Sweeping the Dirt Under the Carpet…

Why the European Union is blocking access to safety records?

On an unexpected, not so transparent move, the European Union will begin blocking public access to the aircraft incident reports – MOR’s – Mandatory Occurrence Reports that were previously released under the Freedom of Information Act.

To understand it better, these Incident Reports include all ground and flight operations of an aircraft such as an aircraft collision with a vehicle or a building, runway excursions, bird strikes, loss of control, extreme turbulence, near mid-air, ATC conflicts, or any other event that is not a catastrophic crash.

In the U.S., the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board provides public access to all incidents and accidents reports through their website, these reports include all occurrences and are considered a valuable tool on the learning process of every professional pilot.

Some guy sitting behind a desk took this decision on benefit of who? Airplane manufacturer? ATC? Government? The argument is that public gets scared if they read the bad news. This is totally untrue, millions of persons around the world take an airplane everyday to go on a business trip, vacations, etc., knowing that is the fastest way to go from one place to another. Same as millions of persons take their car and use the roads knowing that car accidents still are have the highest score on human life loss.

Remember the old saying? “Learn from others mistakes, you wont live long enough to make them all yourself” Absolutely true, prevention is rule number one in aviation, but unfortunately 100 % safe does not exist, precisely because we are humans. And as humans prone to errors.
Those errors have contributed to form the foundation, for example, of CRM – Crew Resource Management.

Up until now only incidents or accidents reports that involve military or government aircraft, police, etc., are keep sometimes confidential for national security reasons. All events that involve civilian aircraft, either private or of public transport must be reported and investigated to know the causes of the occurrence and avoid it happen again.

We don’t need only a tragic occurrence or a catastrophic crash as a source of information for prevention. Thousands of small events that happen everyday feed the basket of information used by everyone involved in aviation to develop safety procedures.

Many people considered aberrant this initiative from the EU is already taking actions to stop it.

We all hope this big step back never happen.

Capt. Ivan

Life Goes On…..

….long time away from here, life and events go very fast. My last post at Cockpit Chatter was last year. Not easy to keep writing on a regular basis, specially when schedules are tight and work is hard.

Sometimes an event can hit you like a hard slap in your face and make you feel that you have been lucky to survive up until here. Can make you think that better be careful, try to learn from other’s mistakes and approach every flying day with a learning attitude or next time you may be not so lucky.

Carlos was not a good pilot, he was an extraordinary good pilot. Retired from a major airline, he flew all kind of jets during his career. Good sense of humor, addicted to teach to the first one showing interest in flying, he gave more than once some flight tips that I still use today. A guy capable of flying a Boeing 727 in the morning, a single engine Cessna in the afternoon and a helicopter at the end of the day. Being the kind of guy that cannot stay home after retirement he became a hangar rat flying everything that was within reach and sharing his knowledge with the young generations.

But he was also addicted to fly on the edge and when you fly always on the edge even a small mistake can end everything. The water of the lake was too close from the helicopter’s skid to react on a timely manner.

See you in the clouds someday Carlos, we will always remember you and your harmonica on the ATC frequency.

On the other hand everything is Ok, same news, little lessons learned from recent accidents. US airlines continue blaming the pilot’s shortage on the 1.500 hrs. requirement, not assuming that even working in a McDonald’s you get more salary than flying an airliner. The aviation industry tries to squeeze their expenses as much as they can on an sector where profit margins are very slim.

None wants to go to the root of the problem, because solutions involved mean development and training, in other words: More investment.

Autopilots are blamed on poor pilots performance. Good criteria, understanding and skills are obtained only through experience. How can you define three professionals stalling a perfectly airworthy airliner on a beautiful sunny day? Since the moment we became fixed wing pilots we all knew that speed and altitude is life. Seems that some people seated on modern aircraft cockpits still need to understand this.

Life goes on…

Capt. Ivan

INDIA – How to Get a Pilot License After 35 Min in the Air.

Anupam Verma has a certificate that shows he has flown an aircraft for 360 hours. He says he got it after sitting in the co-pilot’s seat for just 35 minutes.

He’s one of dozens of pilots in the country who obtained certificates showing inflated flying hours and ground training, according to court documents and interviews with pilots, regulators and industry analysts. The son of a poor farmer, Verma was given a 2.8 million-rupee ($44,000) subsidy by the Indian government to learn to fly a commercial jet.

“What if I was flying and had an emergency? I wouldn’t even know how or where to land,” Verma, 25, said in an interview. “We’d kill not only the passengers, but we might crash in a village and kill even more people.”

The spotlight on aviation safety has swung from aircraft reliability to pilot reliability in the past few years after a series of disasters that were thought to be either deliberate acts of destruction, or the result of inadequate training. The latest, in March, killed 150 people when Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appears to have locked his captain out of the cockpit and flown his jet into a mountain.

Concern about the quality of India’s pilots has been building over the past decade as a proliferation of budget airlines created demand for hundreds of new pilots. In 2011, the government reviewed the licenses of all 4,000-plus airline pilots in the country, as police investigated at least 18 people suspected of using forged documents to win promotions or certification. The findings of the review were not made public.

India Under Fire for Quality of Airline Pilots
“The fudging of log books is rampant both in airlines and in flying clubs,” said Mohan Ranganathan, a former commercial pilot and aviation safety consultant based in Chennai. He said the 2011 audit found violations in most flying clubs in the country. “Hours were logged with aircraft not even in airworthy condition. One aircraft had no engines but several hundred hours were logged.”
Asked about the continued use of fake certificates, India’s Director General of Civil Aviation, M. Sathiyavathy, said on April 24 the directorate would be conducting a new audit that would require the “recertification of all the flying schools.”

Fake Flying
Over logging has been common practice in India since the 1960s, according to a retired commander who has flown in India for over 40 years and asked not to be named because the information was confidential. With the increase in budget airlines the typical number of faked hours rose from about 20 hours to a peak of as much as 150, he said.

He said airlines can soon tell if a pilot has faked certificates because they don’t have basic skills, but the carrier can’t fire them because they have DGCA licenses. To bring them up to scratch, airlines have to do expensive corrective training, he said.

Of India’s seven major airlines, Tata SIA Airlines Ltd.’s Vistara said it is aware of over logging, but tests all new pilots and provides its own training. SpiceJet Ltd. said it only hires from prestigious air schools and tests and trains all new pilots. IndiGo, Air India Ltd., Jet Airways India Ltd. and AirAsia India Ltd. didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls about the issue. Go Airlines India Pvt. Ltd. declined to comment.

The rise of budget carriers not only increased demand for pilots, it also sparked a price war that wiped out the industry’s profit. India’s carriers have lost $10 billion in the past seven years as they offered base fares as low as 1 rupee (2 cents). That works out as a loss of about $22 for each passenger that stepped on board during the period, according to the Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation.

Yet, for people like Verma, the award of a government grant to learn to fly is a chance to escape poverty. His father supports his family of seven by selling vegetables grown on a plot of land half the size of a football field. Most of his siblings only work part-time to supplement the income.

Yash Air
Verma enrolled in December 2009 at Yash Air, a flying school in the city of Indore, halfway between Mumbai and Delhi. On his first day, he said he was taken on a 35-minute “air-experience” flight to give him a feel of what it was like to be in a plane. Moments after the aircraft landed, he was handed a certificate of flying for 360 hours, he said in an interview on June 1. He said he was told he will do the actual flying later during the course, but that he eventually flew for just 3 hours at the school.

When Verma and other trainee pilots realized they weren’t going to gain the necessary flying experience, they complained to the school and Verma sued for return of the money he paid. The Allahabad High Court ordered that his fees be returned, according to a court order in February this year.

“Several discrepancies have been noticed with regard to over logging of flight details, flight authorization, maintenance of various log books and fuel consumption registers,” according to a DGCA enquiry into the complaints about Yash Air, dated June 6, 2014, a copy of which was given to Bloomberg News.

On May 19, 2010, a qualified pilot from Yash Air took a trainee pilot on a “joy ride” in a Cessna-152 and hit a power line, according to the DGCA’s final report into the accident. The two-seater, single-engined trainer crashed into a dry river bed, splitting into five pieces and killing the men. They were both about 20 years old, according to the report, dated Dec. 17, 2010.

The owner and chief trainer at the school, Yash Raj Tongia, was appointed as the DGCA’s director of flying and training in 2011, even though his flying skills were “below standard,” the June 2014 DGCA report said.

Court Ruling
Yash Air changed its name to Centaur Aviation Academy Pvt. Ltd. after the allegations were made in 2010, according to the Allahabad High Court. Yash Air issued certificates to its students without conducting ground classes and flying training, the court said in December 2014.

Attempts to get the flying school or Tongia to comment on Verma’s claims were unsuccessful. Calls to Tongia’s mobile phone number listed in the court documents were unanswered. Kshemendra Shukla, one of the lawyers who represents Yash Air, said he doesn’t have any contact number for Tongia. He didn’t respond to questions concerning Yash Air.

Telephone numbers for Yash Air and Centaur Aviation were no longer in service. The DGCA said Centaur Aviation’s approval remains suspended.

Even with the minimum 200 hours mandated by the Indian government, pilots would be unlikely to have experienced all of the weather and other conditions they’re likely to meet flying a commercial jet, said Neil Hansford, an aviation consultant, who has worked in the industry in Asia, Europe and his home country, Australia since 1984.

Airlines should hire pilots with at least 1,000 hours of flying time and preferably match the 1,500 hours mandated by Qantas Airways Ltd., he said. Pilots in countries like Australia often gain years of experience in general aviation — delivering mail to remote areas, ferrying mine workers or in the Royal Flying Doctor Service — before flying jetliners.

That will test a pilot in a variety of conditions, so “when th chips are down, they still remember the basics of stick-and-rudder flying,” Hansford said. “The wrong time to be challenged is when you have 300 people behind you.”

Asian Carriers
For budget airlines in Asia, that’s often not an option. Singapore’s Tiger Airways Holding Ltd. said it hires holders of multi-crew or commercial pilot licenses with about 200 flying hours and then gives them further training.

Full-service carrier Asiana Airlines Inc., based in Seoul, looks for at least 300 hours, said spokesman Daewoong Im. “Realistically, it’s difficult to get a non-military person with more than 300 flying hours,” he said.

Carriers also use simulators and other ground training to improve pilots’ experience.

In India, many private Indian flying schools began as clubs that trained pilots without formal regulations. While schools in the U.S. use a Hobbs Meter, which automatically logs flight times and other data for training aircraft, some Indian schools still enter flight times by hand, making it easier to falsify data. Indian flying academies that falsify data run cars on aviation fuel to avoid a mismatch between flight times and fuel consumption, said three people who have worked directly with flying schools in the country.

India’s government has made successive efforts to stamp out false documentation and improve safety in the industry. After the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgraded India’s safety rating in 2014 on concerns over insufficient manpower, India hired more safety inspectors and carried out a fresh audit of its airlines. The FAA restored India to its top safety tier in April.

Fewer Accidents
Since 2000, the number of fatal aviation accidents in India has declined, data from Aviation Safety Network show. The last major airline disaster was in 2010, when an Air India Express plane overshot the runway in the city of Mangalore and burst into flames, killing 158 people.

India is putting in “a lot of effort” to ensure safety of airline passengers and student pilots, civil aviation chief Sathiyavathy told reporters on April 24. The DGCA didn’t respond to phone calls and text messages asking for comment on the issue of fake certificates.

That hasn’t stopped under-trained pilots applying for jobs with the nation’s biggest airlines. One qualified pilot, who asked not to be named because it may harm his career, said he completed fewer than 120 of the 200 hours his certificates say he has done. He said he is in the process of applying to fly for IndiGo, the nation’s biggest carrier.

Another pilot, who said his certificates showed an inflated number of hours for solo flights, applied to Air India.

Neither of the two pilots has been hired by the airlines.

As for Verma, he said he passed the entrance exam to the government-owned Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi in Uttar Pradesh. He’s looking forward to finally learning to fly this year.

Source: Anurak Kotoki – Bloomberg

Running Under Pressure: Lufthansa Announces “Random Medical Checks”

The unexpected can happen? Sure it can. Now Lufthansa is considering random medical checks for pilots, to help prevent any future disaster like the Germanwings crash that killed 150 people.

In a recent interview with a german newspaper, Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr announced medical checks for pilots could be introduced, which in terms of the surprise factor would be similar to doping tests for sports men and women.

It is suspected that Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot deliberately crashed a plane in the Alps in March. Until today its unclear why he did so.
Andreas Lubitz, 27, is thought to have suffered some sort of mental breakdown. Prosecutors in Duesseldorf found evidence of “an existing illness and appropriate medical treatment”. They found torn-up sick notes at his home.

Germanwings is a budget airline managed by Lufthansa.

He said that in certain cases a doctor might have to be released from the duty of confidentiality, to reveal concerns about a pilot. Random checks might for example detect a drug that the pilot had concealed from his or her employer.

Since the disaster Lufthansa and other airlines have ruled that there must always be at least two people in the cockpit.

It is interesting to know what selection criteria would be applied for these “ramdon medical checks”.

Air accident investigators have staged a test flight to reconstruct conditions on board the Germanwings Airbus A320 which disintegrated on a mountainside in the French Alps after being put into a controlled dive.

The German tabloid Bild says experts flew an identical plane, which took off from Hamburg and returned there after flying in German airspace. It took place on 12 May, a spokesman for Germany’s crash investigation authority BFU said.

French investigators say they hope the reconstruction will help them analyse sounds recorded in the cockpit of Flight 4U 9525. The flight copied the various altitudes, speeds, the cockpit door locking mechanism and pilots’ breathing noises.

Capt. Ivan

AUTOMATION: Do We Really Need Someone in the Cockpit?

The recent Germanwings disaster has once again reminded us that human pilots are not always failsafe. One only has to look back as far as 2012 to find examples of unruly pilots being subdued by passengers, and of course 9/11 highlighted the extremes of hijacking. With such incidents, the question is inevitably raised as to whether it is feasible or desirable to have commercial flights that do not require a human pilot.

Mary - Missy - Cummings is the Director of Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University.  She was a Navy Officer and military pilot from 1988-1999, one of US Navy first female fighter pilots.  She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials.  Alexander Simpson is a postdoctoral associate at Duke University working in the Humans and Autonomy Lab.

Mary – Missy – Cummings is the Director of Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University. She was a Navy Officer and military pilot from 1988-1999, one of US Navy first female fighter pilots. She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials. Alexander Simpson is a postdoctoral associate at Duke University working in the Humans and Autonomy Lab.

With the development of new automated technologies, the workload in the cockpit has been dramatically decreasing – so much so that pilots self-report only touching the controls for about three to seven minutes during a typical flight. In fact, there exists a standard approach category (CAT III) in which the pilot does not touch the flight controls during approach and landing. This category most commonly exists during severe weather (e.g., heavy fog), which creates the most difficult conditions for approach and landing. If left to human pilots with physiologic limits to vision and reaction times, these landings could not happen.

And while there are cases of heroic pilots saving aircraft in emergency situations (most notably the US Airways Hudson River landing in 2009), human pilot error is responsible for 80 percent of all accidents in military and commercial flights.

Given the central role human error plays in most aircraft accidents, and the fact that intentional malicious acts like those in the Germanwings incident are possible, it is relevant to ask what can be done in terms of automation to improve safety, as well as to reduce costs.

Many airlines and government organizations, including NASA, have already been investigating reducing the number of pilots on a standard commercial flight from two to one. World-fleet-wide, over a 20-year service life of an aircraft, this move has possible savings of $6.8 trillion.

From a technical standpoint, even current commercial aircraft are able to fly themselves through most or all phases of flight. Large drones the size of commercial aircraft routinely fly themselves from takeoff to landing, including conducting emergency landings when equipment fails.
Moving to single-pilot operations (S.P.O.), however, is very different from moving to pilotless aircraft. The idea of having no human pilot in the cockpit to deal with emergencies would likely not sit well with passengers. The concept of “shared fate” comes into play here: People are more comfortable with the idea that pilots in control will try their hardest to save their own lives, and thus save the lives of everyone on board. Given this psychological need, passengers will likely be resistant to the idea of having no pilot on the plane.

There are other reasons to maintain airline staff on board beyond flying the aircraft. Providing services and dealing with unruly passengers are just two of the items that require employees who are seen as a legitimate authority and keep order.

Because of this, what we may see is a transition of roles for the pilot and other staff on board commercial passenger aircraft. Instead of having a dedicated pilot, attendants may be required to be certified as pilots to allow them to both provide services in the cabin and be able to take over for the automation in the case of an emergency. The idea that one or more people on board are able to safely fly and land the aircraft may be enough to encourage acceptance of moving more and more functions to automation.

The shift to pilotless commercial passenger aircraft is not imminent, although commercial cargo does not suffer from the same limitations and will likely become fully automated in a shorter period of time.

The transition to single-pilot operations, however, is likely. Recent technological advancements in automation and the amount of money that could be saved by applying this technology make it a logical choice. The potential savings, coupled with both intentional and unintentional human error, will continue to motivate research and development in support of S.P.O., which will ultimately make for safer and more cost-effective air travel.

By: Mary Cummings and Alexander Stimpson; Former F-18 Pilot, U.S. Navy; Researcher, Duke University Humans and Autonomy Lab.

Video Cameras in the Cockpit. Another Lost Battle?

The debate over video cameras in airplane cockpits has just begun and is heating up, after a list of high profile aviation disasters raised authorities concerns over available information to accident investigators.

According to the Wall Street Journal, ICAO is planning a big push this year to install video cameras in airliner cockpits, although the discussion over the additional technology will likely take years; the regulation will ultimately fall into the hands of individual countries.

Airline pilots and unions have long opposed cockpit video cameras, arguing that images or footage may be used not only with the purpose of an accident investigation. Pilots fundament that the information provided by the CVR – Cockpit Voice Recorder and the FDR – Flight Data Recorder — neither of which collect visual information — is enough to carry on an investigation. Other concerns are that the cameras may be also used for routine monitoring of pilots.

Last week, Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, stated in front of a Senate panel that in the crashes of SilkAir Flight 185 and EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1997 and 1999, respectively, information from cockpit cameras would have been able to confirm the suspected pilot suicides. Instead, both investigations turned up inconclusive despite strong evidence of a deliberate crash.

Capt. Ivan

FAA – Boeing 787 Software Bug Can Cause a Complete Electrical Shutdown.

The FAA – Federal Aviation Administration issued an AD – Airworthiness Directive to warn over a software bug that causes a complete electric shutdown of Boeing’s 787 and potentially “loss of control” of the aircraft.
image

In the latest of a long line of problems plaguing the Dreamliner, which saw the company’s fleet grounded over battery issues and concerns raised over possible hacking vulnerabilities, the new software bug was found in plane’s generator-control units.

The plane’s electrical generators fall into a failsafe mode if kept continuously powered on for 248 days. The 787 has four such main generator-control units that, if powered on at the same time, could fail simultaneously and cause a complete electrical shutdown.

“We are issuing this AD [airworthiness directive] to prevent loss of all AC electrical power, which could result in loss of control of the aeroplane,” said the Federal Aviation Administration directive. “If the four main generator control units (associated with the engine-mounted generators) were powered up at the same time, after 248 days of continuous power, all four GCUs will go into failsafe mode at the same time, resulting in a loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase.”

Should the electrical shutdown happen at a critical phase in flight such as take-off or landing, or while manoeuvring in the air, the loss of control could be catastrophic.

The FAA considered the situation critical and issued the new rule without allowing time for comment. Boeing is working on a software upgrade for the control units that should rectify the bug.

“The airworthiness directive action addresses a condition that only occurred in the lab. Simulated testing determined that this condition is possible in cases where an aeroplane’s power is left on for more than eight continuous months. No airplane in the fleet experienced that condition,” a Boeing spokesman told the Guardian.

According to Boeing’s records, all of the 787s currently in service have been turned off and turned on again as part of maintenance. The FAA’s directive mandates action recommended by Boeing on 19 April.

“If there is a definitive record of a powercycle within the last 120 days, no operator action is immediately required. Operators will perform periodic power cycling at scheduled intervals until incorporating a software update. Boeing will issue in the fourth quarter of 2015,” said the Boeing spokesman.

Capt. Ivan

Meet the New ANA’s R2-D2 Dreamliner

An airplane painted to look like R2-D2 could be part of the promotion for the soon to be released Star Wars 7 – The Force Awakens.

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ANA – All Nippon Airways B787 Dreamliner R2-D2 Project

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has unveiled plans for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner decorated to look like R2-D2, the small round robot of the saga.
The “Star Wars” themed plane is due to start flying international routes this fall, the airline announced.

The “Star Wars Project” includes a special ANA website that plays the iconic theme song and features videos and photos of the plane.
The promotional tie-in comes ahead of the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

This isn’t the first time a movie has teamed with an airline for a flying billboard. Air New Zealand painted several Boeing 777s and 747s for “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies.

With 34 Dreamliners and 49 on order, ANA operates the world’s largest 787 fleet and was the launch customer in 2011.

Late last month, Boeing announced ANA had finalized an order for three 787-10 Dreamliners, valued at approximately $900 million.
The order makes ANA the first airline in Asia to operate the entire family of 787 Dreamliners.

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Nose view of the R2-D2 – ANA’s B787 Project

Capt. Ivan

…..a nightmare.

Tonight I feel anger.

I am in my hotel room in the south of Thailand. I started writing a technical article about the locking mechanism of the cockpit doors and problems we have seen in the past with this security device.

During my commuting flight to Krabi I wrote about statistics and events that involved this door, standard procedures when a pilot leaves the cockpit, etc.

But now……who cares?

I just read on the news that there is a high degree of suspicion that the GermanWings Flight 4U9525 First Officer deliberately locked out of the cockpit to his fellow Captain to later commit suicide crashing the airplane into the French Alps.

There have been other guys in the past that did the same thing.

I just wonder myself. What goes through the head of a human being to execute such a terrible plan? I say “terrible” because honestly I can not find words to define such action.

Poor passengers and crew, useless fighting those final terrible moments to gain access through a door that is specifically designed keep out of the cockpit to anyone. None wants to talk about this, maybe because in our mind we try to deny this nightmare. But is real, is there, it happened.

Our common sense says if you are decided to terminate with your life, go ahead, but do it alone. Not everyone thinks the same.

I hope the industry can find an effective, prompt solution to avoid this to happen again.

I remember tonight a young pilot, many years ago seeing its passengers board his first flight as a Captain. Like on almost every flight there were women, men and children. And some moms holding their babies on their arms. I thought, all these people is under entire responsibility, I must do everything right and try to improve everyday as much as I can.
Since then I have felt through the years the personal satisfaction of every completed flight.

How can be possible? I wish it were just a bad dream…

I must fly tomorrow. Good nite.

Capt. Ivan.

  •   GDL 39