The NBAA Safety Committee has identified the Association’s Top Safety Focus Areas for 2015, highlighting a number of priorities in support of a greater commitment to business aviation safety standards. These safety priorities, grouped into three areas – Top Safety Issues, Safety Hazards, and Foundations for Safety – are intended to help promote safety-enhancing discussions and initiatives within flight departments and among owner-flown operations.
Top Safety Issues
Loss of Control in Flight
With loss of control in flight (LOCI) accidents resulting in more fatalities in business and commercial operations than any other category of accident over the last decade, reducing LOCI incidents is a priority of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and aviation professional organizations across the globe. A Boeing study noted that 16 LOCI commercial jet accidents from 2004 to 2013 resulted in 1,576 fatalities, which is nearly twice the number in the next highest category. The NTSB targets the issue on its 2015 “Most Wanted” list of safety improvements, citing its linkage in over 40 percent of fixed-wing general aviation accidents from 2001 to 2011. Business aviation LOCI accidents are a subset of those across the broader GA spectrum, and the alarming consistency of catastrophic outcomes in this type of accident compels an effort to better understand and control LOCI risks. Learn more about LOCI.
Most business aviation accidents occur in the landing phase. About one third are runway excursions, making this the most common business aviation accident. Despite efforts to improve it, the worldwide business aviation excursion accident rate has changed little over the last decade, hovering around 3.6 per million flights or some 60 percent higher than the corresponding commercial aviation rate. Runway excursions are often survivable, but that does not diminish this towering safety concern. The relentless frequency of excursions – by some estimates two per week worldwide – drives a staggering annual injury and damage toll estimated at $900 million industry-wide. The sting is made more acute by the fact that most excursions are preventable, based on well-identified risk factors, aircraft performance considerations and recommended defenses. Shifting perceptions and behaviors to increase the procedural adoption of approach and landing best practices in business aviation represent difficult challenges still ahead. Review the NBAA safety resource: Reducing Business Aviation Runway Excursions..
Business aviation operational demands require 24-hour activities that can include shift work, night work, irregular and unpredictable work schedules and time zone changes. These factors challenge human physiology and can result in performance-impairing fatigue and an increased risk to safety. Scientific information and practical experience with fatigue, human sleep and circadian physiology can improve aviation safety by providing guidance in mitigating and managing factors that contribute to fatigue in operational settings. Fatigue is affected by length of flight and duty time, light exposure and stresses outside of work. It can reduce an aviation professional’s capacity for work, reduce efficiency of accomplishment and is usually accompanied by feelings of weariness and tiredness. Fatigue is dangerous because individuals are not able to reliably detect their personal degree of impairment due to fatigue. Learn more about fatigue.
Professional aviators are duty bound to comply with federal, state, local and international regulations, company policies and manufacturer procedures. Yet non-compliance remains as a significant contributing factor in aircraft accidents and incidents. It is imperative that business aviators in all vocational categories become aware of the extent that non-compliance has proliferated in business aviation, identify the causal factors for non-compliance and develop workable solutions that eliminate non-compliance events. Review information on strengthening procedural compliance, part of the 2015 NTSB Most Wanted List. Review the NBAA Safety Committee’s Procedural Non-Compliance resource.
Distraction and Technology Management
Too much to do without enough time, tools or resources leads to the inability to focus, assess risk and manage threats and errors. New technologies are continuously introduced into the aviation industry. Without proper training, these technologies introduce additional risk into the operation. However, when properly trained, business aviation professionals can use new technology to drastically improve situational awareness. Achieving and maintaining situational awareness while experiencing personal stress or pressure at work is key to successful business aviation operations. Learn more about how crew resource management (CRM) can help prevent task saturation.
Overall demand for airspace continues to rise. Weather impacts traffic flow in busy terminal airspace, and the introduction of NextGen technologies, such as complex arrival and departure procedures, can create challenges for aircrew. Pilots need to remain vigilant for near-miss threats from other aircraft and small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operated outside of current regulations and guidelines. Continued vigilance and professionalism is absolutely required by all stakeholders to ensure aviation safety. Find out more about NextGen and the FAA’s UAS Implementation Plan.
Single Pilot Task Saturation
Accident rates are consistently higher for single pilot-operated aircraft. Owner-flown aircraft face unique challenges: unique responsibility for the overall enterprise the aircraft supports and often a lack of guidance and clear procedures for the pilot without a set standard to measure against, among others. Single pilot operations are more susceptible to task saturation, and when task saturation increases, so does the number of errors. These problems can be compounded by fatigue. The necessity to arm pilots with the tools, training and proficiency to safely manage single-pilot operations has become more important than ever. Review NBAA’s Light Business Airplane Flight Operations Manual template.
Birds and Wildlife
Birds and wildlife pose a significant hazard to all aircraft, but more so to business aviation aircraft than any other aircraft. Business aviation operators often operate high performance aircraft at airports without air traffic control towers or with lower numbers of flight operations compared to larger airports, where established mitigation programs help to ensure a flight path and runway free of wildlife. Additionally, many of the airports used by business aviation operators may not be well equipped to deal with a wildlife-related aircraft emergency, should one occur, which may result in a significant increase in losses or damages. Review NBAA’s wildlife strike resources.
Ground Handling Collisions
While flying, pilots are trained and understand their responsibilities when it comes to avoiding collisions with other aircraft, and air traffic controllers help to ensure separation of aircraft; however, movement of vehicles and aircraft on non-controlled airport surfaces brings about unique challenges, in which individuals operating on the airport surface may or may not be aware of just how acute the hazards of operating a vehicle really are. The industry continues to see a number of collisions at airports with aircraft involved. While these incidents result in a very low number of fatalities, the costs involved in these incidents to repair the aircraft and account for the downtime and diminution of value of the aircraft are significant. Common scenarios include collisions by vehicles moving on the airport surface with parked aircraft and aircraft coming into contact with other aircraft, buildings or fixtures on the airport. Anyone operating a vehicle or moving an aircraft on the airport surface has a responsibility to exercise increased vigilance to mitigate this hazard. Learn more about hangar and ground safety.
Foundations for Safety
Professionalism is the pursuit of excellence through discipline, ethical behavior and continuous improvement. It is a cornerstone focus of active safety management where professional behaviors rule and safe actions become a byproduct. Professionalism is about who we are and how we approach everything that we do. Learn more about professionalism in business aviation.
The entire organization must work together to fully embrace a proactive safety mindset supported by a “just culture” and evidenced by not only participation and belief in the culture, but the willingness to share safety data with fellow aviation professionals. This second foundation for safety highlights the need for an effective set of beliefs, values, attitudes and practices from executive management to the flight line. Review NBAA’s safety leadership resources.
On a daily basis, business aviation operators must effectively identify, analyze and eliminate or mitigate the hazards and associated risks that threaten the viability of the organizations for which they operate. Learn more about risk management and safety management systems. Learn more about the results of the Safety Committee’s 2015 risk-assessment survey.
Fitness for Duty
In a physically and mentally demanding environment, a clear mind and healthy body is essential to safe business aircraft operation, maintenance and management. Operators must address fatigue, sleep apnea, improper use of medications and many other physical and psychological aeromedical issues. Learn more in NBAA’s “‘Fit for Duty’ Isn’t Just for Pilots” article.
The common denominator for excellence in aviation decision making, risk management and flight path management is training. Improved business aviation training will lead to a reduction in loss of control, runway excursions and other business aviation accidents. Training programs need to address the skill sets required of business aviation professionals today in a way that teaches them new skills and sharpens old ones. Review NBAA’s Training Management System Guide.