UPS/IPA Safety Culture leads to Advances before Regulatory Action

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ARTICLE: Company, Pilots Cooperate In Developing New Air Cargo Fire Safety Technology


Aviation accidents can be tragic events with the potential for loss of life, damages to the ground and disruptions of many lives. The UPS B-747-400 crash in Dubai on September 3, 2010 fits that characterization with the death of two pilots. Such events also pose an opportunity to learn and move forward; the Independent Pilots Association/UPS Safety Task Force converted the sad lessons of Dubai into advances.

First and foremost, this joint action resulted in the designing of a container in which is integrated a system capable of suppressing and containing a fire of 1,200 degrees for as many as 4 hours. This new system is based on improved materials and a potassium based aerosol suppressant. The new Unit Load Device had to be approved by the FAA; UPS’s innovation will likely be found to be airworthy. The company has ordered 1,821ULDs.

The same joint carrier/union effort resulted in a new EVAS (Emergency Vision Assurance System), and quick donning full-face oxygen masks for all UPS aircraft. The three part package was characterized by UPS Chief Operating Officer David Abney as follows: “They represent a quantum leap forward in safety, an area where UPS places the highest emphasis.”

This is an example of how a safety culture can advance safety. UPS and IPA could have waited for the report of the General Civil Aviation Authority (United Arab Emirates) to take corrective action. Instead, they immediately made their own internal analysis, defined what needed to be done and then designed solutions. The last step was for the FAA to approve the changes and for the NTSB to commend them for their initiative and innovation.

Oddly enough, ALPA commented contemporaneously with this story by focusing on the threat of lithium ion batteries.

Advances in aviation safety need not depend on government to define the right solutions. Safety culture and cooperation drive delivery of improvements on an expedited basis.

Congratulations IPA and UPS!

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