Responsibilities of air carriers
Section 601 (b) of the Federal Aviation act (FA Act) charges the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA ) with the responsibility for enforcing and promulgating adequate standards and regulations towards aircraft safety and also recognizes that holders of air carrier certificates have a direct responsibility of providing transportation by air with the highest possible degree of safety (Elias, 2010). This act implies that the aforementioned responsibility rests directly with the air carrier, irrespective of any action that may or may not be taken by an FAA inspector or the FAA.
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Given that it is almost impossible for the FAA to inspect all the airplanes around the world, it incapable of efficiently carrying out the responsibility of checking if all the airplanes operating around the world have adhered to the highest safety standards. Air carriers have to therefore carry out self inspections to ensure their aircraft have the highest safety standards before being certified to operate by the FAA. Moreover, before certification to operate, all the air carriers are required to indicate to the FAA that they are willing to carry out the safety specifications listed in the FA Act. Should an air carrier fail in its responsibility to ensure the highest standards of safety, Section 609 of the FA Act specifies certain actions that may be taken against the air carrier.
There are a number of situations and conditions that the FAA uses to judge an air career’s inability to comply with the conditions specified in the FA act namely an air career’s repetitive noncompliance with the minimum regulations and standards of the act, lack of sufficient training programs and guidance, lack of concern for compliance with the FA act, lack of operational control of aircraft, lack of ensuring the airworthiness of aircraft, and inaccurate record-keeping procedures.
Purpose of commuter safety initiative (1995)
The commuter safety initiative came into effect in December 1995 and required of all turbo jets operated for passenger service and all airplanes designed to carry 10 or more passengers to operate in accordance to certain conditions specified in the Federal Aviations Regulations (FAR) Part 121 which states that operators of such aircraft must dispatch certificate and requirements dispatchers, retire a pilot upon attaining 60 years of age, must have procedures and manuals for both their ground and flight personnel, have cabin crew for airplanes with more than 20 passenger seats, maintain duty limits, and must comply to the new training rule (Wolfe & NewMyer, 1985).
The FAR part 119 is applies with the Commuter Rule and it consolidates air career certification procedures, provides new definitions, and requires new management and safety officer positions for FAR Part 121 operators. With some exceptions for planes with 10-19 passenger seats, the Commuter Rule requires compliance with a number of equipment standards including exterior emergency exit markings, first aid and emergency medical kits, wing ice lights, weather radar, protective breathing equipment, distance measuring equipment, additional life rafts, additional flashlights, lavatory fire protection, Pitot heat indication system, and for air planes with 200-30 passenger seats, locking cockpit doors.
For aircraft with 10-19 passenger seats, some equipment requirements were exempted if the systems were functionally equivalent to FAR Part 121. For instance, for airplanes with 10-19 seats, passengers are usually positioned not more than four feet away from any exit; consequently, floor proximity lighting is not required. Also, since no flight attendant is required for a 10-19 seat airplane, the requirement for a locking door cockpit was exempted to enable the crew members conduct safety briefings and oversee the safety of the passengers. Other exceptions included no crash ax and other cabin safety equipment and airplane certification that would have either required a redesign of the aircraft or extensive engineering to retrofit.
Importance of the ASRS
The Aviation Safety Reporting system (ASRS) is the most useful tool in dealing with human factor issues because it helps to shade light on crucial information that can be used to assist accident prevention efforts by receiving, processing and analyzing voluntarily submitted aviation safety reports. By using the data from the ASRS, the aviation industry is able to learn important and valuable lessons about past accidents in the dynamic environments in which aircraft and their crew members fly. The ASRS carries out its duties to serve the purpose of identifying discrepancies and deficiencies in the National Aviation System and by providing data for planning and improvements to the National Aviation System by enhancing the basics for the research about human factors (Wells & Rodrigues, 2004). It also makes recommendations for future aviation procedures, facilities, operations, and equipment.
One of the main strengths of the ASRS is found in its pilot reporting form that has a section in which the second airplane that was involved in a certain incident is described. Its other strengths is that it overtly inquires about the sequence of events that preceded an incidence and also that it makes inquiries about any errors of commission or omission that may have contributed to the incident. These strengths enable the ASRS examine the causes of an incidence from all possible angles. The major weakness of the ASRS is that nearly all the data it collects relating to human errors is preserved in the form of texts and this means that one may have to go through the whole narrative to find specific information.
Investigations by the NTSB
The main goal of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) is to eliminate the possibility of future accidents occurring especially if they resemble accidents that have already taken place. The NTSB is autonomous and consists of five members appointed by the president and approved by the Senate to operate for five-year terms. As its name suggests, the boards mostly concerns itself with transportation safety and not with aviation accidents even though they derive most of the information they need from examining aircraft accidents. The board carries out its functions by establishing and maintaining discrete and properly staffed divisions, offices, or bureaus that investigate and report on accidents involving the four major modes of transportation namely aviation, pipeline, highway and motor vehicle, and railroad and tracked vehicles (Wensveen, 2007).
With regards to aviation, the board has the duty of investigating or causing investigations to begin covering the facts, circumstances, or conditions that may have contributed to the occurrence of the accident. This implies that should a civilian aircraft accident occur, the NTSB can either carry out the investigations into the accident itself or delegate the investigation to the FAA. Even in the instances where it delegates the actual investigation, the NTSB is still the body that is charged with determining the official probable cause of the accident. This role of investigation the cause of an aircraft accident has however changed in the recent times as most of the investigations into aircraft accidents are being done by the Office of Aviation Safety. The board is now left with the role of supervising the investigations and discussing and approving, in a public meeting, the analysis of the results of the probable cause of the said accident.
Limits to the productive life of a damage-tolerant-designed airplane
As noted by Atluri et al, 1991, the service or productive life of a damage-tolerant-designed airplane structure, also known as the fail-safe structure, has no limit but this statement only applies when the aircraft is taken through all the essential inspections and repairs that are to be carried out in a timely manner together with all the programs designed to prevent corrosion. However, the frequency and cost of the routine repairs affect an aircraft’s operational efficiency and as such, the durability of the materials used to construct the plane may be the limiting factor to the aircraft’s productive life and may compromise the aircraft’s degree of safety.
The major player in the aircraft’s structural safety process therefore has the role of determining its damage tolerance which is used to tell the period of time that the plane can be safely used. The desired degree of safety of a damage-tolerant-designed airplane is found by determining the airplane’s damage tolerance which entails finding out the airplane’s damage limit, damage growth and inspection program. The damage limit is defined as the maximum damage, inclusive of any secondary cracks, that the airplane’s structure can sustain under a certain pre-determined load. The aircraft’s damage growth is time period the aircraft’s structure takes to deteriorate from the time damage is detected on it to the time it reaches the damage limit. The airplane inspection program is the series of inspections carried out in a fleet to enable aircraft inspectors to promptly detect any damages in the planes structure.
Purpose of data flight recorders (FDR)
The data flight recorder’s purpose, as it name suggests, it to record data from a myriad of sensors that monitor the performance of different parts of the airplane. The FDR is usually designed to survive damage should the plane crash and depending on when the airplane was manufactured, the FDR may consist of either a digital or analogue data recording system. The usefulness of the FDR goes beyond merely helping investigators determine the course of an aircraft’s crash. They have also become important tools of assessing a pilot’s performance and are also very useful as aids during training programs. They record a number of functions that can be used to tell the performance of the plane’s engine, the airplane’s degree of safety and material degradation, and in the monitoring of service loads that helps in the determination of the airframe’s fatigue life consumption (McCormick & Papadakis, 2003).
By analyzing the performance data recorded in the FDR, appropriate measures can be taken to correct any abnormalities in the plane’s performance, or in the pilot’s performance and therefore improve the overall safety of the airplane. In situations where it is retrieved from an already crashed airplane, the FDR can provide crucial data that will point at the factors responsible for the crash. Appropriate measures can then be adopted to prevent future crashes under similar conditions. Meanwhile, the purpose of cockpit voice recorder is to record any conversations that take place in the aircraft’s cockpit. In the event of an accident, the combined information derived from the CVR and the FDR makes it easier to determine the precise cause of the accident.
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Roles of management and employees in improving human performance
Both employees and the management must get involved and perform their respective roles if the human performance in an organization is to improve. The management has numerous roles in relation to human performance improvement among them being putting in place measures that would see an increase in allocation of resources towards the training of personnel, and the systems and equipment used by employees. The management should also open good communication channels between themselves and the employees as this will enable them share ideas on how to improve performance. The management also have the role of showing the employees that the organization values them as important assets and this could improve employee motivation levels in turn improving their performance at the workplace (Hiam, 1999). It is also very important for the management to put in place measures that will make the employees feel like they are an integral part of the organization. Such a move would encourage employees to be more engaged in the daily operations of the organization and also improve their motivation and hence performance at the workplace.
Meanwhile, the employees also have roles in improving human performance including carrying out their respective duties to the best of their abilities. The employees also have the duty to comply with resolutions made by the management that seek to improve not only the human performance but also that of the whole organization.
Role of the FAA during aircraft accident investigation
The responsibility of investigating aircraft accidents largely lies with each FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), which has the role of maintaining a pre-accident plan that is tailored to that office’s specific requirements (Ellis, Miller & Ramsden, 1984). The responsibilities of the FAA during an accident are specified in the FA Act (1958) and are illustrated in the FAA Order 8020.11A. The main role of the FAA during the investigations is to evaluate and document the series of events that led to the accident and from their findings, make recommendations on how similar accidents can be prevented in the future. Moreover, the FAA must also establish if any of its nine responsibilities within the airline industry played a role in causing the accident. Some of FAA’s roles during an accident include ensuring that all facts and circumstances leading to the accident are recorded and evaluated and that actions are taken to prevent similar accidents from occurring in future.
The FAA determines if there was any violation of the FAA regulations, the airworthiness of the aircraft was a factor, the FAR were adequate, the competency or the aircrew, air agencies, air carriers, or airports was a factor ,and if the air carrier or airport security standards of operations were involved in the accident, to mention but few. After completing their investigations, the FAA submits its factual reports to the NTSB.
Atluri, S.N., Sampath, S. G., Tong,P. Georgia Institute of Technology. Center for Computational Mechanics, Transportation Systems Center. (1991). Structural intergrity of ageing airplanes. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
Elias, B. (2010). Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: an overview of legislative action in the 111th Congress. New York, NY: Diane Publishing.
Ellis, G., Miller, C.O. & Ramsden, J.M. (1984). Air crash investigation of general aviation aircraft: with emphasis on the crash scene aspects of the investigation. Indiana, In: Capstan Publications.
Hiam, A. (1999). Streetwise motivating & rewarding employees: new and better ways to inspire your people. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
McCormick, B.W. & Papadakis, M.P. (2003). Aircraft accident reconstruction and litigation. Tucson, AZ: Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company.
Wells, A.T. & Rodrigues, C.C. (2004). Commercial Aviation Safety. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Wensveen, J.G. (2007). Air Transportation: a management perspective. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Wolfe, H.P. & NewMyer, D.A. (1985). Aviation industry regulation. Illinois, IL: SIU Press.