27 Sep 08 Runway Incursion Safety Hazards

Runway safety stakeholders briefed the the House Subcommittee on Aviation yesterday. Current safety hazards include aircraft and vehicles coming dangerously close to each other during takeoffs, landings and other runway operations, a hazard known as a runway incursion.
Many of the incursions involve fully loaded airliners at critical landing and takeoff points. Air Line Pilots Association President Capt. John Prater told the committee about one incident just last week. "Less than a week ago, two ALPA pilots rejected a high-speed takeoff when they saw a small Cessna still on the runway, swerving their airliner to avoid a collision in Allentown, Pa. According to the [National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)], the crew estimated that they missed the Cessna by as little as 10 feet. "Going that speed, that’s just a blink of an eye."
A 2007 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report points to overworked and fatigued air traffic controllers as one reason air travelers face a high risk of a catastrophic runway collision. An April 2007 report by the NTSB also found controller fatigue affects runway safety.
Prater challenged both the government and the airline industry to join the union in setting a goal of zero incursions. But he added,
"When it comes to airline safety, the bottom line is that demanding schedules, inadequate rest periods and insufficient or inaccurate information can degrade the performance of even the most seasoned pilot or controller."
Prater pointed to ALPA’s “Hold Short for Runway Safety” campaign launched in February as one of the union’s tools to improve runway safety. The campaign, including an interactive website, has "encouraged our pilots to increase their vigilance when they are sitting at the controls of their airliner—on the ground and in the air." He said many new technologies are available that can help improve runway safety, but there are funding challenges to bring those on line, especially for the cash-strapped airline industry. In the near term, he said solutions include improved cockpit, tower and runway procedures and training, as well as new technologies, better markings and signage at the nation’s.
Adapted from: AFL-CIO Now Mike Hall

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05 Sep 08 EU authorities seek to promote air safety

(Associated Press WorldStream Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BRUSSELS, Belgium. The Delta Airlines Boeing 767 was cleared for takeoff and started rolling when the pilots spotted a 747 jumbo jet being towed across their runway. They hit the brakes and turned onto an adjacent taxiway. The incident in 1998 at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport caused only a brief departure delay for the Delta jet. Controllers reported the aborted takeoff, later determined to have resulted from poor visibility and a misunderstanding of the position of the towing truck by a trainee controller, and measures were taken to prevent any repeat. But two years later, Dutch prosecutors brought criminal negligence charges against three controllers. Lengthy legal proceedings led to their eventual conviction, although no sentence was imposed and the controllers later returned to their jobs.

"The immediate result of that prosecution was that voluntary reporting of safety incidents in the Netherlands broke down overnight, and the number of reports dropped by 50 percent," said Fiona McFadden, a spokeswoman for the European Cockpit Association, a pilots' umbrella group. Analysts say that the prompt identification of errors or hazards and potential or actual incidents are a fundamental element of air safety management. But recent surveys have revealed that in Europe and elsewhere, such incidents are increasingly going unreported because aviation professionals fear prosecution or punishment by management for their supposed mistakes. Currently, automatic prosecution is standard practice in many parts of the world. This practice recently was highlighted in France, where two Americans and three French citizens were charged in connection with the 2000 Concorde crash. In contrast, the United States already has in place a relatively successful Aviation Safety Reporting System. Established in 1975 by NASA, the system collects, analyzes and responds to voluntarily submitted but confidential aviation incident reports to reduce accidents and improve safety. The reporting rate is huge, about 500,000 reports in 30 years, because NASA databases have until now been protected against prying by legal authorities and employers. But experts say the American model cannot be easily replicated in Europe or other countries with different judicial systems. They also point out that civil lawsuits following an accident are far more common in America than in Europe because of differing legal systems.

In response, aviation groups, including Eurocontrol, the continent's Brussels-based air navigation agency, and the European Cockpit Association, have launched efforts to protect pilots, controllers, engineers and other operators. The European Commission, the European Union's head office, also is in the process of revising its directives on accident investigation to ensure that voluntary reporting of problems does not become tantamount to self-incrimination.
"The problem is determining the line between behavior that's not prosecutable, like the controllers in Amsterdam where there was clearly no negligence. and truly egregious behavior," said Sydney Drekker, a professor at Sweden's Lund Aviation University. For example, if a pilot makes a hard landing he'll likely be reluctant to report it if he fears that he will be sanctioned. But this could cause damage to the landing gear or airframe, and might adversely affect safety conditions for the next crew flying that plane.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. agency overseeing civil aviation, is now considering enforcing its recommending that prosecutions and punishments be restricted in order to encourage more open reporting. ICAO will tackle the issue at a key conference in Montreal in October. A draft resolution emphasizes that investigations should not be used for purposes other than accident and incident prevention. It will also address the apparently conflicting goals of finding facts and finding faults in safety-related incidents. Ahead of that meeting, Eurocontrol has taken the lead in formulating the new standards and defining a concept known as Just Culture, a practice where operators are only punished for gross negligence or willful violations.
"Do we want to wait to learn only from disasters themselves, or do we want to learn from lower-level incidents reported to us by front-enders such as pilots, controllers or engineers," said Dragica Stankovic, a safety expert at Eurocontrol. The goal should be to encourage a culture of transparency, rather than cover-ups, by allowing employees to freely report occurrences that happened to them or to their colleagues without fear of self-incrimination, Stankovic said.
Statistics on non-reporting of incidents are notoriously difficult to come by because of the reluctance of participants to volunteer such information.
But an anonymous survey conducted during a European aviation safety workshop in 2006 involving 130 representatives from national regulators, air traffic controllers' groups, pilots' organizations and investigators, found that that 36 percent of respondents feared legal sanctions resulting from national legislation. Another 31 percent were reluctant to report errors mainly due to concerns about the reaction of their company management. Other factors cited included professional pride (12 percent), the complexity of the reporting system (3 percent), the lack of follow-up (8 percent), cultural reasons (6 percent), and even the fear of being exposed in the media (2 percent).

"Prosecutors and managers must balance factors for and against prosecution carefully and fairly. A prosecution is less likely to be needed if the offense was committed as a result of a genuine mistake or misunderstanding," said Antonio Licu, safety manager at Eurocontrol.

Source: TMC

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