Bombardier brings ‘war on error’ to Europe

EBACE Convention News » 2007
May 10, 2007, 6:28 AM

Bombardier is to hold its first Safety Standdown event in Europe at the end of this week’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition here in Geneva. The gathering will consist of a full day of seminars at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (next to the Palexpo convention center) on Friday, May 25, preceded by a reception on Thursday evening.

Safety Standdown is usually held in Wichita, Kansas, and promotes knowledge-based training and personal discipline for flight crews. The seminars are open to all pilots regardless of the type of aircraft they operate and is offered by the Canadian airframer free of charge. As of press time, almost 100 pilots had registered for the first European event and Bombardier has said that it can still accept more as long as space is available (almost half of those registered are not flying Bombardier aircraft).

The safety experts set to participate in the Geneva seminar are aviation psychologist Dr. Jerome Berlin, former NASA astronaut Capt. Gene Cernan (the last man to walk on the moon), airmanship specialist Dr. Tony Kern and fatigue expert Dr. Mark Rosekind. More information is available at www.safetystanddown.com.

Safety Standdown was conceived by Bombardier Business Aircraft director of flight operations Bob Agostino. It started in 1996, when the event was first offered to
the company’s Learjet flight demonstration team. Since then, the Standdown has expanded from company Learjet pilots to Bombardier customers and, in recent years, pilots, operators and maintenance staff from commercial, military and corporate aviation.

“Our baseline philosophy is that this is not a marketing event and we are here to give fundamental advice on how to prevent accidents,” Agostino told EBACE Convention News. “Human error rates aren’t changing, and with the huge growth of [business aviation] traffic in Europe, we feel this is the right time to come here.

“Even if the industry could build the perfect aircraft in terms of safety, this would fix only 20 percent of the [safety] problem [leaving 80 percent of accidents accounted for by human error]. We want to go down to about 5 or 6 percent,” said Agostino.

The Safety Standdown events aim to cover topics that are not included in standard simulator training, but they are certainly not intended to diminish the importance of simulator time. “We’re trying to get pilots to think about these issues,” said Agostino.

The annual events in Wichita now span five days, including associated workshops covering aircraft maintenance responsibilities. “If this first event in Europe is well received, we are willing to expand it,” said Agostino.

Addressing a recent Safety Standdown event held in the Washington, D.C. area,
Kern, the CEO of Convergent Knowledge Solutions, announced that his company is launching a pilot reliability certification course to “standardize and create a known competence culture.” The goal of the program is to “reduce the industry mishap rate by 50 percent, without negatively impacting operational effectiveness or profit-making capability.”

Strategically, he said, “the intent is to dramatically reduce human error.” Pilots who receive credentials from the certification course should enjoy lower insurance rates and be more attractive to companies seeking people with their skills. The curriculum will cover aviation ethics, flight discipline, fundamentals of personal error prevention, crew/cockpit resource management, operational risk management and airmanship.

More important than basic stick-and-rudder skill, Kern explained, is the ability to grow and learn. One method is what Kern calls personal error prevention, using an error-tracking log to figure out why errors happened and how to prevent them using standard operating procedures. “Think of a mistake that you made,” he told the pilots, “and write it down, then build personal SOPs [standard operating procedures] to prevent those errors.”

Fatigue Countermeasures
Rosekind, president and chief scientist of Alertness Solutions, also spoke at the Washington gathering, sharing knowledge from his extensive studies of sleep and alertness issues, including the effects of multiple time-zone travel. “Disrupt your clock and you will pay for it,” he said.

In his studies, Rosekind has tried to assess how fatigue relates to accidents. “Fall-asleep accidents are pretty rare,” he noted. A more likely factor in accidents is sleep-debt. “If you don’t get the sleep you need, whatever you lose builds a debt.” And the debt is cumulative, adding up night after sleepless night. The greater the debt, the greater the chance of reduced performance.

Sleep-debt can’t be overcome by simply “bulling” through important stay-awake periods, he emphasized. Rosekind did say that pilots can split their major daily sleep period into two chunks, if needed, without a severe effect on performance. If an eight-hour sleep is normal, then splitting that into six hours and two hours should work fine.

Forcing oneself to stay awake can work for only a short period of time, up to 10 minutes. When the body needs sleep, Rosekind said, “You can’t force yourself to stay awake even for life. Your brain can shut you down.

“Planned naps are the one thing that addresses the physiological need,” he said. The healthiest solution is regular sleep and wake times and a regular pre-sleep routine, he added.

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