Best Practices for Safe Flying and/or Controlling Aircraft

Best Practices for Safe Flying and/or Controlling Aircraft across America

Introduction

Safety is a term used to refer to risk management meant to reduce, mitigate and/or eliminate loss or injuries resulting from incidences and accidents. According to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) (2019), their vision statement commences with an unwavering commitment to enhancing the safety of commercial flying. Safety is a fundamental aspect of the role of business aviation within America’s system of transportation. For individuals expected to fly during stormy weather, during snowstorms or hurricanes, they often wonder if both the airlines and the pilots are prepared. In recent times, with the automated cockpits, individuals sit tighter than they would have because they keep asking, “who is flying the plane?” Hands-on control and flying has not disappeared but is an improvement to keep up with the dynamic world of aviation and has made flying under bad weather conditions safer. From thousands of flight cancellations and delays to accidents, bad weather conditions is aviation’s long-standing challenge. There are many reasons why aircraft accidents would occur but bad weather is a prime cause. With troubles of visibility, squalls, wind shear and loss of control, it is therefore, best to consider the best practices, for example; safe interactions between the individuals, their equipment and environments; implementation of proactive safety mindsets; training for the future small and light jets; and better airport weather auditing for planning and tracking the weather to say the least in ensuring aircraft control and flying safety (NBAA, 2019).

Background

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the global rate of accidents was 4.8 in a million departures. In 2012, it decreased to 3.2 per million departures (Kulyk, Bugayko & Ilienko, 2013). The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the organization investigating accidents occurring in the transport system. According to their statistics, 35% of fatal aviation accidents are attributed to bad weather from 1982 to 2013 (Fultz & Ashley, 2016). 60% of these happened when the instruments used to predict meteorological conditions were present. They are frequent between April and October, on weekends, early mornings and in the evenings and especially in the Colorado Rockies, along the West Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The U.S. has had a steady improvement throughout the years especially since the deregulation in 1978 when the fatality rate was two accidents every one billion miles (Fultz & Ashley, 2016).

. In 1967, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was created. Its major functions included design review, aircraft manufacture and maintenance, development of operational requirements, crew training and safety-related survey and research. The FAA introduced the Airborne Wind Shear Detection and Alert System- a device that utilizes information from the radar to warn about impending dangerous weather conditions such as downburst winds (Price & Forrest, 2016). According to the FAA, each plane ought to have such equipment, adequate pilot training to include weather conditions lookout and also have escape options in finding better weather in a region nearby.

However, with the years of continuous efforts to address issues in the National Airspace System (NAS), there is more to be done especially with the NAS’ dynamic nature. Flight numbers have drastically increased including air traffic; more autonomous systems (Aircraft systems that are unmanned) and the highly modernized procedures and systems of control for increased efficiency and capacity (Josephs, 2019). NAS is obligated to accommodate such alterations with evolved safety programs without the introduction of novel risks.

Analysis of Current Aviation Safety Issues and Impacts

In the year 2009, Flight 3407- a Continental Flight- crashed and fell onto a house. 49 boarding passengers lost their lives including one more on the ground who met his fate while the plane was arriving in New York’s airspace. And for the next decade, American commercial airlines have transported at least eight million passengers without experiencing any single air crash (Josephs, 2019). One retired Captain and an investigator of aviation accidents says that a more dangerous part of flying is in the drive to the airport. The 2009 crash of the turboprop was an eye-opener to prompt federal regulations where more training and rest for pilots as well as the MET department team was necessary. The U.S safety agents cited training inadequacy and fatigue as the main causes of the pilot error especially when weather conditions may be erratic and one’s full attention is needed. According to the reports, the Q400 Bombardier’s first officer had red-eye when he took the trip from Seattle to Newark before flying to Buffalo, NY (Josephs, 2019). Due to this, the plane lost its required speed stalling a few miles from Buffalo airport during the Newark, New Jersey flight. Additionally, the plane’s captain had failed a series of tests hence the scrutiny on the candidate’s professionalism.

Any pilot would agree that that the most crucial flight times are during landing and takeoff- between these two there are slim margin errors. Boeing Commercial Airlines published a study stating that 22% and 25% of the accidents occur during approach and landing respectively; while 8% occur during takeoffs and 6% when climbing (Baum Hendlund, 2019). These are the most common incidents because the planes are closest to the earth, their speeds are slow and are expected to maneuver during these moments and planes landing and taking off are at proximity. When it snows or rains or any condition slickening the runway, crosswind tolerance is decreased. The pilot has a difficult time staying on the centerline without spinning out especially when landing a huge plane at 150 miles per hour. The FAA together with other airlines is doing what they can to ensure the weather does not prevent trips. However, it is better to delay a passenger from reaching their destination instead of having airspace full of planes that cannot land and are using up tones of fuel (Elliot, 2013).

The San Francisco crash in 2013 involving Asiana Flight 214 was a runway accident example caused by pilot error (Baum Hendlund, 2019). NTSB reported an approach of the plane at dangerously low airspeed and altitude where the Boeing 777 tail struck the seawall, separating the rest of the plane. Such runaway accidents can also be a result of traffic control error as in the case of the USAir 1493 flight that was scheduled for a touchdown but at the same time, SkyWest 5569 Flight was to take off (Baum Hendlund, 2019). The USAir plane landed right on top of the SkyWest aircraft killing all individuals aboard. It can also be due to the weather where a plane is not able to land or take off properly due to a storm. A plane most of the time overruns the runway as in the case of Flight 1420 of American Airlines in 1999. After the air traffic controllers informed the pilot of extremely strong winds, the pilot continued with the landing slamming into a pathway killing 11 individuals including the captain and injuring 110 others (Baum Hendlund, 2019).

With the introduction of automated systems, many individuals are under the impression that airplanes are flying themselves. The electronic and computer systems have evolved the aviation sector allowing pilots to apply hands-off from takeoff, throughout the flight and to landing on rare occasions. The pilots are never flying alone as FAA helps study the weather through the National Weather Service (NWS) data. According to the data by NSW, thunderstorms are the most dangerous because they are not easily spotted and are highly likely to occur- 100,000 of them occur each year in the U.S. In such cases, weather tracking and planning are vital for safer flying and aircraft control (Fultz & Ashley, 2016).

Solutions for Best Practices

In the case of the Colgan Air Flight, certification regulations for a commercial license were increased by the FAA in 2013. Pilots and first officers were required to have flying experience of 1500hours while the previous required experience was 250 hours. They were also required to rest properly before flying. The lessons learned from flight 3407 paved the way for better rules of training and going back to save a couple of dollars is not an option (Josephs, 2019). Training would be simulator-based to determine the most appropriate and efficient measures to meet objectives.

In collaboration with ICAO and FAA, International Air Transport Association (IATA) developed an online platform called the OpenRunway that gives hourly predictions that are also specific to the weather currently and up to the fifth day (Airport Technology, 2016). It also contains maps for visualization as well as conditions graph. Also as the ground team is as important, a tool meant for both dispatchers and operators called clear flight has offered clear views of the global maps and monitoring of the weather conditions. Deep Thunder is another tool that tells of temperatures, humidity, and wind (Airport Technology, 2016). This information has also been used by passengers to make informed decisions.

With the significant increase in air traffic, there has been an increased demand for consultations and novel types of weather products by Air Traffic Management (ATM). There is a need to provide services with added value to help in advanced planning and decision making to reduce disruptions caused by weather that cause high impacts such as icing, tropical cyclones, and winter snowstorms. New techniques of observation alongside remote-sensing have been advanced to include weather radars, networks to detect lightning, weather prediction in numerical nature, meteorological satellites and AMDAR (Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay) have created an avenue for the improvement of aviation weather services (Rogers et al., 2019). For example, with the automatic low wind shear level alert, the technology behind the Doppler Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) has enabled the detection of dangerous wind shear provoked by complex terrains including when there is no rain (Jeffry et al., 2018). In association with ICAO, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is to develop a product that would forecast critical weather elements at the terminal point compared to traditional products. The elements would include turbulence, icing, noise abatement, wake vortices and quality of air.

Besides, a safety culture should be embraced from the management all through the flight line. With the aviation sector looking to include smaller much flexible aircraft certified for operation by a single pilot, there is also a need for advanced training for both pilots and meteorological experts (NBAA, 2019). NASA and FAA are launching a program called NextGen Weather that will provider tailor-made weather predictions. Another recommended practice is a thorough cleaning of the plane. The clean plane concept is a technique critical during take-off as plane performance depends on clean surfaces and predictable airflow effects over clean wings (Scorer, 2019). Without this, the plane’s dynamics are altered with an increase in weight and stall speed; and reduced control and stability. The checklist used to gather information on the current and intended airport about the perceived weather that could affect the flight, information processing to determine availability of risk and actions performed to mitigate the risk; after being filled, should be saved on paper or electronically to provide reference before visiting the airport (Ortiz, Blickensderfer & King, 2017). If an individual spots a snowflake, chances are that aviation professionals are mapping alternate routes for flights. Safety comes first, thus if conditions are bad the flight will either be delayed or canceled. Automatic rebooking has helped the reduced time meant for waiting as well as missed connections.

Conclusion and Outlook

It is evident that the industry is evolving with time and so are the best practices to ensure safety following the dynamic NAS. Compared to driving, travel by flights have become the safest mode of transport in the US. The last fatal flight accident was experienced a decade ago evidence that safety systems are working. The introduction of emergency responses, for example, the runway toolkit, the introduction of the airport weather audit tools like Deep Thunder, more training and adequate rest are some of the initiatives that have contributed to safer NAS during bad weather conditions.

For the longest time, the aviation industry has been learning from past accident statistics to improve safety. However, its growth and changes introduce safety threats differing from those in the past. As the airline traffic has increased so should the airport’s capacity to relieve ground congestion. Driving to an airport, for example, to stand in line waiting for plane defrosting leads to passengers with bad tempers. Better de-icing techniques must be sought for. There is also a need for changes in the Air Traffic Control to enhance their capacities and technologies to ensure better environmental adaptability. With the industry’s growth, simply maintaining similar resolutions would result in an increase in accidents and subsequently, fatalities…

 


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