Loss of control in flight (LOC-I) is a serious risk to aviation safety, but it is just one of many risks facing New Zealand’s Commercial Aircraft Operators.
LOC- I featured on day one of the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA’s) joint Flight Path Monitoring Seminar and associated Sector Risk Workshops.
NZALPA representatives were amongst the key stakeholders at the 8-9 March event, for which large and medium commercial aircraft operators and other stakeholders came together to look at LOC-I and to identify the key risks facing the sector.
Day one’s Flight Path Monitoring Seminar featured 12 thought-provoking presentations on the topic of LOC-I from subject matter experts as well as operators, said NZALPA Senior Technical Director David Reynolds, who attended the seminar and workshop.
Presentations included those from Airways New Zealand, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia.
“The challenge we face regarding loss of control centres around automation and the way people interact with it,” said Reynolds.
Loss of control can just be when the aircraft "isn’t doing what you want it to do”, “not reacting as you would expect” or “misinterpreting the technology”, Reynolds added.
“Essentially it’s about the pilot losing touch with the aircraft and its operation. Losing control totally could potentially, as we have seen, end with catastrophic results.”
The seminar focused on identifying related risks, highlighting potential solutions and mitigations, and putting these in place with a view to preventing such accidents.
A key mitigation highlighted is ‘active participation’ by keeping pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) interacting actively and regularly with automation technology.
“It’s all about keeping the pilot and ATC officer, despite the automation, engaged and involved with what’s going on,” Reynolds said.
“It’s much easier to rectify a situation if you are aware of the aircrafts state – in particular its energy.
“Regular interaction with the aircraft and/or the associated systems actively assist you in maintaining situational awareness and preventing or reducing ‘startle’. ‘Startle’ or surprise causes the brain to ‘dump’ information and to causes dulling of the senses – sometimes up to 30% of your hearing capacity is lost almost instantly.
“Simulations have shown pilots not hearing clear aural warnings when in this startled state. Keeping engaged and remaining up to speed not only mitigates loss of control, but aids in recovery from it too”.
Day two looked at the risks facing large and medium air transportation.
“With rapid and never ending change in the industry, aviation rules and regulations are quickly becoming out of date,” Reynolds said.
“Instead of re-writing legislation, which will never cover everything, or ever be fully up to date, the industry as a whole and globally is moving toward managing its risks by ‘performance-based regulation’ and risk management.”
The purpose of the workshop was to capture the knowledge, experience and perceptions of key stakeholders within the sector, and the underlying influences on safety within the sector, to build a Sector Risk Profile (SRP). This will produce a picture of the risks likely to be impacting the sector, its activities, services, and organisations and their activities.
Once developed, the SRP would inform the CAA about where it should focus its regulatory activity and inform operators about where they should focus their Safety Management System (SMS) resources. This ‘first stage’ then would identify the risks that will feed into building up the profile.
For NZALPA, the risks associated with runway overruns are high. Adequate safety areas and mitigations in the form of RESA and EMAS are readily available and it is one risk that is very easily mitigated by these technologies.
“It was a collaborative day; it was an open, frank and honest discussion,” Reynolds said.
“It was a workshop that highlighted the need to work together and challenge some of our current regulations and processes.
“It was obvious that the CAA wanted to be challenged and I think that’s exactly the attitude we will need to see when it comes to identifying and reducing risk in the sector. We will continue to work closely with the CAA and other stakeholders on the related activities, which includes a follow-up workshop this month.”
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