Air France Gatekeepers Put Face on Safety Data

 - March 19, 2012, 10:00 AM
Air France sees flight safety as "the heart of our business."

In a new Air France video titled, “Flight Analysis: a key part of flight safety,” Eric Schramm, the carrier’s executive vice president of flight operations, says, “Flight safety is at the heart of our business. It’s the most important service we provide our customers.”

The video highlights a new addition to the airline’s flight-analysis protocol, which Air France implemented in 1974 and today analyzes operational data from the carrier’s 1,500 daily flights. Each flight records some 100 different data points, including altitude, speed and trajectory. The new feature is expected to reduce the time necessary to identify and address areas of operational safety concern.

Air France employees, called gatekeepers, will provide pilots with faster access to flight-analysis data.  “With the gatekeepers,” explains Gilles Laurent, vice president of Air France’s flight safety division, in the same video, “we can question the crew about contextual elements just a few days later and not a few weeks later.” Gatekeepers’ duties range from simple discussions with pilots about safety concerns to recommendations of extra flight training where warranted.

While pilots normally cringe at the idea of flight-data gathering, fearing possible disciplinary actions, this new Air France safety protocol was established with the full agreement of the SNPL, the French arm of the Air Line Pilots Association. Data gathered in the program will also be reviewed on a bi-monthly basis by an Air France committee with a mandate to suggest improvements to operational procedures, equipment, infrastructure, crew training and aircraft maintenance programs.

While Air France’s overall safety record is quite good, the airline has suffered two high-profile fatal crashes in the past 12 years: the Concorde crash in Paris in 2000 and the 2009 loss of an Airbus A330 in the South Atlantic.