From a humanitarian perspective, regional air transport suffered perhaps its most destructive 24-hour stretch in history last month. Three separate fatal accidents, all unrelated but for the category of aircraft they involved, shook the industry at a time it could least afford the negative reaction. Once rescuers finished counting, the death toll totaled 72 in Turkey, 46 in Peru and 21 in the U.S.
“One of the myths about the impact of automation on human performance is that as the investment in automation increases, the investment needed in human expertise decreases. In fact, increased automation creates new knowledge and skill requirements.”
–Dr. David Woods
Professor, Ohio State University;
technical advisor for FAA human-factors report
This year’s annual safety standdown– sponsored by Bombardier Aerospace, NBAA, the FAA and the NTSB, focused on more than procedure and technique. The three-day event (one day longer than in previous years) emphasized the need to initiate and sustain positive changes in behavior and cultural norms.
American Airlines and the copilot of Flight 587 are officially being blamed for the November 2001 crash of an Airbus A300 after the vertical tail separated in flight seconds after takeoff. More than 260 people were killed when the airliner fell into a New York City neighborhood.
The 24 deadly seconds of the Sept. 14, 1999, Dassault Falcon 900 in-flight upset are under scrutiny by the Athens First Degree Court. The trial, which started May 13, was expected to last several days and was still ongoing at press time. The court has been asked to decide if the accident was due to pilot error, a technical malfunction or a combination of the two.
Pilot error caused the February 26 crash of a King Air 200 in Southern Bosnia that killed Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, six of his aides and the two pilots, according to a Bosnian civil aviation directorate report.
New tools exist to prevent those accidents that most worry safety experts.
The flight instructor’s lack of experience was cited by the NTSB as causing the fatal crash of a Falcon 20 on April 8, 2003, in Swanton, Ohio. The crew was practicing ILS approaches in IMC with low clouds and rime ice. A first-officer-in-training occupied the right seat, while the instructor, serving as PIC, was in the left seat. On the second approach, the airplane stalled and crashed short of the runway.
Switzerland’s Federal Bureau of Air Accident Investigation, known as the BFU, identified pilot error as the cause of a Crossair Avro RJ100 accident on Nov. 24, 2001, near Bassersdorf, Switzerland, during an approach to Zurich Airport. However, investigators also pointed to external deficiencies at other levels.
Ask any flight department manager his top operational priority and the number-one answer is running a safe operation. But today, we still face a dilemma that’s been with us for decades. Dr. Jerome Berlin, a consulting aviation psychologist says, “Twenty-five years ago, we started to see changes to the causes of accidents.