Tag Archives: FAA

Lithium-Ion Aircraft Batteries as a Passenger and Cargo Smoke/Fire Risk

100_3975In fact three aircraft have been destroyed by fires caused by lithium ion batteries, one in 2006, two in 2010. But the FAA, NTSB and other government and official agencies categorize safety as related to passenger safety or a cargo acft only hazard and of no interest to passenger airline safety, such as the current FAA and EASA Cargo Carve-out Exemption of new Flight Duty and Rest Regulations. However, by summarily ignoring the distinct ties in safety that nevertheless may validly exist between cargo airlines, passenger airlines and their respective pilots safety, FAA, EASA and others may have gravely missed the most valuable of all safety principles, that of early warning.

The early warning evidence in this case was the two cargo fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.  The fire dangers of lithium ion batteries have been amply noted, the information on this hazard has been widely available and mishap reports by FAA and EASA have identified a clear and present danger since at least 2006.

Instead of keeping lithium-ion batteries away from commercial aviation however, FAA, EASA and others have made a clear choice to allow industry lobbyist lawyers to influence safety decisions when it came to lithium ion battery carriage regulation and by that same process, have kept the safety experts themselves at arms length.

No greater illustration of inverted safety logic is present in aviation government regulatory administration today than this example.

When will the FAA, EASA and other government aviation safety agencies place aviation safety experts in charge of making important public safety and industry regulatory safety decisions?

When will the direct, clear connection in commercial aviation safety between passenger and cargo airline operations be recognized by FAA, EASA and others? It is obvious that attorneys themselves appear unable to make that connection. Wouldn’t the industry be better served by placing safety experts in charge of safety decisions and regulations?

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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

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.

Does FAA even do safety correctly?

Why does the FAA not take immediate and rapid action on safety issues when a flight crew member, the NTSB or anyone else for that matter brings the issue and a solution to their attention? Quite a simple answer really: the FAA is run by lawyers and not safety professionals. Lawyers deny that there is a problem of their own origin, because to “admit a problem” ( lawyerspeak, not safetyspeak) would be to admit fault and therefore legal liability in a tort court.
Instead of safety resolutions, the FAA maintains deniablity until pressure from the press and the public is so great that they cannot deny “something has to be changed!”, usually the result of a press grabbing major air disaster, such as Continental/Colgan 3407.
A safety professional, on the otherhand, would have been looking at the problem, in this case, flight crew training, as soon as the first evidence of a problem was revealed.
The sad part about the lawyer approach of the FAA is that hundreds of innocent people have to die and grab headlines in order for a change to be made.
If the FAA were instead run by safety professionals, changes would occur without a lot of needless loss of life.
As far as comments such as, “Regulation created in a knee jerk reaction can do more damage to the commercial air industry than the industry (or passengers) can afford. Is it worthwhile to ground perfectly safe aircraft and aircraft operations on the basis that if there are no aircraft flying or no-one can afford to travel by air no crashes can happen…” frankly, I do not even know where to categorize this illogical line of reasoning.

As far as I know, there has never been a recommendation by a safety professional that said no aircraft should be flying or make flying so expensive that no one can travel. These kind of statements are known as “make up an outlandish course of action, pretend that a safety professional said it, and see how many people you can fool,” type of statement, also know as “red herrings.”
Safety on the other hand is good for business.

Paul