The NTSB cited three accidents and an incident involving a regional airline as the basis for a pair of recommendations issued Tuesday to the FAA related to pilot fatigue.
Piedmont Airlines Flight 22
“Pilots in handcuffs is what we’re talking about,” said lawyer Kenneth Quinn at the Flight Safety Foundation European Aviation Safety Seminar held recently in Bucharest, Romania. Quinn moderated a two-hour discussion of criminalization and aviation safety, an apropos discussion as the industry becomes ever more vulnerable to attack in an increasingly litigious society.
The NTSB has called for improvements in the way the Transportation Department collects data, including the FAA’s Accident/Incident Data System (AIDS), the Near Midair Collision System (NMACS) and NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).
While corporate aviation has an enviable safety record, one comparable to that of the airlines, some flight departments operate on a shoestring budget with inadequately experienced or trained crews or shoddy maintenance practices, according to NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker.
Less than 10 percent of an aircraft accident investigation takes place at the scene. After an initial seven to 20 days on-site, the process moves to file cabinets and back offices; parts, maintenance and service suppliers; and government and industry laboratories. On average, six months of post-accident meetings are coordinated from a local command center; most often the ballroom of the nearest hotel.
NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker told the House aviation subcommittee yesterday that his agency is disappointed with the FAA’s response to five of six aviation items on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of safety improvements.
On April 1, the NTSB celebrated its 40th anniversary. On that date in 1967, the Bureau of Safety was removed from the Civil Aeronautics Board and became the new accident investigation agency. Each year, the agency’s staff of fewer than 400 employees investigates more than 2,000 accidents and incidents.
NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker said the FAA’s airport movement area safety system (AMASS) is not adequate to prevent serious runway collisions. Citing several recent near-collisions at Boston and New York airports where AMASS allegedly did not perform, Rosenker noted that the situations were instead resolved by flight crew actions sometimes bordering on the heroic–and luck.
The NTSB will hold a one-day forum on March 27 focusing on runway incursions and accidents and potential solutions. “Eliminating runway incursions and collisions is a top priority of the Safety Board and has been on our Most Wanted List since 1990,” said NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker, who will preside over the forum.