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BizAv Flight Safety Program Milestones

Celebrating decades of focus on human flying errors instead of mechanical error...

Dave Higdon   |   22nd April 2016
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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On April 16 NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) turned 40, notes Dave Higdon, while this week Bombardier gave notice it is well along in planning the 20th Safety Standdown. So what does this mean for BizAv Flight Safety?

That both ASRS's CALLBACK newsletter and Bombardier Safety Standdown remain free highlights organizers’ commitments to their common missions: to improve aviation safety through sharing experiences.

ASRS Origins

ASRS emerged in the aftermath of the investigation into TWA Flight 514. Flight 514’s crew, inbound to Dulles Airport in Virginia, misunderstood an ATC clearance and descended to 1,800 feet before reaching the approach segment to which that minimum altitude applied. The aircraft collided with a mountaintop, killing all aboard.

During the NTSB investigation a disturbing fact emerged. Six weeks prior to the TWA accident a United Airlines flight crew suffered an identical clearance misunderstanding. Somehow the United flight cleared that same mountain. The United crew reported the incident to their superiors who issued a cautionary notice to all its pilots.

Sadly, no method existed for sharing with other carriers what the United pilots had learned. Subsequently, FAA and NASA realized that to be useful such critical safety information must be shared with the entire aviation community.

Thus, a 1975 Memorandum of Agreement between FAA and NASA established the blueprint for operating the newly designated Aviation Safety Reporting System. FAA funds the program, providing for its immunity provisions. NASA sets program policy and administers operations.

ASRS CALLBACK became the vehicle for sharing ASRS reports of busted or misunderstood clearances, mistakes in execution, busted altitudes. Crews who report an actionable error are, in most cases, exempt from enforcement action, encouraging participation.

Bombardier Safety Standdown

The first Bombardier Safety Standdown in 1996 was an in-house affair, called by the chief pilot of Learjet's aircraft-demonstration team crew who made the call to “stand down” operations after incidents highlighting the need to revisit some basic safety practices.

Participation grew from 180 to over 500 over subsequent years as pilots from other Bombardier lines and then throughout the Business Aviation community attended. And Bombardier continues to offer the program free to those quick enough to sign up and meet the company's registration standards before reaching full capacity.

The learning opportunities are manifest: workshops focus on human factors, human errors and how mistakes can compound into fatal errors. Health, fatigue, judgment and professionalism are also routine topics.

Hands-on learning is also pivotal, from using real equipment to extinguish a real fire to escaping a smoke-filled aircraft cabin; from learning to use multiple automatic electronic defibrillators (AEB) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); even escaping from a water-filled aircraft cabin, inverted and with black-out goggles for good measure.

Registration opens later this year for the 20th Standdown. It's four days worth far more than the cost of traveling to Wichita, hotel rooms and meals. It can save your life!


Read more about: Bombardier | FAA | Safety | Flight Department Management

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