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Tue, Nov 14, 2006

NTSB Updates 'Most Wanted' List

Warns That Runway Collisions Remain A Real Danger

Citing a serious near collision of two jumbo aircraft in Chicago last July, the National Transportation Safety Board, at a public meeting Tuesday, called again for effective action by the FAA to counter the danger posed by potentially catastrophic runway collisions.

The Board was reviewing its Most Wanted List of safety improvements, a list that calls for action by federal agencies on the most critical transportation safety issues.

Expressing great disappointment at the FAA's continued refusal to take appropriate action, the Board also removed from the list a recommendation that children under two years of age be restrained on airliners for take off and landing and during periods of turbulence.

The NTSB added a new aviation-oriented issue area to the Most Wanted list: Air taxi crew resource management training.

Established in 1990, the Most Wanted List highlights specific recommendations the Board believes would significantly reduce transportation deaths and injuries.

"Our Most Wanted List puts extra pressure on our nation's transportation safety regulators to act more quickly on our recommendations," said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker (pictured, right).

"We've made progress, but this year's list again shows that there are numerous areas that need improvement and they need improvement now. The Board will continue to push aggressively for implementation of the measures needed to make our safe transportation system even safer."

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. At Tuesday's meeting, the Federal Aviation Administration received five unacceptable timeliness ratings.

Aviation Issues on the Most Wanted List:

Runway Incursions -- This issue has been on the Board's list since it's inception in 1990. The FAA completed action on a number of objectives to make ground operation of aircraft safer. However, these incidents continue to occur with alarming frequency. The FAA indicates that during fiscal year 2005 there were 327 incursions, and during 2006 there were 330. A system introduced by the FAA provides warning to air traffic controllers, but not to the flight crews, a fact that severely reduces the amount of time that pilots have to react to an impending incursion. Recommendation: Implement a safety system for ground movement that will ensure the safe movement of airplanes on the ground and provide direct warning capability to the flight crews.

  • Timeliness Classification: Unacceptable.

Fuel/Air Vapors -- Operating transport-category airplanes with flammable fuel/air vapors in fuel tanks presents a risk of explosion that is avoidable. Center wing fuel tank explosions have resulted in 346 fatalities in four accidents since 1989.  There also have been several non-fatal fuel tank explosions, the latest of which occurred earlier this year in India.  After the TWA 800 accident in 1996, the Board issued both short and long term recommendations to reduce the potential for flammable fuel/air vapors in aircraft fuel tanks.  The short-term recommendation was closed in an unacceptable status because the FAA took no action.  The FAA has committed to action on the long term recommendation by Fall 2007.  Recommendation: Complete rulemaking efforts to preclude the operation of transport- category airplanes with flammable fuel/air vapors in the fuel tank on all aircraft.

  • Timeliness Classification: Acceptable (progressing slowly).

Aircraft Icing -- The consequences of operating an airplane in icing conditions without first having thoroughly demonstrated adequate handling/controllability in those conditions are sufficiently severe that they warrant a thorough certification test program. The FAA has not adopted a systematic and proactive approach to the certification and operational issues of airplane icing.
Recommendation: Complete research on aircraft structural icing and continue efforts to revise icing certification criteria, testing requirements, and restrictions on operations in icing conditions. Evaluate all aircraft certified for flight in icing conditions using the new criteria and standards.

  • Timeliness Classification: Unacceptable.

Audio, Data and Video Recorders -- Investigators must have information rapidly, effectively and efficiently in order to determine the factors related to an accident. Automatic information recording devices, such as Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs) and Flight Data Recorders (FDRs) have proven to be very useful in gathering pure factual information. This information results in the development of timely, more precise safety recommendations that are likely to reduce future similar accidents. Recommendation: In addition to adopting a 2-hour CVR requirement, require the retrofit of existing CVR's with an independent power supply, and require that existing FDRs and CVRs be on separate generator busses, with the highest reliable power so that any single electrical failure does not disable both. Require the installation of video recording systems in small and large aircraft. Require the recording of additional needed FDR data for Boeing 737s.

  • Timeliness Classification: Unacceptable.

Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training for Part 135 Flights - Part 121 and scheduled Part 135 operators are required to provide pilots with CRM training in which accidents are reviewed and skills and techniques for effective crew coordination are presented.  The Safety Board has investigated several fatal aviation accidents involving Part 135 on-demand operators (air taxis such as that involved in the crash that killed Senator Paul Wellstone in 2002) where the carrier either did not have a CRM program, or the CRM program was much less comprehensive than would be required for a Part 121 carrier. Although the FAA has agreed in principal with the recommendation, no discernable progress has been made.  
Recommendation: Require that Part 135 on-demand charter operators that conduct dual-pilot operations establish and implement an FAA-approved CRM training program for pilots in accordance with Part 121. 

  • Timeliness Classification:  Unacceptable.
FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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