New UAS rules
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has finalized measures concerning the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which ICAO characterizes as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).
The amendments to ICAO Annex 2 (Rules of the Air) and Annex 7 (Aircraft Nationality and Registration Marks) were developed by the ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group, in collaboration with a number of other organizations.
“Remotely piloted aircraft are becoming very sophisticated very quickly,” said Mitchell Fox, chief of the ICAO Air Traffic Management Section. “Their civilian and scientific applications are expanding rapidly, and states from every ICAO region are now developing and employing RPAS in a variety of domains.”
The amendments discuss items that should be considered when a civil aviation authority is considering authorizing UAS operations, including airworthiness certificates, operator certificates and remote pilot licenses.
Fox said that ICAO is reviewing all standards and recommendations to determine how they will be affected by the introduction of UAS.
“This is a completely new area that will require new classifications and licensing, not only for aircraft but pilots as well,” he said.
Helicopter Accident Prevention
Helicopter operators could help prevent accidents by implementing enhanced pilot training, safety management programs, careful maintenance practices and installation of flight data monitoring equipment, the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) says.
The IHST, an international organization with a goal of reducing the helicopter accident rate worldwide 80 percent by 2016, said its list of the 10 ways to prevent helicopter accidents is intended to help pilots, owners, maintenance personnel, instructors and other members of the helicopter community.
The 10 recommendations include a measure calling for the installation of flight data monitoring equipment to provide immediate feedback to trainers, operators and pilots, and to aid in accident investigation.
Training recommendations include improved autorotation training, the addition of advanced maneuvers to simulator training, an emphasis on critical issues awareness and more attention to emergency procedures training.
Other recommendations call for implementation of a personal risk management program and a “mission-specific” risk management program, as well as increased emphasis on compliance with a manufacturer’s maintenance manuals and maintenance practices.
787 Engine Failure
The contained engine failure on a Boeing 787 General Electric GEnx engine during a late July test run was a result of the fracture of a fan mid-shaft, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says.
The engine failure occurred during a pre-delivery taxi test in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
The NTSB said that metallurgical inspections and other detailed examinations were being performed on the engine, which fractured at the forward end of the shaft, “rear of the threads where the retaining nut is installed.”
The GEnx is a dual-shaft engine, with one shaft connecting the compressor spool to the high-pressure turbine spool and a second, longer “fan shaft” connecting the fan and booster to the low-pressure turbine.
The investigation was continuing.
FAA Go-Ahead for Wind Farm
The 130-turbine wind farm planned off the coast of Massachusetts presents no hazard to air traffic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a mid-August decision that supporters said was the final federal approval required before the project could proceed.
The FAA said a lengthy study of the Cape Wind project determined that the wind turbines would have no effect on aeronautical operations. The project, planned for Nantucket Sound, would be the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
A report prepared by Mitre Corp. several years ago for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had warned that the “radar signature” of spinning wind turbine blades can sometimes create false images on air traffic control radar screens or block radar signals. The distortions generally affect older radars, the study said.
The FAA said that, because the wind farm will be located more than 2.4 nm (4.4 km) from the closest radar sites, there will be no effect on radar images.
Don’t Slam the Door
Maintenance personnel must be given stronger warnings about the potential for injury and damage when working on or around the rear cargo door on Airbus A330s, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says.
The FAA issued Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 12004, citing an incident involving an A330 undergoing a lengthy maintenance procedure in which the rear cargo door was kept open about four weeks.
After work in the cargo bay had been completed, maintenance technicians “selected the manual selector valve to the closed position and used the hand pump to close the door,” the FAA said. “The cargo door dropped approximately 2 ft [0.6 m], damaging the floor frame … , door actuator and actuator support frame. The door did not completely fall shut or contact the fuselage.”
The SAFO said that Airbus has acknowledged that cargo door “slamming” can result when air is “trapped in the system actuator and lines.
The A330 maintenance manual contains a warning that calls for the cargo door system to be bled before closing if the door has been open longer than 12 hours, but the FAA said the warning is insufficient.
“Due to maintenance shift changes, maintenance schedule interruptions and other factors, a maintenance technician may be unaware of the time [elapsed] with the door open,” the SAFO said. “Further, defects in the system may allow air to enter the system within the 12-hour margin.”
To deal with the problem, Airbus issued Service Bulletin A330-52-3065, which calls for replacement of the manual selector valve to prevent the door from slamming, and the SAFO recommended that information in the bulletin be incorporated into maintenance manuals and that a warning placard be installed near the selector valve.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), citing an Oct. 8, 2011, incident involving an Airbus A380-800, is warning of the risks of pilot distractions during flight preparations.
The incident involved the crew of a Qantas A380 preparing for departure from Los Angeles International Airport.
“Before takeoff, the captain changed the departure runway that was entered in the aircraft’s flight management system,” the ATSB said. “The procedure for completing that task was not followed exactly, resulting in the takeoff speeds not being displayed on the flight instruments.”
The ATSB said that twice during the crew’s preparations, aircraft systems had displayed a message calling for a check of the takeoff data.
“The first officer cleared the first message on the understanding that the takeoff data would be checked, and in the second instance, believing that it had been checked,” the ATSB said. “There were no other warnings to alert the crew that they were commencing the takeoff without the takeoff speeds in the aircraft’s navigation systems.”
The pilots did not realize until they had begun the takeoff roll that the speeds were not being displayed and referred to their notes to call out the correct speeds.
The ATSB said that, after the incident, Airbus “updated the aircraft’s warning systems as part of a planned upgrade program … [to] issue a warning if takeoff is commenced without the takeoff speeds having been entered.”
In addition, Qantas modified its standard operating procedures to “avoid any misinterpretation of the required actions in the case of a runway change,” the ATSB said.
Changes for ATSAP
Major changes will be required in the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) non-punitive reporting program for air traffic controllers before the program can effectively identify and address safety concerns, a report from a government oversight office says.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in the report that program safeguards of controller confidentiality mean that some data collected through the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) are not validated, “raising questions about the effectiveness of these data for analyzing safety trends.”
The confidential system was designed to encourage controllers to report situations that they believe might present problems, without fear that they might be punished for making mistakes. The system was implemented at all FAA air traffic control facilities in 2010.
The OIG report also said that FAA oversight of ATSAP “lacks effective program management controls. For example, FAA does not have a formal process to review the effectiveness of decisions made by the program’s review committees to ensure that report acceptance criteria are rigorously followed and that conduct issues are dealt with appropriately. Failure to address potential deficiencies in transparency and accountability may lead to the perception that ATSAP is an amnesty program in which reports are automatically accepted, regardless of whether they qualify under the program’s guidelines.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a $1 million civil penalty against Horizon Air for its alleged operation of 22 Bombardier DHC-8-402 turboprops on 186,000 revenue flights without the required solid rivets in flight deck security doors.
The blind rivets that were used instead can damage wiring and other components, the FAA said.
The agency said the flights occurred between December 2007 and June 2011, when the blind rivets were replaced.
The FAA said that it learned of the alleged violations of U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations when the airline “incorrectly modified a 23rd aircraft with blind rivets, and the plane experienced an in-flight wiring damage incident during a non-revenue flight.”
The FAA also said that, even after Horizon was told that the airplanes were not in compliance with regulations, the company operated one of the airplanes on 22 more passenger-carrying revenue flights before the blind rivets were replaced.
In a separate case, the FAA proposed a $681,000 civil penalty against Federal Express (FedEx) for alleged violations of government hazardous materials regulations.
The FAA said that, in early August 2010, FedEx improperly accepted dozens of shipments of hazardous materials and failed to provide pilots with “accurate and legible written information” about the materials loaded into their airplanes. The agency said that it discovered the violations during an inspection of FedEx facilities in southern California.
Both airlines were given 30 days to respond to the allegations.
In Other News …
Aviation in India is facing a “multi-faceted crisis,” according to Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association. Tyler says the problems must be dealt with through coordinated government efforts to address “the crippling issues of high costs, exorbitant taxes and insufficient infrastructure.” … The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is nearing the end of a lengthy regulatory reform effort, Aviation Safety Director John McCormick says. The primary goal of the regulatory overhaul, he says, has been to bolster safety throughout the nation’s aviation community.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.