Aviation Safety: Oversight Activities Could Reduce Accidents

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By Dr Moses Amweelo

– Continued from Friday (27/06/08)
Aviation is a capital-intensive industry. No wonder that implementation may therefore be imposed with judgment, rather than being ruthless. Some of the problems observed by the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) are but not necessarily limited to:

– Tendency among private airlines to acquire aircraft on lease purchase and tempted to have short-term benefit,

– Low investment in equipment, infrastructure and manpower development is a common symptom of almost all private airlines,

– Direct initial investment to own rather than the lease option is less likely. However, some of the private airlines have acquired new aircraft under lease purchase arrangements.

– Insufficient staffing level of operations and airworthiness to adequately implement the operations and airworthiness requirements.
Possible Solutions

– Concentrated training for safety oversight responsibilities from a system approach is necessary for safety inspectors. Such training will improve safety oversight inspection and management.

– Establishment of civil aviation safety academy approach for the enhancement of safety instructor training.

– Harmonisation of civil aviation safety regulations, standards, procedures and associated processes employed in the manufacture, maintenance and operation of the civil aviation system should continue to be pursued.

– A cooperative approach and collaborative effort should be undertaken with due regard ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) initiative.
Safety Responsibilities of Industry and Regulatory Authority

All said and done the commitment to the commuting public cannot be denied both by the operator and the authority. A responsible operator will not only try to run the organisation economically, but will also ensure that all the requirements are met. If the operator abides by the rules and requirements, then operation can run smoothly without being halted by the authority for non-compliance.

Operator should understand typical need of operation and develop manpower, equipment etc to cater for the need. Training of crew for hazardous terrain flying or equipping aircraft with weather radar, etc may be an indication of operator’s maturity and commitment towards safety. Operator should not feel that meeting the minimum requirements as laid down by the authority absolves him/her of all responsibility. In order to have a good track record, operator must be progressive and foresighted.

It should be borne in mind that expense on training is not wastage but an investment; and for sure this will pay back with interest. If you feel developing manpower is costly, imagine loss of a machine due to ignorance of either maintenance or operating crew. Therefore the operator has a very important role to play in achieving safety.

Responsibility also lies with the operator to have a continuous link with the manufacturer and the regulatory authority of the country of manufacture of the aircraft. This serves a dual purpose – one the manufacturer gets a continuous feedback from the operators and can make necessary modifications/improvements for better performance of the machine and the operator also gets to know about various changes that the manufacturer wants to comply with.

Safety Initiatives

Since regulatory authorities are committed to the travelling public, both national and international, they have to take initiatives that will project foresight, pragmatic approach at the same time operator friendly. Development of infrastructure, framing of detailed requirements, laying down clear policies, are all steps towards achieving safety. It is essential that the operators know their obligations and requirements to be met. The more transparent the policies, the less hassles there are for the operators and authority.

Safety cannot be achieved free of cost, it has a price tag. The essential factors are men, equipment and literature.
It costs money to develop manpower, or acquire equipment and buy literature, but to achieve the targeted safety goal such investments are unavoidable. Investigation findings of many of the accidents reveal that there is more to it than meets the naked eye. In most of the cases, which, some time ago, used to be closed as human error on the part of the crew; if reviewed today with new knowledge of human factor, mostly will involve the management or the authority in terms of lack of training or lack of aids in performing the activity. Therefore it is essential that we do not close our eyes to the need of taking right and timely safety initiative.

Finally, actions required are manifold, both on the part of the authority and for the operator. On the one hand authority should provide basic infrastructure, better navigational and communication facility, better runways, etc. On the other hand the operator should understand the responsibility and operate maturely by developing manpower both in maintenance and flying crew, invest in getting the essential literature, using the right equipment and not take the stand that “Nothing will happen” or “Well, we have been doing it this way for the last so many years”. They should understand that “nothing” happened in the last so many years could be just by luck, and luck is not the scientific ingredient of safety.

If we have to attain a level of safety, to be proud of, all of us have to work for it. All of us have to put our efforts together to overcome the challenge. Needless to say that discipline is an essential ingredient to achieve this goal. The commitment towards safety should percolate down from the top management. If the top manager understands that an air-turn-back or a missed approach is not a loss rather it is a matter of joy that the aircraft is safe, then the crew will not be under pressure to take unnecessary chance and will be relaxed to take matured and right decisions.

Management should also take punitive action against those who break the laid down rules/policies. If the person committing the error is not curbed at the very beginning, he will become a hardcore error committee and one day will pay for mistakes but will also drown the organisational resources and reputation. Safety can be enhanced, where people are confident of their abilities, but knowledgeable about their limitations, and are able to recognise and admit there is always room for improvement.

Action Required

– ICAO should continue to play its leading role in providing technical cooperation and assistance to states to enhance safety. Cooperative initiatives should be continued with the active participation of the member and non-member states, donor governments and agencies.

– Compliance to ICAO should be given the highest priority. Apart from enforcement of regulations, interactions between regulatory authorities and airline industry both at decision-making and operational level, within and between systems, sub-systems and elements should be a regular feature.

– Each airline – domestic or international – should be effectively monitored and motivated to introduce safety and corporate culture, accident/incident prevention programme and safety systems and management within the organisation.

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