Penalties Urged for Rogue Battery Shippers
Organizations representing airlines and lithium battery suppliers are calling on governments around the world to crack down on shippers that violate regulations governing air shipment of the batteries.
The International Air Transport Association said that it had been joined by The Global Shippers Forum, the International Air Cargo Association and lithium battery associations in drafting letters calling for stricter enforcement of international regulations on the transport of the batteries. The associations included PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association and RECHARGE, the Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Batteries Association.
In letters to ministers of trade, industry and transport in the world’s major lithium-battery–producing countries, the signers said that lithium battery safety regulations must be enforced at the point of origin.
“Safety is aviation’s top priority,” IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler said. “Airlines, shippers and manufacturers have worked hard to establish rules that ensure lithium batteries can be carried safely. But the rules are only effective if they are enforced and backed up by significant penalties. Government authorities must step up and take responsibility for regulating rogue producers and exporters.”
The letter called for cooperative enforcement initiatives among jurisdictions “to address situations where lithium batteries manufactured in one state are driven over a border to be flown from another state,” IATA said, adding that such actions should be penalized by “significant fines and custodial sentences.”
IATA said that governments have repeatedly been asked to address risks associated with “the willful disregard of the international regulations by rogue manufacturers and shippers and to close existing legal loopholes that prevent prosecutions of serial offenders.”
Weak enforcement of international regulations has led to increased pressure on airlines and regulators to ban all forms of lithium battery shipments by aircraft, the organizations said.
“The actions of a minority threaten to undermine confidence in legitimate battery and product manufacturers,” said PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner.
Reporting Runway Conditions
New standards are set to take effect Oct. 1 in the United States to reduce risks of runway overrun accidents and incidents associated with runway contamination.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says the takeoff and landing performance assessment (TALPA) standards were developed by an aviation rulemaking committee formed in the aftermath of the Dec. 8, 2005, accident in which a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 overran a snow-contaminated runway at Midway International Airport in Chicago and skidded into motor vehicle traffic on an off-airport street. A 6-year-old boy — a passenger in a car hit by the 737 — was killed.
The committee’s work resulted in a new method of communicating actual runway conditions to pilots of arriving aircraft “in terms that directly relate to the way a particular aircraft is expected to perform,” the FAA said. “TALPA improves the way the aviation community assesses runway conditions, based on contaminant type and depth, which provides an aircraft operator with the effective information to anticipate airplane braking performance.”
The system calls for use of a standardized analysis format to categorize runway conditions instead of the subjective judgments that have been used in the past. After receiving the runway conditions report, flight crews or dispatchers would consult manufacturer data to determine what stopping performance to expect from their aircraft, the FAA said.
The agency added that pilot reports of braking action will continue to be provided to flight crews. However, braking action currently characterized as “fair” will be described as “medium,” and reports of no braking action (NIL) will no longer be acceptable, the FAA said, noting that a NIL description of braking action on a runway or other surface will result in closure of that surface. After that surface is closed, it will not be reopened until the airport operator “is satisfied that the NIL braking condition no longer exists,” the FAA said.
Worker Shortage Presents Risks
The “safe, secure and orderly expansion of international air transport” will be threatened over the next few years by global shortages of skilled human resources and training capacity, Fang Liu, secretary general of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), says.
In remarks before students at the Incheon Aviation Academy in Seoul, South Korea, in mid-August, Liu said the need for human resources development action is especially crucial in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The more than 100,000 daily flights now managed by air transport’s global network will surpass 200,000 in just the next 14 years,” Liu said. “It is … critical that everyone in aviation, from organizations like ICAO to airlines, airports and others do everything possible to attract more young and talented candidates.”
She noted that ICAO’s Next Generation of Aviation Professionals program is intended to bolster the number of skilled aviation personnel. The program was begun after ICAO began to emphasize its projections of pilot, controller and maintenance staff shortages in 2009.
“The aviation community needs to analyse future growth, determine its specific needs and collaborate on identifying, educating and retaining the next generation of skilled professionals who will help citizens and businesses benefit from the truly global connectivity which aviation provides,” Liu said. “Determined collaboration amongst governments, industry, labour and educational organizations in the years ahead will be critical to ensuring that there will be enough qualified candidates to keep our network running safely, securely and efficiently.”
Cautions on Cataracts
Pilots and aviation medical examiners should be more aware of the risks that cataracts may present to night vision, especially to night flight operations, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says.
In safety recommendations addressed to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the NTSB said that both the regulator and the pilots group should “develop and disseminate educational information” for pilots about a Dec. 26, 2013, general aviation accident in Fresno, California, U.S., and about “the risks cataracts may pose to flight safety.”
The FAA should provide similar information for examiners, the NTSB recommended.
The recommendations said that pilots diagnosed with cataracts should consult eye care professionals for further diagnosis and treatment options.
The 2013 accident involved a Cessna 172K that struck a 62-ft (19-m) tall tree with its left wingtip and then crashed during a third attempt to land on a hazy, dark night in visual flight rules conditions, the NTSB said. The pilot and his passenger were killed.
The NTSB’s final report on the accident said the pilot had been diagnosed with cataracts four years before the crash and cited as a causal factor the pilot’s “continued operation of the airplane at night with a diagnosed medical condition that degraded his night vision.”
Upgraded Rating for Indonesia
Indonesia has been granted a Category 1 safety standards rating by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), signifying that the country is in compliance with safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Indonesia previously held a Category 2 rating, which indicates either that a country lacks “laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or [that] its civil aviation authority … [is] deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping or inspection procedures.”
Indonesia was first assigned the Category 2 rating in 2007; previously, from 1997 until 2007, it had a Category 1 rating.
The FAA said that the new Category 1 rating, issued under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, was based on a March 2016 assessment of safety oversight provided by the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
The IASA program evaluates the civil aviation authorities of countries whose air carriers operate in the United States, have applied to operate in the United States or participate in code-sharing arrangements with U.S. airlines. The purpose is to ensure that they comply with ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.
With a Category 1 rating, and authorization from the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, a country’s air carriers may fly to and from U.S. airports; without it, their operations in the United States are limited.
New Rules on Fitness
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has proposed new rules on pilot medical fitness, including provisions to include drug and alcohol screening and mental health assessments in initial and recurrent aeromedical examinations.
EASA published the proposed rules in August as part of its response to the crash in March 2015 of Germanwings Flight 9525 (see “No Clear Pattern,” and “The Rogue Pilot Phenomenon”).
Other provisions call for improving the training and oversight of aeromedical examiners, and for all incomplete aeromedical assessments to be reported to authorities.
The proposals will be the basis of legislation to be presented later this year to the European Commission.
Issuance of the proposals nearly coincided with EASA’s move to modify its recommendation, issued after the Germanwings crash, to have two crewmembers in the cockpit at all times. EASA Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) 2016-09 now recommends that “first, a risk assessment is performed, and then, based on the results of the assessment, the operator may decide to maintain the ‘two-persons-in-the-cockpit’ procedure as one possible mitigating measure.”
The SIB says that when conducting the risk assessments, operators should consider the psychological and security screening of the flight crew, among other factors.
In Other News …
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says it is opening a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance to conduct research and development on technical training for air traffic controllers, aviation safety inspectors, engineers, pilots and technicians. Teams from the University of Oklahoma and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will lead the effort. … Transport Canada says it has begun a series of safety-related improvements at 13 regional airports across the country. Projects include rehabilitation of runways, taxiways and aprons; improvements in lighting and electrical systems; and purchase of aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicles.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.