Category Archives: Safety Management

Administering Safety Programs at airlines

US Passengers at Risk by FAA Fatigue Rule

Passengers on domestic US airlines are now at an increased risk of being  crashed into by sleepy cargo pilots. Lawyers at the FAA used case law, negligence reasoning and other historically based legal records to reach a regulatory milestone, aligning witIMG_0922_2h lawyers at   large US based package express and airborne freight haulers. The FAA pointed out that so far, when cargo pilots have had fatal crashes, they have only killed themselves. But is the regulation a millstone around the necks of cargo pilots? Industry safety experts say the risk to the passenger flying public is very real. Fatigue caused human errors can lead to massive passenger casualties. Take for instance one of the worst commercial aviation passenger disasters in history. 583 people were killed when two heavily laden B747s collided in Tenerife in 1977.   It is believed that some of the crew members who may have been on duty in excess of 15 hours, in my opinion, misunderstood ATC communications. The KLM captain was very near the end of his official duty day, but believed that if he could get airborne before the end of his duty day, that he could complete the flight to Amsterdam with his load of passengers. A good man, a man dedicated to his company, a man with a great record at the company as a captain, under the fatigue caused misconception that he had been cleared to take off, although he had not, began his takeoff roll, colliding just moments later with a Pan Am jet on a fog shrouded runway.

Now imagine hundreds of fatigued cargo pilots operating around the clock due to this FAA ruling. Imagine a sleepy cargo crew misunderstanding an ATC radio call and ramming 850,000 pounds of plane, cargo and fuel into your family in a passenger plane innocently waiting to takeoff, albeit by accident, while seated on a passenger jet, one tightly regulated by the FAA. One thing will be for sure. The lawyers from the FAA and the cargo industry will be saying, “We need to do something about this.”

So, we have a chance right now to “do something about this,” and we ought to do it before we witness another tragedy such as Tenerife. The FAA should let the law of the people speak for the people. After all, it is their safety that is really the first priority, is it not? Cargo carriers have prospered under FAA safety regulations, countering the claims by their lawyers that safety would cost them business losses. Check their financial records. Now check the FAA and NTSB accident records. In fact the records show that  many if not most of the cargo crashes were the result of fatigue and other human factors, and not safety regulations. The ruinous losses of these accidents is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And these are fully  documented losses of property and lives, they are not suppositions, arguments or cases put together in a law office.

This other “study” of potential business losses due to safety regulations is purely speculative, oppositional and entirely hypothetical. There doesn’t appear to be a shred of real evidence in the entire argument. So, I think that it is time that we base our decisions of safety, of life and death on reality, on data, on facts and on history and not on the unsubstantiated claims of lawyers, accountants and other business professionals.100_3975

Is Safety Guilding the Lily or Is Safety Making Necessary Operational Improvements?:Who has the better argument?

I think that we have to rethink this logic ladies and gentlemen. Safety recommendations do one very special thing that no other recommendation does. Safety recommendation give us SOP modifications, checklists and limitations that help us to do our operation more correctly.

Some of you may say, “Don’t you mean more safely?”

I would respond by saying, “No, not more safely, but more correctly.” Why? Remember that our stated goal in all operations is safety-not 90% safety but 100% safety.

So when we figure out how to do operations safer, it is really most often soon adopted as SOP. Safety finds new and better ways to operate and then training, ops and standardization offices figure out how to turn that “safety innovation” into a New SOP, limit or checklist.

Right? Isn’t our SOP being revised all the time? Aren’t our Jeps procedures being revised regularly? Do we not see constant improved regulations all the time?

Did all of these improvements in SOP, Jeps, limits, regs really cost us all that much money? How much money did we waste to mishaps using flawed SOP’s?

So Safety is not as expensive as some would try to make us believe. In fact, more often than not, safety has reduced our costs, reduced our expenses, make our operation more correct, effective and greatly more efficient.
Remember the sight of the Delta L1011 crash in Dallas on the front page of the papers? Remember the United DC 10 crash in Sioux City all over every TV stations for weeks? Look at Tenerife, a classic air tragedy. Look at TWA 800; all over the news for months. Look at the dozens and dozens of microburst related mishaps and the hundreds of dead.

Safety helps us to do our job better. Do those that claim that “safety is guilding the lily” with unnecessary and expensive changes really have a case?

Does their argument really “hold water?” In fact hasn’t safety made our operations more correct?

Cost and Benefit Analysis vs Successful Safety Programs: Is the FAA and A4A Using Flawed Logic to Manage Safety Improvements? Do Pilots Actually Know Safety Better?

Air Transport Association (ATA), or now Airlines for America (A4A) and the FAA can not claim all of the credit for the huge improvement in airline safety over the last decade in my opinion. As a matter of fact and record, both the FAA and ATA now A4A, opposed, and opposed with great vigor, virtually every safety of flight recommendation from pilot groups and pilot associations, from individual pilot recommendations directly to the FAA and/or the employer company, from the NTSB and from just about every safety foundation, association and organization, not just in the last decade, but in the rememberable history of this writer. It has only been after sustained high levels of Washington lobbying, high profile professional papers delivered, public relations campaigns and other dedicated efforts that the FAA has agreed to any safety regulatory or legislative improvements and on the part of commercial companies, after very tough pilot associations legal negotiations for contractual safety improvements.

Examples? Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) for Cargo, Flight Duty and Rest Regulations, Improved Flight Crew  Training Requirements, Cockpit Smoke Equipment, improved security, higher ATC standards for aircraft handling and routing around severe convective weather, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF), Crash Fire and Rescue (CFR) at airport equipment and manning requirements and training, hazardous materials air cargo handling rules, regulations and laws.

Again, these are but a few of the many safety improvements worked for by commercial pilot associations, pilot trade groups, as well as various global flight safety oriented foundations.

Now let’s talk ASAP, the Aviation Safety Action Program. The joint commercial pilot working group worked 1993 to Sept 1995 on the Proposed Draft FAA Advisory Circular for Airline ASAP, based on the prototype successful program established by American, Allied Pilots Assn and the FAA Southwest Region. The FAA however sat on that AC, until publishing their first draft in Oct 1998 . The Final ASAP Advisory Circular appeared I believe in 2001. Many airlines then fought ASAP participation until finally agreeing and adopted ASAP in the mid 2000’s, fully ten years after it was recommended.

So I would challenge anything stated about safety by the FAA and A4A in terms of their advocacy and management thereof. In fact the FAA and A4A opposed ASAP and virtually all of these safety programs that eventually became very valuable programs.  Could it be argued that FAA and A4A are anything but an impediment to airline safety?

Oh, one more important point. All of the safety recommendations made by pilot associations and adopted as regulation, rule or law, have worked!!  I would argue that this is why the commercial airline industry is safer today than 10 years ago. That is why we are safer today than ten years ago, not because the FAA and A4A have argued the supposed “Cost and Benefit Analysis” at every safety program proposed.

It is my opinion that lawyers for the FAA and A4A have used “Cost and Benefit Analysis” in some cases to delay safety programs and have not, in so doing, protected the industry from costs. Quite the opposite is true in my opinion. This delay may have actually led to repeated human factorsmishaps of the same type being suffered throughout the industry again and again without resolution.

These costs related to commercial aviation disasters have wreaked financial havoc in the commercial airline industry by allowing hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of lives to be wasted, while substituting legal wrangling and administrative procedures to take precedence over safety.

For safety, look to the person with a personal stake in the argument and improvement.  Do not look to the supposed “Cost Benefit Analysis” argument for any value in safety.

Airlines Lobbying usurp Citizens Rights of Pilots in Latest FAA Ruling

Cargo Carriers Lawyers and the Power of Dollars Overcomes Cargo Pilots Safety Rights of One Man One Vote.

Fatigue, the greatest Human Factors problem in commercial aviation, was introduced back into the recipe of severe hazards by the work of lobbying lawyers working for the US cargo carrier industry. US Transportation officials chose to succumb to the political pressure and apparently to the financial  power of lobbyists who argued that commercial cargo carriers would be subject to undue financial pressures if the cargo airlines were required to operate safely.

Instead, it appears to me that these company lawyers argued to the FAA lawyers that there is not case law that cites fatigue as causing cargo crashes that impact the public.  In my opinion, no one at the FAA acts as a safety manager or safety regulator or safety administrator but rather act as lawyers and consider events related to flight operations only from the point of view of what has happened in the past.  But the FEDEX B727 Tallahassee, FL fatigue related crash did not take out a neighborhood and therefore didn’t affect the public, so it appears that to an FAA lawyer only administrator, this and other similar fatigue related cargo carrier mishaps do not affect their judgment of their ability to think legally.

Did the FAA lawyers or the cargo industry lawyers look at the huge casualty costs of operating under the federal regulations as they have existed and now exist?

If, as I believe, the lawyers were trained as safety regulators, they would see the risk that fatigued cargo pilots could crash into a city such as San Diego, Philadelphia, Newark, Louisville or any number of cities overflown by cargo pilots at 5-6am at the end of a fatiguing 16 hour day of 8 or more hours of flight time.

In my opinion, the FAA is not protecting the rights of citizen pilots flying for cargo carriers.  It appears to me that the FAA, the US Federal Government, is not protecting the rights of citizens living under the flight path of cargo flights arriving at 5-6am in major city hub airports.  Instead, it appears to me that elected and appointed US officials are choosing to give corporation lobbying lawyers better rights than individual US citizens, so that the corporations can make more money, while the safety of the public is not protected.

The FAA Safety Policy is “One Level of Safety.”  However, it appears that the FAA has dragged out some old past century bureaucrats to recreate government of the dollar, by the dollar and for the dollar, instead of “of the people, by the people and for the people,” as noted by US President Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address.

It is my opinion the old style bureaucrats, who have so totally screwed up the management of safety in domestic commercial aviation for so many years, should instead leave aviation safety management to people who are  experienced and by this degree qualified to make decisions of regulation.

The best example is to look at the terrible mess that the FAA’s regulations have had on the US commercial airline industry.  I believe that it took more than 20 years of failed regulations to institute effective wind-shear, fatigue, baggage management and TCAS standards.  Now it appears that they are involved in another 20-year struggle to handle effective crew training and human factors fatigue standards.

But then we should look at all of the lives lost in the air and on the ground, the airplanes destroyed, the property destroyed year after year for the past 40 years in US domestic airline disasters? The data shows thousands of lives lost, billions of dollars destroyed, all under commercial airline operations certified and regulated by the FAA.

Can the US really afford to re-create two levels of safety in commercial aviation? Was not that FAA policy already discredited years ago?

In my opinion it is now time that the FAA should be led by someone from the airline industry, someone who actually has some experience and therefore credentials as a successful aviation safety manager?

So, can anyone tell me if lawyers really study any aviation safety policy, theory or philosophy in law school?  If so, I sure would like to see the law school syllabus reference, because I sure have not been able to find one.

I believe it is time for new leadership in aviation safety in America.