Highlighting the fact that Part 121 fatal accidents have become almost nonexistent the U.S., a senior National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official expressed the belief that Parts 91 and 135 can move in that direction as well by incorporating some of the lessons learned from the scheduled airlines.
The discussion about Part 121 fatal accidents in the U.S. “is a very short conversation,” John DeLisi, director of the NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety, said this week at the Bombardier Safety Standdown. “It’s the sound of crickets…they’re just not happening anymore in the U.S.,” he noted. “How did what was already the safest form of transportation become one in which accidents just got wiped off the map for nine and a half years? A lot of things came together.”
Factors in the dramatic boost in the Part 121 safety record include the adoption of safety management systems (SMS), he said, calling them an important player in improving the safety culture. Other improvements include weather forecasting and dispatching.
“Weather doesn’t bite us anymore; we know where it is with great accuracy” with the forecast tools now available, DeLisi said. Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) training and equipment also have played key roles, he added, saying CFIT is “another category of accident that has almost been wiped off the map.”
Flight data monitoring (FDM) further has played a role. “I used to feel guilty about this requirement” for airlines, he said, adding that it originally involved collection of data after an accident. But it is now looked at for proactive collection of data that could be shared. In fact, data sharing, including efforts such as Aviation Safety Action Programs, have elevated safety overall.
“Are we realizing those gains in Part 91 and 135 jet operations? Not yet,” DeLisi said, and traced through a series of fatal accidents that pointed to a need of many of the safety improvements already adopted by the airlines.
These included the June 25, 2015 crash of a Promech Air DHC-3 in Ketchikan, Alaska; the October 2, 2016 crash of a Hageland Aviation Services Cessna 208B in Togiak, Alaska; the November 10, 2015 crash of a Hawker 700A in Akron, Ohio; and most recently the May 15, 2017 crash of a Learjet 35A in Teterboro, New Jersey.
However, DeLisi expressed the belief that with the lessons learned, Part 91 and 135 operators can achieve those goals. “It’s not going to be easy but if our goal is to prevent fatal accidents, what a great roadmap has been laid out before us.”