Investigations of accidents in the past have resulted in the identification of several common causes of accidents and the deficiencies which led to the accidents. Investigations will continue to yield information leading to safety improvements but major gains from this activity are unlikely.
It is, therefore, now time for the aviation industry to shift its focus from reactive to proactive system, anticipating safety issues rather than making corrections after an event has occurred.
To enhance the safety of aircraft operations, it is essential for every operator to have a Flight Safety Awareness and Accident/Incident Prevention Program.
- Safety Awareness Program
- Accident/Incident Prevention Program
The program should enable review of the entire system and identification of the hazards and system deficiencies.
The program should also educate all personnel engaged in the civil aviation industry about the measures, which help in promoting safety in aviation.
SAFETY AWARENESS PROGRAM
Imparting safety awareness amongst the personnel of an organization is an important step for enhancing safety in aviation. The sustained education of this personnel will go a long way in achieving this objective.
Without prejudice to the generality of this measure, the Safety Awareness Program of an operator should have the following minimum features :
- All flight crew, maintenance engineers, cabin crew, and other key personnel must be given periodical refresher courses to update their knowledge.
- The operator should organize periodic safety seminars for the benefit of their personnel. Specialists in the field of safety may be invited to give presentations so that lessons could be learned from the experience of others. Pilots, engineers, and safety managers of the operators should participate in the safety seminars organized by the aviation regulator and other agencies in the country and abroad.
- Appropriate safety posters should be developed and displayed at different workplaces.
- Safety bulletins highlighting case studies and safety lessons from serious occurrences in the aviation industry in India and abroad should be prepared and circulated to the concerned personnel.
- The operators should bring out their own periodical safety journal.
ACCIDENT/INCIDENT PREVENTION PROGRAM
Investigation of accidents/incidents brings out the deficiencies which have contributed to occurrences. Appropriate safety measures could prevent similar occurrences.
A thorough investigation of the accidents/incidents is very essential not only to determine what happened but also to find out why it happened. Organizational deficiencies and weaknesses in the systems and policies should also be investigated.
The air operator should have a Permanent Investigation Board to promptly investigate the occurrences and possibly within six weeks of its occurrence to determine the cause of the occurrence and weaknesses, if any, in the above areas which are contributory factors to the occurrences.
The operator should ensure quick implementation of the safety recommendations made by the Courts of Inquiry, Committees of Inquiry, Inspector of Accidents, Safety Audit, Spot Checks, Permanent Investigation Boards, etc.
The Flight Safety Department of the operator should periodically review the implementation of the recommendations.
The operator should issue Safety Bulletins on important safety aspects highlighted in an accident/incident involving a local or foreign aircraft.
The proactive program is aimed to detect the weak areas in the system through various measures as mentioned below which should be taken on a regular basis.
To recognize weaknesses in a system or organization and to take corrective measures are the key factors to ensure safety in aviation. This way the potential hazards and problem areas will be detected and nipped in the earlier stages itself. Necessary records should be maintained by the operators of all the checks.
While the operators should evolve their own detailed accident/incident prevention program keeping in view the nature and scope of their operations, the following salient measures should form part of their program :
- The operators should take steps for building a safety culture in the organization and declare their firm commitment to safety.
- The operators should carry out periodically their internal safety audits of different divisions like operations, maintenance, commercial, security, ground support, etc. This should be carried out by a dedicated group comprising of at least a senior pilot and an engineer.
- The value of data retrieved from the Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) and Digital Flight Data Recorders (DFDR) has been proven. Periodic monitoring of CVR and DFDR must be carried out by all operators. As the DFDR systems are enhanced with greater recorder capacity, they will become even more valuable tools not only for accident investigation but also for accident prevention. The recorded data can be analyzed for the purpose of checking deviations in flight parameters beyond acceptable limits which are critical to flight safety. The operator should develop suitable computer software to determine the deviations of different flight parameters beyond acceptable limits.
- The cockpit procedures must be standardized and the Examiners/Instructors/Check-pilots of the airlines, while flying with other pilots, should ensure strict adherence to the laid down procedures and cockpit discipline. Flight inspectors of the state aviation authority should also monitor this aspect.
- The frequency of flight checks should be increased during bad weather conditions like monsoon, fog, etc. Under such conditions, the crew should not hesitate to initiate a missed approach whenever the visual reference to the runway is lost. They should abandon the approach in weather conditions below the applicable minima and divert, if necessary.
- A system should be introduced for the detection and prevention of weather minima violations. A regular check is required to be carried out for the flights especially during bad weather i.e. during monsoon and foggy season.
- The crew should be given assurance that their safety-related decisions (e.g. go around, diversion, etc.) must be supported by the management. If the crew fears action against him for diversion, then the operator is inviting a big safety problem.
- Pilot recruitment is an important aspect from a safety point of view. Operators should assess pilots not only for their flying skills but also for their attitude and compatibility. Careful recruitment is the best investment of an airline for safety.
- The critical operational areas should be monitored closely so that these do not result in any serious safety hazards. Such areas are initial induction of new airline pilots, transition to a totally new type of aircraft like glass cockpit aircraft, operations to and from marginal runways, operations during monsoon, loading of aircraft under high ambient temperature and elevation conditions, operations to airfields located in mountainous terrain, airworthiness and operational control of leased aircraft, etc.
- Flight and Duty Time Limitations should be laid down for the operating crew to ensure that the crew are not fatigued which may affect the safety of operations. Rostering of the crew should be done keeping in view the flight and duty time limitation requirements. All scheduled airlines should establish an electronic/computer-based system for monitoring Flight and Duty Time Limitations. Also, crew pairing should be done carefully for better crew coordination.
- In order to ensure that maintenance of aircraft is up to the mark, only the firms approved by FAA/EASA/DGCA as per the CAR-145/PART-145 system should carry out maintenance of aircraft.
- The organization should have an adequate number of quality assurance staff who are able to monitor compliance with PART 145.
- Compliance with MEL requirements should be ensured and proper documentation should be maintained.
- Regular checks must be carried out by the operator to ensure that standard weights of crew and passengers are being used and loading of aircraft is within the limits as per RTOLW charts with the proper center of gravity. Load and trim sheets should also be checked periodically to ensure their accuracy and their proper filling up for any irregularity. Check whether loading of the aircraft is being supervised.
- A periodic inspection should be carried out to ensure adherence to apron discipline and procedures by ground support personnel, serviceability of ground support equipments, and other facilities.
- A periodic review of the emergency response procedures should be carried out to ensure preparedness.
- Regular statistical analysis of the accident and incident data should be carried out to determine whether there has been an improvement or decline in the level of safety. This analysis will provide a useful hazard alerting technique.
An internal safety audit system should be incorporated in organization to catch loopholes in safety programs. A detailed checklist should be prepared for conducting an internal safety audit.
These audits should review and analyze all matters having bearing on the safety of operations, particularly with reference to the following:
- Management Practices Relating to Safety Aspects – These include commitment and priority to the safety of aircraft operations. And also includes guidelines to take action for violations of safety requirements by their employees.
- Operational Policies and Procedures – Operational Policies covered in the airlines’ operations manual.
- Flight operations offices – Flight operations offices at the main base and sub-bases are adequately manned and equipped with communication and other assisting equipments.
- Safety Promotion Meetings – As a part of the accident/incident prevention program, the operators organize frequent meetings of the pilots and engineers to discuss important safety issues.
- Training – Regular refresher courses are being conducted for the flight crew, AMEs, cabin crew, and other key personnel and whether the commercial staff engaged in loading of aircraft is being given regular training/ refresher regarding proper filling up of load and trim sheets.
- Maintenance Standards and Procedures – These include engineering staffs, maintenance infrastructure, tools, and equipments.
- Manuals, Documentation and Other Records – The operator is in possession of various manuals and is on the mailing list of the manufacturer for relevant literature, and whether all the documents related to aircraft operations and maintenance, logbooks, etc. are maintained properly and regularly updated.
- Buildings and Other Facilities – The operator has sufficient and proper space for maintenance/ shops and is being maintained properly. Whether sufficient space is available for office work, for the proper keeping of records, stores etc. Check for proper environmental control.
- Support Equipment – The operator has proper ground support equipment like baggage trolleys, step ladders, motorised vehicles, etc. and whether they are maintained in serviceable condition. Check that the personnel engaged in handling ground support equipment are trained and regular refresher is given to them.
- Security – Operator has a Security program approved by state aviation security authority, maintains a set of necessary instructions/ circulars on civil aviation security, has trained personnel to oversee security and whether these personnel are aware of their role in case of bomb threat, hijacking, accident etc.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROGRAM
The operator should have a dedicated flight safety department having an adequate number of competent personnel for implementation of the flight safety awareness and accident/incident prevention program.
These programs appropriate to the size and scope of operations, that addresses the broad range of risk involved in commercial aviation to include, but not limited to, flight, maintenance and ground safety.
Disclaimer: The above information is for educational purposes only and not for legal advice. You should always follow the aviation safety guidelines of your regulatory state.
Citation: The information written here is based on data provided by the Civil Aviation Authority of India (DGCA) in their CAR.