Flight Safety Pty Ltd
January 2010
Safety Alert
News from Flight Safety Pty Ltd
In This Issue
Audit Finding Analyses - Flight Following
Air France 447 update
Real-time Black Box
Flight Crew Training
ASRS Safety Database
Airbus A380 2 years into service
Aviation safest in sixty years
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Dear Colleague,

Our series on repetitive Audit Finding Analyses continues into 2010 with a focus this month on Flight Following. This issue has also been discussed in-depth by news outlets such as The Times Online, as highlighted below. This is an area where it pays to keep up with new technologies such as the real-time black box from the company Wi-SKY.

We also cover areas such as Flight Crew Training and an interesting review of aviation safety conducted by the Aviation Safety Network.


Colin Weir

Colin Weir, Managing Director
Flight Safety Pty Ltd
Audit Finding Analyses - Flight Following

Finding 2 - GPS Flight Following

Flight Following

This second Finding extracted from our audit results list covers GPS Flight Following.

The following CASA Regulatory change introduced a component of the optimum Flight Following requirement:

"Emergency locator transmitter (ELT) changes

From 1 February 2009, all ELTs must operate on frequencies 406 and 121.5 MHz.

ELTs which operate solely on 121.5 and 243 MHz are now obsolete."

This mandated equipment fit requirement, through a subscription based contractual arrangement provides GPS - linked notification of activation; however this is not a true "Flight Following" system as it precludes the option of internet based, continuous real-time flight status with a backup recording facility. 

Within the Oil & Gas industry it is generally mandated that all helicopters involved in offshore operations are fitted with Flight Following systems that include a manual "Mayday" activation mode.

Global audit operations have revealed that there is a high level of compliance amongst Operators servicing the Oil & Gas industry but a very serious shortfall within the Airline, Regional Airline and General Aviation industries.  Irrespective of the operational profile it has become apparent that Flight Following equipment is an essential safety item. 

Two recent high profile accidents bear testimony to this fact:

The Steve Fossett accident >>

The Air France Flight 447 accident >>

Air France Flight 447 update - the human dimension and the search continues
Air France tail sectionThe crash of the Airbus A330-200, registration number F-GZCP, is the worst disaster in the 75-year history of Air France. Five months on, it continues to haunt the airline and the aircraft's manufacturer, Airbus, as well as the families.

Airbus was the first to develop fully fly-by-wire airliners that manage everything digitally, rather than manually. The aim is to eliminate human error, the most common cause of air accidents. It has done that very effectively, but the inevitable result is to remove pilots from direct control. "The aircraft is too clever for its own good," said one experienced aviator. "If something goes wrong, as well as dealing with the situation, the pilot has the stress of working out what the computers are doing. In an emergency, you're lucky if there's enough time to do all this".

Hampering the search was the fact that nobody knew the precise spot where the jet had crashed.

There is another way this crash could lead to greater safety. Unlocking the mystery of the crash would not be a problem if AF447 had been live-streaming flight data back to a central control as it flew. The technology exists for jets to live-stream data, but airlines have been deterred by the satellite communications costs of $3m a year. Many experts believe it is time to reconsider the matter.

Read full article at the Times Online >>
Real-time Black Box monitoring

Radio wavesWi-SKY Inflight has introduced improved flight safety through real-time Black Box monitoring that is achievable for the first time through its exclusive 100 megabit-per-second wireless data transfer - making possible the early detection and cockpit coaching for aircraft performance problems while still in flight.

The complete aircraft avionics data stored on the Flight Data Recorder (FDR or Black Box) is too voluminous to display on the cockpit instrument panel, and too large to transmit to the ground with current communication systems.

The FDR monitors 88 parameters of aircraft performance from as many as 1,100 sensors and can accumulate as much as four gigabytes of data per flight. Current cellular or satellite technology can only transmit between 1 and 3 Mbps, which makes a real-time download of the total aircraft avionics data impossible during flight and excessively slow after the flight. Therefore pilots must now rely upon extracted highlights of the Black Box information.

"At today's data rates, it would take up to six hours to transmit four gigabytes of data from each one-hour flight," explains Michael Leabman, CTO of Wi-SKY Inflight. "In contrast, Wi-SKY can transmit an entire four gigabyte file in less than 13 minutes. A real-time transfer rate of at least nine Mbps is necessary to download a file this large during flight."

The Wi-SKY air-to-ground data link can transmit 100 Mbps to each aircraft, which is more data than a satellite transmits to an entire continent - 80 Mbps to share among hundreds of customers. 'Our 100 Mbps system is like giving each plane a dedicated satellite to deliver its data,' notes Leabman.

Read full article at Ad Hoc news >>

Visit the Wi-SKY website >>
Flight Crew Training

Flight crew trainingAn intense industry debate surrounds the question of whether current training is cultivating vital piloting skills.

There are two related issues: maintaining basic manual airmanship skills and long, boring periods of time spent on autopilot.

"There is an overdependence on automation in today's flying environment and pilots are losing airmanship, piloting skills - all the basics," notes National Aerospace Training and Research Center President Dick Leland. The former U.S. Air Force pilot has 25 years' experience as an aerospace physiologist, and was a training course manager for military air crews and civilian pilots.

"Pilots are becoming passive monitors," he says. "And people are terrible monitors - we get bored and stop paying attention. Yet, when the automated system fails, we expect the pilot to jump in, become Steve Canyon and exercise perfect airmanship and judgment. That's a tall order for someone who is ill-prepared for it."

Read full article at Aviation Week >>
"Slip Slidin'" - more ASRS Safety Database lessons
Ice landingSome more lessons to be learned this month from a series of de-identified safety reports collated by NASA in the US.

Reports containing mentions of "slides" and "slips" frequently culminate in unfortunate outcomes. As you would expect, some of these incidents are weather-related, but many others are not. In their November issue, ASRS offers a broad sampling of recent 'slip-slidin' incidents, including air carrier runway and taxiway excursions, cabin crew miscues, slippery maintenance procedures, and GA takeoff and landing mishaps.

It's interesting to get the human perspective of what happened from those involved.

Read full Callback November edition >>
Airbus A380 Into Service

Airbus A380Two years on since its debut, the 20 A380s in service with three airlines - SIA, Emirates and Qantas - have accumulated 75,000h, operated 8,000 flights and carried at least 2.5 million passengers. Air France joins the throng this month.

Flight International has spoken to all three early operators and the consensus is that the aircraft has delivered on its promise of heralding a revolution in passenger enjoyment and operating cost performance, but suffers niggling problems that have taken the shine off an otherwise outstanding entry into service.

Read full article at Flight Global >>
Aviation safest in sixty years

Locations of AccidentsThe Aviation Safety Network has released the 2009 airliner accident statistics showing a total of 757 airliner accident fatalities, as a result of 30 fatal multi-engine airliner accidents.

Over the year 2009 the Aviation Safety Network recorded a total of 30 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 757 fatalities and 1 ground fatality. The number of fatalities is lower than the ten-year average of 802 fatalities. The number of accidents is on average.

Of those 30 fatal accidents, 11 involved passenger flights. This is the lowest number in over sixty years.

Founder and president of the Aviation Safety Network, Harro Ranter: "Aviation has become safer every year during the last decade. A record low number of 11 fatal accidents on passenger flights in 2009 signifies this."

Five out of 30 accident airplanes were operated by airlines on the E.U. "black list" (as opposed to nine out of 26 in 2007 and three out of 32 in 2008).

In 2009 Africa was again the most unsafe region: 30% of all fatal airliner accidents happened in Africa, while the continent only accounts for approximately 3 percent of all world aircraft departures.

Go to Aviation Safety Network 2009 report >>