A Spring Break for Safety: 48th Annual Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar

 - October 11, 2007, 9:43 AM

“The aviation industry should not allow concerns over security to detract from efforts to improve aviation safety,” said Stuart Matthews, president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, setting the tone of the 48th Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar held in late April in Hollywood, Fla. Citing security measures that have been implemented or proposed since 9/11, Matthews said, “Important though security is, nothing on the safety front has changed, and it is important that there should be no relaxation of the safety defenses built up over many years. We can’t afford a safety problem on top of everything else.” Some 325 people attended the annual meeting, which was sponsored by FSF and NBAA.

According to Matthews, one of FSF’s ongoing safety initiatives is an effort to keep judicial proceedings from impeding the technical investigation of accidents. “We have seen, in some cases, the threat of criminal prosecution of those involved before the investigation [by aviation safety authorities] has even begun,” Matthews said. “There’s a tendency of some local prosecutors to run out and grab the first person they see–usually the pilot–and say, ‘You’re responsible for this accident.’ This sort of thing is impeding accident investigations. If you can’t find out what went wrong, you can’t do anything to fix it.”

“Corporate/executive aviation is the safest segment in civil aviation, and it has been since 1993,” said William Garvey, editor-in-chief of Business & Commercial Aviation. He was referencing “Accidents and Incidents–Our record in 2002,” co-authored by Robert Breiling of Robert Breiling Associates and Richard Aarons, safety editor of B/CA. Garvey said the accident rate for U.S.-registered corporate/executive aircraft in 2002 was 0.116 per 100,000 flight hours, making it the lowest rate among all segments of the U.S. civil aviation industry and nearly unchanged from the previous year. He compared it to the next-lowest accident rate that same year. FAR part 121 carriers experienced an accident rate of 0.195 per 100,000 flight hours with a fatal accident rate of zero.

Garvey said the data for corporate operations showed a fatal accident rate in 2002 of 0.029 per 100,000 flight hours compared with 0.031 the previous year. The data, collected by Breiling, showed corporate aircraft were involved in eight accidents in 2002 including two that accounted for six fatalities compared with seven accidents (including two fatal accidents with eight fatalities) in 2001. According to the report, corporate aircraft were flown 6.89 million hours in 2002, up from 6.51 million hours in 2001.

Last year business jet accidents/ incidents broken down by phase of flight showed 49 percent of all accidents occurred in the landing phase. The number remains fairly constant over the years, according to Breiling, who told AIN that the data from 1964 through 2002 shows that 51 percent of accidents occurred during landing. “About 10 to 12 percent of those accidents involved undershooting the runway,” he said. “Another 16 to 18 percent involved overshooting, and 20 to 25 percent involved various factors, including tire failures, hitting objects or animals, brake and hydraulic failures and running off the side of the runway.” Continuing with the 2002 statistics, about 12 percent of all accidents occurred in the taxi phase; takeoff, 22 percent; climb, 8 percent; cruise, 1 percent; descent, 4 percent; and approach, 4 percent.

The phase-of-flight accident breakdown for turboprops in 2002 showed 48 percent of all accidents occurred during the landing phase; taxi, 7 percent; takeoff, 7 percent; climb, 4 percent; cruise, 11 percent; descent, 5 percent; and approach, 18 percent.
Garvey reviewed the probable cause factors for 2002 citing 52 percent of all corporate aviation jet aircraft accidents were attributable to the pilot/crew. A wide variety of “other” factors accounted for 23 percent, airport-related factors for 4 percent, airframe for 5 percent and 16 percent were attributed to maintenance-related problems. During the same period, turboprop causal factors included 42 percent pilot/crew, 7 percent airport/miscellaneous, 21 percent mechanical, 12 percent unknown and 18 percent weather.

Dealing with SARS
Patty Campbell, R.N. and curriculum development consultant for Tempe, Ariz.-based MedAire, was slated to present, “Oxygen Systems–Exploring the Importance of Crew Training and Equipment.” While that presentation is in the seminar’s published proceedings, due to the timeliness of the SARS epidemic, Campbell spoke on this topic instead.

She said the origin of SARS had been traced to Guangdong, China, with the epicenter in Hong Kong. She said it is believed to have mutated from animals. About a dozen people were infected by a single person in a Hong Kong hotel and those individuals subsequently traveled outside China, spreading it to such places as Singapore, Toronto and Los Angeles.

“SARS is spread through respiratory droplets by coughing and sneezing. You must breathe the virus from within six feet of the infected person,” she said. “Unfortunately, the virus can also survive for up to three hours outside the body. That means you can pick it up by simply pressing an elevator button or picking up a newspaper that’s been touched by someone who has the virus.”

Most at risk are those who have close contact with SARS patients, such as family members and health-care workers, followed by anyone who travels in infected areas. According to Campbell, the incubation period is two to 10 days after exposure. Symptoms include a fever over 100.4 degrees F and one or more respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. “The clinical course is severe respiratory distress and atypical pneumonia,” she said. “It affects healthy people of all ages.”

According to Campbell, there has yet to be any effective course of treatment identified. “Current medical care for SARS-infected individuals is supportive care, antiviral medications and antibiotics. There’s no vaccine or preventive medication.” She strongly suggested personal protective measures, including frequent hand washing with soap and water or with alcohol-based waterless solutions. “If you know you’re likely to be exposed to SARS, you should wear surgical gloves and a mask but it’s best to avoid travel to infected areas.”

She also said there is often confusion regarding terminology when talking about contagious diseases. She said the term isolation refers to restricting the movement of persons infected with a contagious disease and keeping them separated from uninfected individuals. Quarantine means the separation of well persons who have been exposed to a contagious disease, but have yet to show signs of infection. As of the day of the seminar, there had been 3,947 cases reported worldwide with 228 in the U.S. At that point 229 people had died as a result of the disease. Campbell said 80 percent of all SARS patients make a full recovery and statistically the worldwide death rate from the disease stands at about 5 percent. [Unfortunately, more recent data indicates that the death rate is higher, especially for people over 65 years of age–Ed.] To put that in perspective, she said 36,000 people die annually of flu in the U.S.

“I just hope this briefing will prompt the pilots to go back to their individual flight departments and ask questions,” Campbell told AIN. “We’ve never seen an illness like this before with travel advisories and limitations on where we can travel. We’re not used to being told we can’t go into certain countries. So I’m just hoping that by having more information about the virus they’ll be able to ask the questions to protect themselves and their people.”

Travel advisories issued in late April by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned travelers to postpone any non-essential travel to the highly infected areas of China, Hong Kong, Hanoi and Singapore. Campbell strongly suggested that anyone who has essential travel to Asia should check with the destination country to inquire about quarantine laws that may be in effect. Malaysia closed its borders to all visitors from China and Hong Kong, Continental Airlines suspended flights from New York to Hong Kong and United Air Lines drastically cut flights serving that city as well as most of the rest of China. By the end of April, air traffic to and from Asia was down 25 percent, and any traveler with signs and symptoms of SARS who had recently traveled to infected areas were not allowed to travel on commercial aircraft.

In-flight guidelines for dealing with potentially SARS-infected passengers include isolating the passenger in the back of the aircraft at a window seat. “Mask the passenger or at least have him cover his mouth with something,” Campbell said. “Others onboard should carefully wash their hands and dispose of any soiled materials, such as tissues, in a biohazard bag. Also, you must notify the authorities upon arrival in the U.S.”

She suggested getting a copy of the CDC’s cleaning guidelines for air ambulances because these are more thorough than the guidelines designed for commercial aircraft. “Air medical transport for SARS patients requires expert planning,” she said. “People think they are just going to go and retrieve their personnel. We are talking about a highly contagious disease that requires specific medical considerations and isolation equipment. In addition, depending upon the circumstances, you may need permission from CDC, the state department and the sending and receiving countries before moving SARS patients.”

Specifically addressing airframe considerations, Campbell said the best choice of aircraft would be one that could fly the mission nonstop or at least with minimal stops. “If at all possible, select an aircraft with forward-to-aft cabin airflow and a separate cockpit cabin,” she said. “Preferably it should also provide separate, upwind cabin space for crewmembers to perform necessary personal activities such as eating and drinking on flights greater than four hours.

Aft-to-forward cabin airflow may create a significant risk of airborne transmission to the cabin and flight-deck personnel. If you have no choice, then all crewmembers must wear fit-tested N95 respirators.” Campbell also suggested that aircraft ventilation should remain on at all times during transport of SARS patients including during ground delays.

When cleaning an aircraft that has transported a SARS patient, the crew should open all exits and doors, airing out the aircraft with air conditioning running at maximum capacity. She stressed that anyone entering the aircraft must wear N95 masks, gloves and protective outer garments until the airing-out is complete, and cautioned against using compressed air because it might “re-aerosolize infectious materials.” The crew should monitor their health for at least 10 days following the mission, she said. “Be on the lookout for fever and respiratory illness.”

Security Lessons of 9/11
Not in the proceedings of the seminar but a discussion that everyone waited to hear was “Corporate Aviation Security: Lessons of September 11 and its aftermath,” by Israel “Issy” Boim, president of Air Security International. Boim discussed global terrorism, its possible effects on corporate aviation and methods of reducing risk to corporate aviation operators. He explained there is a new terminology evolving to discuss security issues.

Boim said there is now a significant need for documenting security practices and implementing and practicing security measures that have proven effective. He discussed self-audits and the need for companies to be able to show proof of internal compliance. Boim suggested that crews should ask what their company provides in the way of security documentation and practices. They need to help management develop appropriate security measures for the aviation department by showing them the advantages of providing a safe and secure operation. “Will your corporate culture uphold, sponsor and support new security practices?” he asked. “And do you know what the TSA and others want from you?”

“General aviation differs greatly from commercial aviation,” he said. “You need to be proactive when working with the TSA. You need to take a sort of ‘Band of Brothers’ point of view by getting your company involved as early as possible. Similarly, you should patronize FBOs and airports that practice solid security measures.”

“Unfortunately, new TSA policies make it clear that officials have fears and concerns regarding general aviation aircraft being used as weapons. It is safe to say that TSA policies impede general aviation operations already, and it will get worse. Meanwhile, operators must maintain high levels of security to simply protect corporate assets. The result of corporations working together with the TSA would be a reduced threat of an aircraft becoming a weapon.”

While not agreeing completely with the TSA’s concerns about general aviation, Boim did point out, “Corporate aircraft are soft targets. They’re more accessible in many cases than commercial aircraft. Worse, they are symbols of Western capitalism; they’re economic targets of opportunity. We cannot leave aircraft unattended. During any extended stay, aircraft must be protected.”

He then explained the difference between protecting an aircraft and simply guarding it. Guarding an aircraft requires methods of deterrence called “hardening a target.” It makes the aircraft more difficult to steal and also indicates when an intruder has gained access. Different methods of guarding an aircraft include special seals, locks, alarms and other physical guards, but Boim stressed that deterrents do not serve as protection. Protection refers to the physical measures taken to protect an aircraft in the event of an actual attack.

“Regardless of actual aircraft security, the crew is the softest target of the entire operation,” he said. “By kidnapping the crew, an attacker can take control of the aircraft. Deterrents alone are not enough, the crew must be protected.” Areas of concern, according to Boim, include crew transportation, hotel selection and selection of airports and FBOs. “Problems begin when you just randomly select transportation. Just like the passengers, the crew must have professional drivers who can function as security drivers. In some locations, it really is important that the crew uses secure transportation. Similarly, choosing the right hotel with basic security in mind is very important.”

Business aviation should use only airports that practice preventive security methods, Boim stressed. “You should contact airport personnel in advance and ask specific questions about measures they use to protect the aircraft, crew and passengers,” he said. “It is very likely that at some locations you can expect physical attacks on U.S. and British operators. Fundamentally, security should play a major role in all aspects of your flight planning. At locations that present a risk, deterrents will no longer be sufficient; you will need protection. Unfortunately, in some cities or countries protection may be unavailable, so you have to factor how you are going to deal with that into your flight planning.”

Boim also discussed another threat to which deterrence and ground protection are insufficient–shoulder-fired missiles. “Would-be attackers now have access to shoulder-fired missiles that can hit a jet before landing and after taking off,” he claimed. “Intelligence sources have verified that these weapons, which have been used to fire on aircraft in Africa, Southwest Asia and Serbia during their civil wars, have been smuggled into Europe, including the United Kingdom. How will you manage the threat?” Boim suggested one option would be a civil aviation anti-missile protection system.

More Safety Topics

Jim Burin, FSF’s director of technical programs, presented, “Corporate Flight Operational Quality Assurance Update.” Aviation consultant Ted Mendenhall, who was unable to attend at the last minute, prepared it. Peter Agur Jr., president of the VanAllen Group, presented “The Why, What, When, Who, Where and How of Audits.” Agur discussed the benefits of corporate flight department audits, the different types of audits and methods of selecting an auditor.

David Carbaugh, chief pilot of flight operations safety for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, presented “New Zealand 60–A Free Lesson About Hazardous Erroneous Glide Slope Indications.” The paper, cowritten with Bryan Wyness, v-p of flight operations for Air New Zealand, discussed incidents in which airline flight crews observed normal instrument landing system (ILS) indications during ILS approaches although the ILS signals were erroneous. He also discussed the causes of such incidents and methods by which flight crews can avoid them.

Michael Suckow and Denver Lopp, both associate professors at Purdue University, presented “Fractional Ownership and the Development of an Effective Aviation Safety Culture.” The paper was co-authored by Christy Brazee, Ph.D. and Garon Henderson, also of Purdue. Suckow and Lopp discussed how lessons learned from safety research in other aviation operations could be applied in aircraft fractional ownership.

Gary Freeman, senior experimental test pilot for Gulfstream Aerospace, gave a presentation on “Development and Safety Aspects of the Gulfstream Enhanced Vision System.” Freeman described the enhanced vision system (EVS), which uses an infrared camera at night or in low-visibility conditions to create and project a head-up display image comparable to what is seen during daylight and in clear weather. Freeman said EVS-equipped aircraft could be certified down to 100 feet AGL during approaches that have vertical guidance if EVS displays the runway environment or approach lights at normal approach minimums.

William Grimes, managing director of Marsh USA, discussed “Best Practices for Preventing Aircraft Ground Damage.” He told the audience the most significant risk factors for ground damage are towing, ramp movements, ground service equipment and hangar movements. He also said the most significant related human-factors issues are time pressure and task saturation; skill-based errors; customer satisfaction; direct rule-based violations; environmental issues such as illumination; visual obstructions and noise levels, communication breakdown; and a loss of situational awareness.

Gerhard Gruber, manager–rescue and airport operations, Vienna International Airport, discussed accident statistics, regulatory requirements and legal requirements for airport emergency services and equipment in a paper titled “Airport Rescue Actions: Emergency Handling.” Gruber also discussed procedures for preparing for and responding to accidents and incidents based on case studies involving two accidents at the Vienna airport.

Durwood Heinrich, director of aviation and chief pilot for Texas Instruments, talked about the long known yet little understood relationship between stress and disease in his paper, “Stress, Disease and Aviation.” He discussed behavioral, physical, emotional and cognitive stress; and methods of reducing stress including organizational factors, such as employee development, increased autonomy and consistency from management.

Lucille Fisher
of Quality Resources reviewed “Regulations that Affect Part 91 Passenger Operations.” She spoke of the use of portable electronic devices; seat belts and child-restraint systems; supplemental oxygen; passenger briefings; carriage of cargo; and considerations regarding food and beverage items located at passenger seats.

“Flight Test Evaluation of the Runway Awareness and Advisory System (RAAS): A Human Factors Assessment of Pilot Acceptability,” was the topic addressed by Ratan Khatwa, Ph.D., manager of flight safety human factors for Honeywell. He discussed the results of evaluations by 56 pilots of the RAAS, which is being developed to prevent runway incursions by providing aural information designed to increase position awareness during ground operations and final approach as part of a terrain awareness and warning system.

Olcott Honored

The Flight Safety Foundation presented Jack Olcott with its Business Aviation Meritorious Service Award for his efforts to advance business and corporate aviation throughout the world. Olcott, who has been NBAA president since 1992, was cited as an “eloquent champion of the role of business and corporate aviation in the transportation system of the U.S. and worldwide who is an outspoken advocate of the need for a safety-oriented management culture.” The award was established in 1975 to recognize outstanding service and contributions to corporate aviation safety.