What’s your Top 5 for Safety Improvements?

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Linked below is a very interesting OpEd piece authored by Eric Auxier, an A320 captain with over 21,000 hours. He writes a blog and has authored a book. The Captain has listed below what he thinks are the top five safety improvements. His choices and their rationales are summarized below (the list is numbered but Captain Auxier indicates that they are not intended to be prioritizes).

THERE IS A COMMENT SECTION AND YOU ARE INVITED TO SUBMIT YOUR TOP 5, hopefully you will share your reasons why for each of your nominees.

His Top 5 are as follows:

1. CRM—Crew Resource Management: an Auxier maxim is that the pilot, not computers, is the most important safety function. Given that premise, the Captain provides lengthy support for the notion that this innovative training program maximizes their collective capacity to handle risks [the above picture comes from a leading text of this title].

2. RSWS—Runway Safety Warning System: his support for this system’s inclusion on the list derives from the worst aviation disaster in history 1977′s Tenerife collision between two B-747′s, in which 583 people lost their lives.

3. LLWAS—Low Level Windshear Alert System : his justification for LLWAS is based on more major disasters from the past—this time it is the 1975 crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 66. Flight 66 was a victim of “Windshear” caused by a thunderstorm microburst. He details more reasons in his OpEd piece.

4. EGPWS—Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System: This technology finds its roots in “American Airlines Flight 965 into Cali, which suffered a catastrophic “CFIT”—Controlled Flight Into Terrain. In nighttime, “severe clear” conditions, the experienced crew flew a perfectly good airliner straight into a mountainside, killing all 159 passengers and eight crew members.” The enhancement includes a worldwide terrain data base in its computer; so the information is even more accurate.

5. TCAS—Traffic Collision Avoidance System: The captain’s analysis is solid—“…another wonderful advancement in technology has been TCAS. Using radar data from ‘Mode C’ airplanes—which reply to ATC radar interrogation signals with data such as identification, speed and altitude—the on-board TCAS system warns of potential threats of other aircraft. If both planes have TCAS on board, in an emergency situation, the two boxes will coordinate with each other to come up with a vertical “solution,” commanding one plane to climb and the other to descend.

NASA published in 1998 a list of its major advancements. The FAA might cite Safety Management System, CAST, VDRP or the collective benefits of NextGen. Congress perhaps would put their bills concerning pilot qualifications (Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements; Flight Crewmember Mentoring, Leadership and Professional Development) plus their oversights on matters like whistleblowers and foreign repair stations/contracting out on their Top 5 list.

The AeroBio’s asked aviation safety professionals for what was THE project with the “greatest safety impact.” The question is slightly different from the Auxier focus, but their answers may help catalyze your thinking—

Kate Lang, FAA Assistant Administrator for Airports
“Thinking about my time in the FAA’s Office of Airports, I’d say all of our work to upgrade runway safety areas at all US certificated airports.”

Sarah McLeod, Executive Director, ARSA
I am not convinced anything I am involved in has a safety impact. I try to ensure the civil aviation industry is allowed to perform its role to ensure safety, in spite or despite the government’s belief it is “responsible” for that function.”

Mark Dunkerley, President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines
“SMS has the greatest potential of incremental improvement in safety.”

Chris Hart, Chair NTSB
“The aviation safety project I have been involved in that has had the greatest safety impact is the Global Aviation Information Network (GAIN).  We created GAIN to develop tools and processes to enable and facilitate the collection, analysis, and sharing of aviation safety information to improve safety.  Getting the concept started in the mid 1990’s was pushing a big rock up a big hill, but today GAIN-type tools and process are in widespread use around the world, under various names, and their positive impact on aviation safety has been astounding.”

David Berg, A4A General Counsel
“In my career at A4A I have worked on a number of safety and non-safety matters, mostly regulatory, that have had a significant impact on U.S. airlines. One of the most important safety projects was standing up drug and alcohol testing. While drug and alcohol abuse was never a serious industry problem, establishing a regulatory testing program elevated industry safety and helped focus attention on the importance of appropriate treatment for valuable employees with addiction problems.”

John Goglia, former NTSB member and IAM leader
“Working on the aging wiring issues that came to the fore after TWA 800.”

Ed Bolen, President and CEO, NBAA
“Al Ueltschi used to say the greatest safety device in any airplane is a well-trained pilot. I think the ongoing safety programs that fight complacency in the cockpit and contribute to our overall safety culture are terrific. There are several great annual safety events in the U.S. The Bombardier Safety Standdown, the Cessna Single Pilot Safety Standdown, and the Business Aviation Safety Seminar are all tremendous. There are also a lot of local and regional safety days that are very well done.”

Captain Hendricks, President and CEO, NATA
“I was a member the executive board of the Commercial Aircraft Safety Team (CAST) while at A4A. This groundbreaking work being done in partnership with industry, labor and government to improve commercial airline safety performance is the gold standard for the world.”

  • Now it would be great to hear what your Top 5 are. The collective wisdom will be published here after a good number of responses are left in the COMMENT section.

OpEd: Top 5 Modern Improvements in Aviation Safety

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1 Comment on "What’s your Top 5 for Safety Improvements?"

  1. My top 5 include:
    – ASIAS
    – SMS
    – Voluntary Reporting Systems
    – EMAS
    – Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning
    – ATOS (or whatever today’s buzzword is)

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