FAA Honors FSF’s Ditching Guide

 - December 11, 2007, 6:41 AM

The FAA has given its 2004 Excellence in Aviation Research Award to the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) for publishing a manual on ditching for corporate, fractional, on-demand and commuter operators.

Waterproof Flight Operations, a hefty 664-page special issue of Flight Safety Digest, contains important information on how to ditch an aircraft, select life rafts, use safety equipment and anticipate what might be expected from search-and-rescue resources in various parts of the world.

Stuart Matthews, FSF president and CEO, said the foundation developed the special issue in response to requests from corporate aviation managers who were seeking additional guidance about initiating over-water flights.

“Our publications staff learned quickly that in-depth practical information was not readily available to these managers, and that [airlines] had resources and requirements that were not readily transferable to the other sectors,” Matthews said. “[The] information that was available presumed the unlikelihood of ditchings; therefore, practical information about surviving a ditching was minimal, leaving room for myths and misconceptions.”

Among the subjects discussed in the more than 45 articles in the FSF publication are the scheduled changes in requirements for emergency locator transmitters, which are essential in the worldwide search-and-rescue system; the trend toward reducing the requirements for over-water survival equipment based on the proven reliability of turbine engines (although FSF said the role of human factors cannot be overlooked); accidents involving fare-paying passengers during near-shore operations in nonturbine-powered airplanes; the utility of long-range corporate jets that supports growth in over-water operations; and the dependence of the offshore energy industry on helicopters, which has yielded considerable over-water experience that is applicable to other sectors.

“We learned that although such accidents are relatively uncommon, ditching remains a risk–even for modern airline jets–and is not a relic of an earlier era,” Matthews said.

The FSF publications staff studied the literature on ditching and post-ditching survival, visited survival equipment manufacturers and examined safety-related equipment. They interviewed specialists in safety, survival and training; manufacturers of aircraft and equipment; and regulatory authorities.

“This is a formidable amount of research,” FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said when she presented the award, which the agency bestows annually on individuals and institutions whose contributions have resulted in a significantly safer, more efficient National Airspace System. “It’s a truly practical hands-on manual that people can take full advantage of.”

First published in April, Waterproof Flight Operations synthesizes into one document comprehensive factual articles and offers “bottom line” opinions to help aviation professionals investigate relevant issues and draw conclusions. It also incorporates hundreds of color photos, illustrations, tables, charts and diagrams.

FSF published Waterproof Flight Operations in both print and electronic versions. The CD edition contains a built-in search engine and links to navigate the extensive content, other links that connect to a variety of relevant Internet sites and a built-in Adobe Reader installation program. To order, call (703) 739-6700 ext. 102 or log on to www.flightsafety.org.