IATA: (2013) 99th year, safest in commercial Aviation?


IATA: (2013) 99th year, safest in commercial Aviation?

By Anne Arriëns
7 April 2014

38 million flights worldwide, and 9 million flights thru 400 commercial airports in Europe. 2013 has been a very busy year, due to a rise in passengers as well as flights. Passenger traffic has been increasing after 9/11 (still about 7% of the world population) and their safety is guaranteed by implementing new and/or replacing processing, inspection and examination systems. Airports have to grow to meet capacity demands of expanding airline fleets. And Air traffic Control will have to adapt to a drastic reorganization of the airspace and air routes utilizing ATM and RNAV, and increase and effectively utilize the capacity of airspace.



Human error is the no. 1 reason for incedents and crashes. According to a study on human factors in ATC “an implication is that efforts to remove an identified source of human error through design changes will not merely remove the identified types of error if they succeed, but will also introduce some new types of human error that previously were absent”.

While the FAA is always trying to reduce human error thru technology, this same technology falls short when trying to find an airplane in the middle of nowhere. The exploitation of American pilots is eroding the positive state of mind which is critical in the world of aviation. Therefore FAA regulation seems outdated and short-sided due to the lack of combating this problem.

Furthermore NTSB reports, are full of deadly FAA regulation shortcomings:

  • Friday September 3 rd 2010 UPS 744F crash near DXB.
    There is no regulatory FAA requirement in class E cargo compartments for active fire suppression. The fire would have been detected if there was this requirement. The pilots were caught off-guard, there was no chance to aviod the inevitable.
  • Monday April 29 th 2013; National Air Cargo 744F crash near Bagram.
    Quickly shifting cargo, consisting of three armored vehicles and two mine sweepers totalling at 80 tons of weight, caused the accident. They flew to Bagram for a fuel stop, the cargo was checked before take-off on both airports. 4 pilots, 2 mechanics and a load master on board. The FAA report was inconclusive about the cause of the accident.

While the FAA is testing flights with a mechanized 1 officer, it can’t overcome the human (pilot) factor in flight. Robots can’t anticipate to real time adhoc issues, and humans have limited capacity to handle emergency situations adequately. Phsycologically, humans are not capable of monitoring multiple automated systems at once.

Many safety professionals have resorted to developing accident investigation and error-management programs based on intuition, rather than on theory and empirical data. We now fly the combination of both the philosophies of Boeing and Airbus, because it was inevitable that the manual cockpits would be upgraded and modernized to fly by wire. Today’s modern automated flight control systems employ a variety of different behaviors, or modes, in order to allow the crew flexibility in operating the aircraft. These modes lay along a continuum starting from fully-manual to fully-automatic control, with many levels in between. While developments in cockpit automation resulted in workload reduction and economical advantages, they also gave rise to a special class of human-machine problems. These ill defined problems are sometimes referred to as “automation surprises.” These phenomena usually involve confusion about the status of the autoflight control system—in particular its modes—and the subsequent behavior of the aircraft. Recently, there have been five fatal airline accidents involving, in one way or another, this class of human-machine problems.

We need a computer to build an airplane, but do we need to surrender to it, in order to fly the airplane?

“I am convinced that awareness and policing, is the best form of ensuring safety on all levels of aviation”

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