Air Carrier Accidents (Sample Aviation Paper)

| January 16, 2020

Air Carrier Accidents    

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What are the air carriers’ responsibilities for safety? And how does FAA judge if an air carrier unable to carry its duties?

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in commuter-airline accidents. For these reasons, the pilots of these airlines have been put on the spotlight. In some of these accidents, pilots have been blamed for making such wrong decisions as choosing the wrong runway and attempting to override automatic safety features. It is the responsibility of the air carrier to ensure that all pilots have the required qualifications and possess the statutory experience before being employed.

Smaller carriers have been involved in more accidents compared to big ones. It seems that the FAA should focus on smaller carriers in order to ensure that airline accidents are reduced. Research has shown that in smaller carriers, pilots have higher chances of being offered jobs even when they do not have the required experience. Unfortunately, these pilots have to control aircraft in some of the most challenging environments. Without the required experience to deal with these challenges, they end up causing accidents that claim many lives.

In 1997, the federal government, through the FAA, mandated that a single reference point would be used to monitor safety across the aviation industry. However, lapses as a result of problems such as running low on fuel and letting airplanes go nearly into a complete stall continue occurring more often than they used to happen before 1997. This is an indication that something is wrong with the manner in which FAA is implementing monitoring and regulatory mechanisms across the country.

            The FAA has the mandate to rule that an air carrier has failed to meet the required safety standards. The FAA has different technical and statutory mechanisms of assessing levels of safety compliance among air carriers. By doing this, it performs a regulatory role, with close scrutiny being maintained by the Congress.

What was the purpose of the Commuter Safety Initiative of 1995, and what were some of the operational requirements imposed on commuter air carriers operating aircraft with 10 or more passenger seats?

In December 1995, a single level of safety was set for all travelers by the Commuter Safety Initiative by applying very strict standards that had to be adhered to in all major airlines that had already scheduled passenger operations and used aircraft seating of 10-30 passengers. The rules consisted of provisions on various standards relating to airplane performance and for the training and qualifications of flight crew. Additionally, the regulations also applied to commuter airline pilots, who were now required to mandatorily retire at age 60, a standard that formerly used to apply to airline pilots who flew larger aircrafts.

According to the provisions of the initiative, there was need for various improvements to be made through sharing of responsibilities between air carriers and the FAA in order for commuter safety standards to be improved. Against this backdrop, airlines had already started taking immediate action, voluntarily, to establish a safety office that was mandated to give periodic reports on matters of commuter and airline safety. In 1996, the FAA published rules that required the setting up of an independent safety department within every airline that operated airplanes with a capacity of more than 9 passengers.

Commuter Safety Initiative of 1995 led to the announcement by the FAA in 1997 that 33 air carriers had transitioned successfully into operating under Part 121 rules, from Part 135 rules. This was the most ambitious effort of ensuring that the vision of Commuter Safety Initiative of 1995, of ensuring that passenger aircraft with between 10 and 30-passenger capacity were governed by a similar set of laws and regulations.

Although some significant changes have been made in the manner in which small aircraft operate in order to ensure that their regulation standards are in tandem with those of larger aircraft, significant observable differences in the manner in which these small aircraft are operated make them pose a unique level of safety risk to everyone who uses them.

Explain why the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is most useful in dealing with human factors issues. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the system?

The ASRS plays a very important role in improving aviation safety. It plays an important role for the government, industry as well as individuals by facilitating the collection of voluntarily submitted situation reports on safety incidents from controllers, pilots and other people who play a crucial role in safeguarding the safety of airlines.

            The ASRS also plays a very important role of identifying system deficiencies and then issuing various alert messages requesting people who are in a position to correct situations to do so. The ASRS maintains a good relationship with citizens through its journal ASRS Directline and its newsletter Callback. The body also maintains a database that is a repository that serves NASA and FAA’s needs as well as those of other organizations from different parts of the world, which concern themselves with research as well as the promotion of safe flight.

            ASRS was established in order to collect, analyze and respond to voluntarily submitted safety incident reports in the aviation industry. By acting on all these reports, the ASRS has been very instrumental in lessening the likelihood of aviation accidents.

Identify deficiencies and discrepancies in the National Aviation System (NAS) so that these can be remedied by appropriate authorities. The main strength of ASRS is that it has the technical capacity to handle as much aviation safety-related data as possible for purposes of support policy formulation, making improvements existing aviation facilities. It also strengthens the foundation that is needed for safety research relating to human factors in relation to aviation accidents. This is a very important contribution because, as the general consensus has it, over two-thirds of all aviation incidents and accidents are caused by human performance errors.

How does NTSB structure its teams to investigate an aircraft accident? How do they accomplish their work?

The National Transportation Safety Board conducts independent investigations on all civil aviation incidents and accidents in the U.S. in addition to dealing with other major accidents involving other modes of transport. The board analyzes factual information in order to arrive at the most probable cause of an accident. A “Go Team” is always at the heart of any investigation that NTSB gets involved in. The aim of this team is to be as quick as possible in matters of assembling a versatile and broad spectrum of the technical expertise that is required for complex safety problems in the transport sector to be solved.

            The team comprises three, four or more, probably even more than a dozen specialists who are sent from the headquarters of the board. They are assigned tasks on a rotational basis. They may travel by government airline or commercial airlines depending on the prevailing circumstances. At the time of rotation, the members of the team are within reach through telephone, 24 hours a day.  Since they are never aware where an accident may happen, they are always on standby with the tools of their trade put on the ready.

             The Investigator-in-Charge (IIC) is the immediate boss of the Go Team, who, in most cases, is a senior investigator with many years’ NTSB and industry experience. Each investigator deals with a specific aspect of accident investigation. In airline accidents, these portions of specialties include operations, structures, powerplants, systems, air traffic control, weather, human performance and survival factors. The specialist in charge of operations investigates this accident flight history and that of duties of crewmembers. The investigator has to go as far back into history as it appears relevant.

The specialist in charge of structures documents the accident scene and the airframe wreckage. He also calculates impact angles so as to determine the pre-impact attitude and course of the plane. The powerplant specialty is all about examination of engines (including propellers) and engine accessories. The things considered within the systems component include the hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical components. This specialty also covers all instruments and elements of the airline’s flight control system.

What limits the productive life of a damage-tolerant-designed airplane, and describe the roles of the major player in the structural safety process.

The productive life of a damage-tolerant airplane is determined by many factors. These include the design approaches used, the composite materials used, the airframe and rotor weight. Today, many war helicopters are being designed using composite structures and R&D models in order to increase damage-tolerance. Various design approaches are available although each of them possesses various advantages and disadvantages. Fibrous-composite structures are known for their high level of tolerance to damage when accidents occur. The more structures of this nature are used, the safer the aircraft becomes.

Damage tolerance is very important safety equipment which equates to fail-safe designs that are adopted in making of critical flight components.  The productive life of a damage-tolerance-designed airplane is determined by the craftsmanship of the company that was carrying out the design and manufacture work. Failure of the productivity of such aircrafts or aircraft parts often manifests itself in cracks, defects and many mechanically-discernible signs of damage that interfere with its optimal performance.

Increasing damage propagation and static residual strength thresholds is an important way of increasing the productivity of damage-tolerant engines and parts. The common objective that such measures purpose to achieve is that of providing a level of structural integrity that is reasonably high in order for an assurance to be given on all important state-of –the-art flight structures. The structures that are often designed in this manner are those whose productive inefficiency may lead to direct loss of the entire aircraft.

What is the purpose of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders? How are they be used for accident-prevention purposes?

Cockpit voice recorders (CVR) and flight data recorders (FDR) are two different types of devices that are used for recording information in order to aid in investigations of accidents and incidents. The CVR records radio and intercom communications of aural warnings relating to flight systems, flight crew, and all the sounds that characterize the cockpit environment at any given time. The FDR is commonly known as “black box. It chronicles the speed, altitude, position and many other flight parameters necessary for carrying investigations into the case of the flight accident.

Although Flight Data Recorders are not of any immediate safety benefit in the aircraft in which they are fitted, they play a very fundamental indirect role of contributing to safety of airlines. Information gathered from the black box is a good basis of aircraft design, enhancement of aircraft procedures and improvements in aircraft maintenance tasks. These days, airlines are developing means of using the growing FDR database in order to prevent incidents and accidents before they happen. Through Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA), aircraft manufacturers are in the process of analyzing human performance errors, mechanical shortfalls and structural weaknesses in order to determine the safety health of airlines. Such information is also being used to design airplanes that are not very prone to many accidents.

Early analogue FDR gadgets have been replaced by digital ones, which have the capacity to store much more information than their analogue counterparts. Manufacturers are taking advantage of this massive storage capacity of the FDR in order to put sensors in every corner of the aircrafts that they manufacture.

 Both management and employees have roles and responsibilities in improving human performance. Discuss/explain some of these roles and responsibilities.

Both the management and employees have a very important role to play in ensuring that human performance is improved in order to reduce flight accidents and incidents. The management should perform an excellent coordination, oversight and regulation work targeting the workforce. All employees should be inducted into different areas relating to flight operations. Most importantly, it is the responsibility of the management to ensure that whoever is employed in the air carrier has the educational and experience-related qualifications for the job. These regulatory, oversight and coordination efforts should be used both in smaller air carriers as well as larger ones.

On the other hand, employees have the responsibility of ensuring that they carry out all their tasks professionally and ethically. The safety of passengers always lies on their shoulders. Any error in judgment may lead to irreparable damage, mostly through loss of lives. In the aviation industry, communication is very important. At no one time should employees abandon their responsibility of being excellent communicators. Without communication, human performance mistakes will surely occur, a situation that may bring about incidences and accidents that could otherwise have been avoided.

What are FAA’s responsibilities during an aircraft accident investigation?
            It is the responsibility of the FAA to ensure that all facts, circumstances and conditions that lead to the accident are properly recorded, evaluated and appropriate action taken in order to prevent similar accidents from taking place in the future. Towards this end, FAA also has the responsibility of promulgating and enforcing Federal Aviation Regulations that are required in order for the airworthiness of aircrafts to be determined. Other than aircrafts, the body is also mandated with the task of certificating all airmen and air carriers to ensure that they are competent for their jobs.

As a certificating agency, it seems rational that the responsibility of determining whether poor state of a given airport, incompetence of certain employees, poor management decisions or a combination of these factors was a major cause of an aircraft accident falls squarely on the shoulders of FAA.

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