report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that the FAA recommends — but does not require — that aircraft operators and airports report all wildlife strikes.
“As a result, FAA’s strike data are incomplete, which impacts the agency’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of its program in reducing wildlife hazards,” the report said.
The document also criticized FAA oversight and enforcement actions as “not sufficient to ensure airports fully adhere to program requirements or effectively implement their wildlife hazard plans.”
The report credited the FAA with effectively coordinating its actions with the Wildlife Services agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but faulted its efforts to coordinate with other government agencies.
The report contained 10 recommendations aimed primarily at improving data collection, verifying that airports are fully implementing wildlife hazard management plans and increasing contact with other government agencies involved in wildlife issues.
The FAA said it would implement all or part of nine recommendations, but challenged one provision that called for reconciling wildlife strike data from airports with the FAA’s National Wildlife Strike Database.
In a written response to the report, H. Clayton Foushee, the FAA’s director of audit and evaluation, said that the agency has worked hard to reduce wildlife hazards and that, although wildlife strikes have increased, the percentage of damaging strikes has decreased from 20 percent of the total in 1990 to 9 percent in 2010. Over that same period, he said, bird populations have increased dramatically.
He added that the FAA “is taking a comprehensive approach to reduce the threat of wildlife strikes on aircraft through enhanced requirements and guidance, training outreach and continued data collection, analysis and research.”
Personal Electronic Review
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to establish a government-industry group to review policies governing the use by airline passengers of portable electronic devices (PEDs) and the procedures that airlines have used to determine when the devices may be used safely during flight.
The use of cell phones for voice communications during flight will not be considered, the FAA said.
Current U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations require that, before passengers are permitted to use PEDs during some phases of flight, operators must determine that their use will not interfere with aircraft radio frequencies.
The group will review the testing methods used by airlines to determine what types of PEDs passengers may use and when they may use them, and also “look at the establishment of technological standards associated with the use of PEDs during any phase of flight,” the FAA said.
“We’re looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today’s aircraft,” said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow’s aircraft designs are protected from interference.”
In Other News …
The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has released a collection of booklets and a DVD aimed at helping small and medium-sized operators and aviation maintenance organizations develop their own safety management systems. … The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $400,000 civil penalty against Atlantic Southeast Airlines for allegedly operating a Bombardier regional jet that was not in compliance with regulations. Airline maintenance personnel returned the airplane to service after routine maintenance without an authorized signature on the airworthiness release or the required entry in the flight discrepancy log, the FAA said. Atlantic Southeast has 30 days to respond after receiving notice of the proposed penalty from the FAA.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman