The NBAA Safety Committee has identified the Association’s Top Safety Focus Areas for 2016, highlighting a number of priorities in support of a greater commitment to business aviation safety standards. These safety issues, developed from the committee’s data-driven annual risk assessment, are grouped into three areas – Top Safety Issues, Safety Hazards, and Foundations for Safety. These focus areas are intended to help promote safety-enhancing discussions and initiatives within flight departments and among owner-flown operations.
Top Safety Issues
Accident rates are consistently higher for single pilot-operated aircraft. A single pilot is 30% more likely to be involved in an accident than a dual-pilot crew, and in 2014 most fixed-wing business aviation accidents were flown by single pilots. Owner-flown business aircraft are operationally unique and face a distinct set of challenges. Single pilots generally have a sole responsibility for the overall enterprise supported by that aircraft, and they often lack the necessary guidance and clear procedures along with a set of standards against which to measure. Single pilot operations are more susceptible to task saturation, and when task saturation increases, so too does the number of errors and risk for Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT), for example. These problems can be compounded by fatigue and other fitness for duty concerns. 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.
With Loss of Control – In Flight (LOC-I) accidents resulting in more fatalities in business and commercial operations than any other category of accident over the last decade, reducing these events is a priority of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the FAA and aviation professional organizations across the globe. A Boeing study noted that 16 LOC-I 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 continues to target the issue on its 2016 “Most Wanted” list of safety improvements, citing its linkage in over 40 percent of fixed-wing general aviation accidents from 2001 to 2014. Business aviation LOC-I 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 LOC-I risks. Learn more about LOC-I.
Most business aviation accidents occur in the landing phase. About one third are runway excursions, making this the most common business aviation accident category. 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. Learn more about runway excursions.
While flying, pilots are trained to understand their responsibilities and maintain vigilance when it comes to avoiding collisions with other aircraft. The concept of see-and-avoid is prescribed in FAR Part-91, 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, and individuals operating on the airport surface may or may not be aware of just how acute the hazards of ground operations really are. The industry continues to see a number of collisions at airports where aircraft are involved. While these incidents result in a very low number of fatalities, the costs associated with aircraft repairs, including time out of service and diminution of value 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 safety issue. Learn more about hangar and ground safety.
Professional aviators are duty bound to comply with federal, state, local and international regulations, company policies and manufacturer procedures. Yet non-compliance remains a significant contributing factor in many 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. But there is an important difference between procedural mistakes and intentional omissions, and it’s incumbent upon safety professionals to identify and mitigate the real issue – reckless behavior.
Too much to do without enough time, tools or resources leads to the inability to focus, assess risk and manage threats and errors. Distractions have caused many business aviators performing safety-sensitive functions to loose situational awareness of the task at hand, which often result in accidents and incidents. Mitigation of this hazard requires proactive management of distractions from duty, chief among them personal electronic devices, personal stressors, and work pressures not germane to the primary safety-sensitive function. Here’s what we’ve said about distractions before.
Operational demands in business aviation are 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.
Task saturation is having too much to do without enough time tools or resources to do it. It occurs when an individual or team is pressed with too many competing information priorities for his/her/their time and attention. Often task saturation results in a loss of situational awareness, an increased number of errors, and this hazard is only compounded by fatigue. Automation confusion, failing to proactively manage anticipated tasks in the cockpit, the hangar or the office, are just a couple common precursors to task saturation. Learn more about Task Saturation.
Birds and wildlife pose a significant hazard to all aircraft, but business aviation aircraft are at a higher risk for strikes 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 aircraft 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.
Intentional Laser Strikes
Despite the threat of fines and criminal penalties, laser attacks on aircraft continue to increase exponentially. In 2015, more than 6,000 incidents were reported to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), over 2,000 more incidents than in 2014, and more than 15 times as many as the 384 reports in 2006 when the agency started keeping records. While to date there have been no known accidents caused by what the FAA calls “laser illumination of aircraft,” incidents causing distractions, temporary blindness, and even long-term eye damage by pilots are on the rise. It is important to ensure that flight crews understand and comply with the most appropriate ways to mitigate the hazard that intentional laser strikes pose.
Overall demand for airspace continues to increase. Weather impacts traffic flow in already-congested terminal airspace, and the introduction of NextGen technologies, such as complex arrival and departure procedures, can create challenges for crews. Pilots need to remain vigilant for near-miss threats from other aircraft and small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operated outside of the current regulations and guidelines. Continued awareness and professionalism is absolutely required by all stakeholders to ensure aviation safety. Find out more about NextGen and the FAA’s UAS Implementation Plan.
Pilot Deviations (PDs) involve actions taken or not taken by a pilot, either on the ground or en route, which result in a violation of a Federal Aviation Regulation. These violations which can occur as often as 5,000 times in a given year, are shared equally among all certificate holders. In some reports, nearly half of all PDs represent violations by Commercial and ATP-rated pilots. Gross navigational errors, including altitude or heading deviations, exceeding an airspeed, TFR penetrations, or deviating from published SIDs and STARs remain a stubborn hazard in our national airspace system, and results from the 2016 Risk Assessment Survey noted a strong concern in this area. Pilots need to mitigate these risks with proper flight planning, communications and remaining alert in all phases of flight.
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 safety management systems and benchmark your risk management policies against industry peers using data from over 800 business aviation professionals collected in the 2016 Business Aviation Safety Survey.
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.