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Safety is Everyone's Responsibility

by Jeremy Cox 1. October 2005 00:00
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Before I get into my topic for this month I would like to talk about this month's poll at the front page of this GlobalAir.com web-site. You probably noticed that Jeffery, the Webmaster and Publisher of this site, has chosen to highlight the major infrastructural change that the Flight Information Service is currently undergoing. Instead of being a government owned and run institution, the FAA will place the responsibility of providing weather and flight planning services to General Aviation into the hands of a civilian contractor. This passing of the baton between the US Government and a civilian contractor went smoothly when the DUAT system became a privately run-public service, therefore by my reckoning this latest transition should also go smoothly. What do you think? If you came straight to this article without voting, shame on you! Please go back to the main page and make your voice heard because as you have seen in past visits to this site, this is supposed to be an interactive media site. Interestingly enough, before we finally move on to my article for this month, here are some tidbits about the origins of weather classification and reporting that I gleaned by surfing the world-wide-web. About 340 BC the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote Meteorologica, a treatise on natural philosophy. His works, although speculative, represented the sum of knowledge about the natural science, including weather and climate. At that time, anything that fell from the sky (including rain and snow) and anything that was in the sky (including clouds) were called meteors, from the Greek word meteoros, meaning "high in the sky." From meteoros comes the term meteorology.

A system of identifying clouds was proposed by French botanist and zoologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck in 1802, and a better system was proposed by English naturalist Luke Howard in 1803. With slight modification, Howard's system is still in use. Howard's system uses Latin words to describe clouds as they appear to an observer on the ground. High wispy clouds are called cirrus (from the Latin word for curl of hair); sheetlike clouds are called stratus (from the Latin word for layer); billowing, puffy clouds are called cumulus (from the Latin word for heap); and rain-producing clouds are called nimbus (from the Latin word for rain).

The National Weather Service, formerly United States Weather Bureau, government agency engaged in reporting, predicting, and studying the weather, including temperature, moisture, barometric pressure, and wind speed and direction, throughout the United States and its territories was established in 1870 under the direction of the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army, the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1891 and to the Department of Commerce in 1940. In 1965 it was made a branch of the Environmental Science Services Administration within the Commerce Department. In 1970 the Weather Bureau became a part of the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Department of Commerce and was officially renamed the National Weather Service.

Okay now let's focus on my topic this month: Safety is Everyone's Responsibility.

Last fall and winter was a damned period regarding executive aircraft operations in the United States. Almost every week there was at least one report of an approach, landing or departure accident where property damage, injuries or loss of life occurred. The Media had a field day throwing wild accusations against the safety record of our industry, yet further investigation proved their sensationalist reports completely unfounded.
Recent published statistics report that U.S. Commercial Airlines suffered an overall accident rate of 0.310 events per 100,000 flight hours; air taxi companies suffered 2.50 events per 100,000 flight hours; and corporate flight departments suffered 0.028 events per 100,000 flight hours. Obviously it appears that air charter operations do carry a higher risk than commercial airlines, but corporate operations are rated the absolute safest. These statistics utterly refute the media's claim that charter flying is fifty times more dangerous and corporate flying is almost three times more dangerous than airline flying. Now armed with accurate statistics, one asks how can we in the industry increase our vigilance and improve our statistical score? It must first be understood that pilots are NOT the only people responsible for safety. Technicians, line personnel, schedulers and dispatchers, company executives, owners, friends and family ALL have influence over SAFETY in executive aircraft operations. The U.S. Navy teaches an Operational Risk Management course which can be applied to aircraft operations. The principles of this course are as follow:

• Accept NO unnecessary risks
• Accept risk only when the benefits outweigh the cost
• Anticipate and manage risk by planning
• Make risk decisions at the right level
• Follow a five-step process:
        1. Identify Hazards
        2. Assess Hazards (based on severity and probability)
        3. Make Risk Decisions
        4. Implement Controls
        5. Supervise (watch for any changes)

The world is not a very big place anymore now that several corporate aircraft are capable of 14-hour legs. With these type design changes allowing vast distances to be covered, they also may increase fatigue. A normal sleep pattern and the ability to maintain a normal Circadian Rhythm is an easy way to increase the margin of safety. Unfortunately, fatigue is not exclusive to transcontinental flight. It also applies to business meeting hopping possible with a Citation or King Air around the U.S. According to scientists at the Fatigue Counter Measures Group at NASA, fatigue plays a dramatic role in accidents. It is said that people that have been awake for 16 hours or longer have the performance equivalent of 0.05 (percent) blood alcohol. And people who have been awake for 24 hours or more have a 0.10 (percent) blood alcohol equivalent. Cabin altitude is also a factor. A good night's sleep can make a dramatic difference in your safety margin.

Another important consideration is your Circadian Rhythm. It is much more tiring to depart at 2200 hours after you have been trying to bank sleep all day, than it is to depart at 0800 where you find yourself on a fairly normal Circadian Rhythm. It is imperative that a suitable rest time is allowed after a long flight that crosses many time zones and perhaps even the International Date Line.

The NBAA recommends that all corporate flight departments write their own Safety Program Manual that specifies standard operating rules for either a fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft. Factors that should be covered in this manual include:

• Positioning Flights
• Maximum Duty Day
• Area of Operations, i.e., Increased RISK (South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and South East Asia, etc.)
• Mountainous Terrain
• International Flight
• Night Flight/IMC
• Uncontrolled Airport
• Non-Precision Approach
• Runway Length less than 7000 feet
• Contaminated Runway

Safety is NO Accident! Being aware of the hazards is our first step to improve our overall score.

So what procedures and checklists do you personally employ to ensure that you are ensuring the highest level of safety responsibility in your own flight operations? Any input that you care to make will be of great interest to all of the readers here at Globalair.com. So please don't be bashful and go ahead and write your comments and suggestions here.

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Jeremy Cox


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