EASA’s 1st AOC has exhibited a disregard for SMS

WizzAir pilots
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EASA proudly issued its 1st AOC to WizzAir

Hungarian Low Fare CEO asks his staff to fight through FATIGUE

Now with no national CAA, Brussels must deal with this SMS mess

There have been shocking reports (see below) about the CEO of WizzAir urging the airline employees, including pilots and other safety essential positions, by saying:

“We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile.”

FAA fatigue studyThe global standard of aviation safety is defined by an approach called Safety Management System. Suffice it to say that the Chief Executive Officer asking his staff to ignore “fatigue” is a mortal sin in this risk reduction religion.[1]

One might immediately suspect that WizzAir has become lax in its SMS discipline because the carrier is a huge economic success in Hungary; CAA inspectors may have not attempted to assess or overlooked an assessment of the company’s safety culture. One might expect that a National Transport Authority’s (NTA) career employee might be reticent to inquire about a Captain of Industry adherence to SMS. A corollary of this ICAO’s initiative is that the implementation of this proven rubric STARTS with the CEO.

WizzAir CEO's SMS leadership?

WRONG!!! Wizz Air Hungary became the first airline to obtain an EASA air operator certificate (AOC), effective 01-Aug-2020. EASA will be responsible for safety oversight while Hungary will continue to be identified as the ‘State of Operator’ with regard to the AOC. EASA has established that “critical elements of a safety oversight system defined by ICAO Annex 19:They include elements that are essential for establishing a comprehensive aviation safety management system.”EASA issued AOC for WizzAir

 

Instead of an NTA inspector, an EASA examiner should have inquired about József Váradi’s leadership and thus might have learned of his myopia about fatigue.

 

EASA inspector

Now EASA’s senior management will have to figure its way out of this conundrum. Their FIRST AOC’s CEO has contravened a critical element of their safety mandate. How now can this pan European safety agency be certain that WizzAir is operating at the highest levels of SMS discipline that its pilots are not fatigued?

WizzAir cockpit crew


 

Airline CEO tells staff to push through fatigue

WizzAir CEO

(CNN) — As chaos engulfs the aviation industry this summer, one airline CEO has come up with a novel way of cutting down on flight cancellations: telling staff to take less time off.

József Váradi[2], CEO of Wizz Air, the European low-cost carrier, told employees at a meeting this week that too many of them were taking time off for fatigue, and that “sometimes it is required to go the extra mile.”

Pilot fatigue is taken seriously in the industry, with the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) calling it an” internationally recognized issue related to the broader issue of fitness for duty.” IATA, the International Air Transport Association, has a 148-page report on handling crew fatigue, and the FAA producing awareness videos for the industry.

FSF IATA ECA

Fatigue was also an element blamed for the American Airlines flight 1420 crash, which killed 11 in 1999.

The remark — made on a private call to all Wizz Air employees in all areas of the company — was recorded and shared on social media by the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which called it a “deficient safety culture alert.”

In the clip, Váradi says: “Now that everyone is getting back into work, I understand that fatigue is a potential outcome of the issues. But once we start stabilizing the rosters we also need to take down the fatigue rate.

We cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued.

“We are all fatigued. But sometimes it is required to go the extra mile.

“The damage is huge when we are canceling a flight. It’s reputational damage of the brand and it is the other financial damage, the transactional damage because we have to pay compensation for that.”

A spokesperson for Wizz Air said that the comment was directed at all airline workers, rather than pilots specifically.WizzAir Spokesperson

“This clip has been edited from a briefing to all staff (not pilots only, but also cabin crew and all office employees) on key business updates and current challenges facing aviation,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Supply chain issues are affecting all airlines, in particular staff availability and welfare.

Our crew unavailability has been very low, at 4%. In this context, going the extra mile to minimize disruption was discussed. What this does not mean is compromising safety.

Wizz Air and the airline industry are highly regulated, and safety has, and always will be, our first priority. We have a robust and responsible crew management system which meets the needs of our people and enables us to serve as many customers as possible in the current challenging environment.”Pilot fatigue

‘All it takes is one mistake’

But Aedrian Bekker, a clinical and aviation psychologist and director of the UK’s Centre for Aviation Psychology, told CNN that the fact that Váradi was not specifically addressing pilots doesn’t make it any better, calling staff absence “an indicator of morale.”

“If an organization has an issue with increased sickness of staff, the reasons are often as a result of the organization. Telling pilots to ‘suck it up’ goes against every sinew of sensible safety management over the past 20 years,” he said.

Aedrian Bekker and Centre for Aviation Psychology

“Many pilots working in large airlines often feel that they are treated like commodities, worked to the legal limits of capacity and then disposed of when no longer required.”

He added that it’s not just pilots who, when tired, could make a mistake that could start a catastrophic chain of events.

“We know all parts of aviation are finely stretched at the moment, and these people are working at incredible levels of strain,” he said.

….

“We can all relate to [those kinds of lapses] but in any safety-critical industry, to tell people to suck it up and work harder? Common sense dictates that that’s not clever — especially not for a CEO who’s paid big bucks to motivate and energize.

The leaked video has been greeted with horror from the aviation community on social media. One pilot tweeted: “This is one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever heard an airline CEO say. It speaks to a fundamental lack of understanding of fatigue and its effects on flight.

Steven Ehrlich, chairman of PilotsTogether, a charity supporting UK pilots who lost their jobs in the pandemic, told CNN: “Asking pilots to fly while fatigued is a dangerous and inappropriate precedent introducing unnecessary risk to passengers, pilots, and the public on the ground.

“Any airline that does play fast and loose with this rule will end up losing the trust of their passengers, their pilots, and the public. Fatigue leads to the possibility of loss of attention, it allows for mistakes to be made, and for perception to be altered.

“Pilots are under more stress these days due to the impact of Covid redundancies, the need for re-qualification and the polishing up of skills, and the airline operational pressures currently in the news.”

Pilots union BALPA tweeted: “We’re shocked an airline CEO would advise actions so contrary to basic safety culture. BALPA urges Mr. Varadi to swiftly clarify that Wizz Air would fully support any pilot who does the right thing by not flying if they feel fatigued, for the safety of passengers, crew & aircraft.”

Last week the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association flagged pilot fatigue as a danger, telling local press: “Fatigue can be as dangerous as drug and alcohol misuse and can lead to errors with potentially fatal consequences.”

[1] Fatigue has been the subject of considerable regulatory research and redefinition of how to deal with this insidious risk. A task force led by the FAA and EASA plus a comprehensive  list of stakeholders and subject matter experts spent years analyzing the characteristic of fatigue, defining how best to control it and establishing rules.

[2] CEO of  Malév Hungarian Airlines 1999-2003; found Wizz Air 2003,;  a member of the supervisory board at Lufthansa Technik Budapest Kft,

WizzAir plane



 

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