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Fri, Nov 09, 2007

Runway Mishaps, Fatigue Top List Of NTSB's 'Most Wanted' Safety Fixes

All But One Aviation-Related Areas Of Concern Rated "Unacceptable"

Six near runway collisions at San Francisco, New York, Ft. Lauderdale and other airports were narrowly averted in just the last six months... leading the NTSB to highlight the issue of runway safety as among its most important issue areas to be addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

At a public meeting Thursday, the NTSB reviewed its "Most Wanted List" of safety improvements -- a list established in 1990 that focuses attention on critical changes needed by federal agencies to reduce accidents and save lives.

Half of the 44 safety recommendations in the 15 federal issue areas on the Most Wanted List were issued to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with other recommendations issued to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the US Coast Guard. The rest were geared towards various ground transport agencies.

Areas of concern by the NTSB shared by both aviation and ground transport included measures to prevent vehicle collisions, and reducing human fatigue. The NTSB added three safety recommendations on air traffic controller fatigue to the existing aviation issue area that addresses human fatigue. The Board is asking the FAA to develop a program to educate controllers and those who schedule them about the causes, effects and safety implications of fatigue. 

The Board also asked the FAA to work in conjunction with National Air Traffic Controllers Union (NATCA) in revising work-scheduling policies to reduce the incidence of fatigue on the job. "Since air traffic controllers play such a crucial role in the safety of our air transportation system, we must ensure that the performance of these professionals is not compromised by something as preventable as human fatigue," said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker.

Other aviation-related areas of concern included runway safety, reducing the potential for explosions caused by fuel/air vapors, and airframe icing.

In addition to pinpointing important safety issues, the Most Wanted List also rates agencies by the timeliness with which they act to implement the recommendations. The Board rates the FAA's responses thus far to runway incursions and excursions; aircraft icing; equipping aircraft with updated flight data recorders; requiring cockpit resource management (CRM) training for Part 121 and 135 flight crews; and combating pilot and controller fatigue as "Unacceptable."

The lone "Acceptable" rating for an aviation-related matter comes on the industry's response to preclude the operation of transport-category airplanes with flammable fuel/air vapors in the fuel tank on all aircraft -- though the Board notes progress is moving slowly.

FMI: Read The Complete List Of The NTSB's "Most Wanted" Safety Measures

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