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Effective crew management as antidote to pilot errors

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The airline industry has had years of experience in addressing airlines’ Crew Resource Management (CRM), which carriers appear not to be adhering to, thereby causing unavoidable accidents in the country. WOLE SHADARE reports

 

 

Associated Airlines prepared for crash

On October 3, 2013, an Embraer 120ER with registration 5N-BJY, a chartered flight, departed Lagos to Akure on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). The Captain was the Pilot Flying (PF) and the First Officer was the Pilot Monitoring (PM).

The aircraft departed with No. 1 Engine torque indicator stuck at 76 per cent. A crew-derived non-standard procedure was used to set the No. 1 Engine take-off power, as the torque indicator is the primary gauge for setting power. After take-off power was set, a take-off flap configuration aural warning came on, indicating that the flap position did not agree with the selection. This was followed by auto-feather aural warning. The No. 2 propeller RPM was low.

The PM was concerned that in addition to the warnings the aircraft was slow and advised the PF to abort the take-off. The aircraft got airborne, climbed to 118ft AGL, stalled and crashed into the Joint Users Hydrant Installation (JUHI), close to the airport, with the landing gears in the DOWN position. There was post impact fire, 16 fatalities and four serious injuries. The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) released the following as a probable cause.

“The decision of the crew to continue the take-off despite the abnormal No. 2 Propeller rpm indication. Low altitude stall as a result of low thrust at start of roll for take-off from No. 2 Engine caused by an undetermined malfunction of the propeller control unit.”

Unprofessional conduct

There was also poor Crew Resource Management (CRM) as Captain of the ill-fated aircraft, his First Officer and entire crew worked at cross purposes before and during take-off. The aircraft came down at 118 meters after take-off, killing all on-board with the exception of four people who sustained major injuries.

In short, take-off should have been aborted when the crew noticed defects with the airplane but it decided to continue with the flight. The flight crew in summary acted unprofessionally, exhibited poor company culture, coupled with inadequate regulatory oversight; a serious indictment on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). The Dana plane crash, like that of Associated and many other plane crashes that have happened in Nigeria and around the globe were caused by this.

Dana’s similar path

For the Dana crash that happened in 2012, which has been adjudged the deadliest accident in the country, occurred because the pilot of the ill-fated crash, an American, Capt. Peter Waxton, and the crew failed to apply appropriate omission of the use of the checklist coupled with the crew’s inability to appreciate the severity of the power-related problem,and their subsequent failure to land at the nearest suitable airfield, therefore killing 153 souls on-board and another 10 on the ground.
The Lagos-bound aircraft from Abuja with registration number 5N-RAM left the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, on a sunny afternoon but crashed into a two-storey building at Ishaga, on the outskirts of Lagos, barely five minutes to the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.
These and many other crashes are classic examples of lack of coordination, gross indiscipline and high level of unprofessionalism and obvious absence of good CRM.

Case for CRM

The goal of CRM is to reduce accidents due to pilot error. It encourages first officers and other crew members to respectfully question the captain.
It creates a more harmonious and safer cockpit. Instead of having the captain make decisions unchallenged, CRM training allows for the first officer to have input on a situation. It also encourages flight crews to work as a team rather than separate units with one decisive leader.
The accident that resulted in the largest-ever number of fatalities occurred in 1977, when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway on the island of Tenerife.
Along with other major accidents during the 1970s, this formed the beginning of a new era for flight safety.

Pilots’ skill under scrutiny

Flight safety no longer seems to be primarily a matter of a pilot’s skills in handling their planes or even of technical reliability; pilots’ skills relating to interaction with other people were found to be at least as important.
While no one can assess how many lives have been saved or crashes averted as a result of CRM training, the impact has been significant.
Although policies put in place to reduce pilot errors are not universal across the world, there are varying guidelines about how long a pilot can captain a flight, how many co-pilots should be present and how many hours a pilot can fly before taking mandatory breaks.There are also varying guidelines about how many hours of training pilots must complete, below what altitude they should not hand over control of a plane and when they should abort landings.

Mitigating errors

The vast majority of aircraft accidents result from pilot error. This has become obvious through series of investigations. However, maybe aviation professionals haven’t done a good job of educating aircraft owners of that fact. Many companies spare no expense maintaining their aircraft to top mechanical standard, and then continually gripe about the cost and inconvenience of initial and recurrent training for their pilots.

Expert’s view

Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, explained that most accidents were as a result of human or pilot errors. His words: “Human beings all over the world are the most complex machine on earth. Anything that got to do with human is bound to fail someday. This is why there is nowhere in the world that is not accident prone. “

There is no airline today that you can say does not have serious incident. There is no perfect system anywhere, but all we can do as a nation, responsible people and responsible agency is to ensure we step up the game in human factor. “Human factor has been identified as the cause of accidents all over the world. We are holding a seminar to ensure that the operators, service providers invest in that training called human factor. On our own as government agency, we are bringing in US NTSB in May to come and give lecture on how we can deal with this human factor. “They are going to look at all our past accidents.

They will be here for one week. We are going to invite all the stakeholders; the airlines, service providers. Everybody will be there to see how we can deal with air traffic issue. How we deal with issues airworthiness, how we can deal with flight operations issues, how we deal with airports, aerodrome issues among others. Those are the things they are going to be teaching us in five days in May. “It is not a one approach thing. NCAA are doing their bit, airlines are doing their bit. Before you know it, we are going to have a system that is going to add value.”

Conclusion

Aviation industry risk-management processes have not kept pace with a rapidly changing environment. While the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) claims that this is the “Golden Age of Safety,” and other aviation researchers assure of the chance of dying in an airline accident becoming infinitesimal, 70 per cent of commercial pilots believe a major airline accident will happen soon.

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Aviation

AIS authorisation: All motion, no movement

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Since 1998, it has been more of rhetorics than actualisation of yet-to-be-completed Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) automation. WOLE SHADARE writes that the project may end up as another white elephant project

 

Time factor

Today, we live in a world in constant motion where time and information are becoming more precious. No one wants to lose a minute at doing nothing. It is by integrating this reality that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is developing daily, the critical role of AIS to meet global challenges.

The objective of the AIS is to ensure the flow of information necessary for the safety, regularity and efficiency of international air navigation. When completed, it will enhance air to ground and ground to ground information and boost interconnectivity between aircraft and air traffic controllers.

The AIS is installed in 11 locations and is planned to go on stream at the end of the year but would connect every part of the country by the end of 2017.

To achieve success, all the key agencies or data originators including the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Air Force, etc would need to enhance their data collation, origination, processing, storage and exchange system.

The deliverables

Other deliverables, according to the NAMA boss, would include the enhancement of e-NOTAM, e-Flight Planning, e-AIP, e-TOD, e-Charts, e-Flight briefing and also boost capacity for voice and data communication for both air to ground and ground to ground communication. ICAO Annex 15 states that the AIS shall use automated pre-flight information systems to specify that pre-flight information must be made available at each aerodrome /or heliport normally used for international operations.

This includes all aerodromes/ or heliports designated for regular use by international commercial air transport as listed in the relevant ICAO regional plans and any aerodromes/ or heliports serving as alternates to these regular aerodromes/heliports.

The challenge

The greatest challenge now lie with the NAMA, the NCAA, aviation institutions especially, the NCAT to accelerate the rate of AIS development to keep abreast of the new requirement arising from global demands as Nigeria cannot afford to continue to queue behind surrounding smaller African countries.

Stagnation

Nigeria has over the years remained stagnant with the automation of AIS. While Nigeria has remained stuck in the same position, many have or are moving towards Aeronautical Information Management (AIM).

The aeronautical information/data based on paper documentation and telex-based text messages cannot satisfy anymore the requirements of the ATM integrated and interoperable system and therefore the AIS is required to evolve from the paper product-centric service to the data-centric aeronautical information management (AIM) with a different method of information provision and management.

For that purpose, ICAO has developed a roadmap to reflect the importance of the evolution and to address the required changes and is being referred to as the transition from AIS to AIM.

The roadmap identifies the major milestones recommended for a uniform evolution across all regions of the world, the specific steps that need to be achieved and timelines for implementation.

The transition to AIM will not involve many changes in terms of the scope of information to be distributed. The major change will be the increased emphasis on data distribution, which should place the future AIM in a position to better serve airspace users and ATM in terms of their information management requirements.

It would be recalled that the global aviation regulatory body, ICAO had since 1998 sensitised all contracting state on the need for the services of AIS to be automated. Ever since 1998 in Nigeria, it has been more of hearing and reading on the pages of newspapers of AIS automation and it yet to be completed.

Little progress

In the last five years, a lot of progress had been made in this regard. Before now, fund had been the recurrent impediment of this project. However, since 2016, the story has changed. Immediate past President of Aeronautical Information Management Association of Nigeria (AIMAN), Mr. Shittu Babatunde, stated at the just concluded delegate conference/World AIS Day Celebration held in Ibadan, Oyo State last weekend that he was at a seminar in 2015 where he said they were told not to expect the completion of the project even in 2017.

His words, “That has come to pass. At the user’s end of AIS nationwide, the effect of the project is yet to be seen in our day-to-day operations. While we appreciate the progress so far made by the Ministry, NCAA and NAMA management in this regard, I appeal to once again the Federal Government to see that this project does not become an elephant project”. Not a few are impressed. The international world is not going to wait for the country.

The world is now transiting to System Wide Information Management (swim). November 2015 was the deadline for contracting states to implement Electronic Terrain and Obstacle Data (ETOD), which is far more expensive than the automation and Nigeria is yet to start this.

A must-do for NAMA

Managing Director of NAMA, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu reiterated that the agency is aware of the critical deliverables of the Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) project such as the enhancement of e-NOTAM, eFlight Planning, e-AIP, e-TOD, e-Charts, e-Flight briefing and so on.

He said given that the digitalisation represents migration to a dynamic data-oriented aeronautical information management system that facilitates the real-time exchange of aeronautical information in an accurate and standardised format from anywhere to everywhere globally, “the automation project is a must-do for NAMA.”

He said notwithstanding the scarce resources, NAMA would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the AIS Automation process remained on course and completed. The NAMA helmsman lauded staff of the AIS department for their diligence, hard work and dedication to duty.

Last line

AIS remain one of the most critical departments in the agency even though they are hardly given the prominence they deserve, because their job most often, is behind-the-scene. The absence of AIS in the system will bring about chaos in the entire civil aviation.

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Aviation

Tourism-transport summit garners support from aviation agencies

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Aviation agencies have expressed commitment to participate in the Tourism Transport Summit/Expo being anchored by the Institute of Tourism Practitioners (ITP) for the Ministries of Transportation and Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

Agencies such as Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Meteorological Agency,Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) will participate in the summit with theme: ‘Tourism and Transportation: The Key Sectors for Sustainable Resilient Growth and Development’.

In a statement signed by the organizers of the event, Institute of Tourism Practitioners (ITP), the two-day summit is the first edition in a series to be organized annually and is scheduled to hold at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja from 21st – 22nd May, 2018.

The statement highlighted that transportation and tourism is predicted to be one of the world’s highest growing sectors in the new century, creating more jobs and increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most countries of the world.

The organizers stated that the Summit and Expo are created to build strong synergy and chart the way forward to grow and enhance the two sectors. Other Sub themes of the Summit that includes Potentialities of Developing Regional Inter-Connectivity in Transportation and Inter-Modal Connectivity, Traveler Safety and Security; Licensing Regulations and Oversight–Meeting the International Standards for Sustainable Development of the Transportation and Tourism Industries; and Building Capacity for Global Best Practices in the Tourism and Transportation Sectors.

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Aviation

Airlines jostle for Nigeria’s recovering domestic market

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Many airlines have applied for operating licences, but majority fell by the way side even before they started, while others are at the verge of scaling the hurdles. WOLE SHADARE examines the projected over-capacity on the route if eventually the carriers get their Air Operator Certificate (AOC)

 

Enthusiasm

They came with the hope of getting the all-important AOC. The tedious process had made many of them to fall by the way side. That is the fate of over 26 prospective airlines that were eyeing the domestic aviation market.

 

A total of 32 airlines made up of scheduled and non-scheduled operators are currently listed as holding AOC and are on the register of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as at January 10, 2017 till date.

 

Airlines are categorised into scheduled and non-scheduled on the strength of the type of operations they carry out. A scheduled flight is a trip by airplane that has been planned for a certain time and date. Airlines sell tickets for scheduled flights to help travellers get from one destination to another.

 

The eight airlines that operate scheduled passenger operations are Aero Contractors, Arik, Overland Airways, Medview, Dana, Air Peace, AZMAN and First Nation Airways. A country’s civil aviation authority gets the power to issue AOC to an aircraft operator to allow it use aircraft for commercial purposes.

 

This requires the operator to have personnel, assets and system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.

 

The certificate lists the aircraft types and registrations to be used, for what purpose and in what area – specific airports or geographic region.

 

Meanwhile, two of the airlines, out of the 32, ceased to be regarded as airlines, owing to the expiration of their certificates.

 

 

Carriers with active AOC

 

The 30 other airlines with active AOC are Aero Contractors with AOC number CAN/ AOC/12-12/08 valid till January 1, 2019, Allied Air AAL/AOC, 07- 13/003 valid till July 30, 2017, Air Peace APL/A0C/09-14/001 valid till September 7, 2018, Arik Air RIK/AOC/07-10/01 valid till July 11, 2018, Associated Aviation ASS/ AOC/06-15/001 valid till May 31, 2017.

 

Azikel Air AZK/AOC/07-16/001, AZMAN Air AAS/AOC/05-14/002, Bristow Helicopters BHL/AOC/12- 14/002, Caverton Helicopters CH/ AOC/11-14/001, Dana Airlines DAN/ AOC/11-1808/01 and Dornier Aviation DAA/AOC/06-15/002.

 

Others are Executive Jet Services ELS/AOC/03-15/002, First Nation FNA/AOC/10-11/02, Gyro Air Limited GAL/AOC/10-16/001, HAK Air HAK/AOC/04-12/001, Izy Air IZY/AOC/12-15/001, Jed Air JED/ AOC/06-13/002 and King Airlines AAX/C/024.

 

Also included are Max Air MAX/ AOC/06-13/001, Medview Airline MVA/AOC/03-14/001, OAS OAS/ AOC/03/14/002. Others are Overland Airways OAL/AOC/03/14/001, Pan African Airlines PAN/AOC/12-14/001, Skybird Air SKYBIRD/AOC/04-13/08, Skyjet Aviation Services Limited SKL/AOC/12-12/07, Skypower Express Airways AAR/C/018 and West Link Airways WLA/AOC/02-11/002.

 

Also on the list are Nestoil Plc NOL/AOC/03-15/002, OMNI BLU Aviation Limited OBA/AOC/12-15/002 and Top Brass Aviation Limited TBA/ AOC/11-11/03.

 

 

Hurdles

 

Spokesman for NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, disclosed that there were five phases an airline underwent before completing the certification process and many airlines faltered on the way.

 

There is the pre-application phase – when the airline makes enquiry about the processes, followed by the document compliance phase, which involves a certification team reviewing applicant’s documents for compliance acceptance/approval.

 

The others are AOC process, also called demonstration and inspection phase, which involves evaluation by a certification team and applicant’s demonstration of compliance evaluation of management effectiveness, inspection of station(s) facilities, flight operations, maintenance and records.

 

The next is called certification phase, which allows the intending operator for approval of AOC and Operation Specification with coordination with Director for Safety Oversight and DG NCAA.

 

 

Determination

 

While some have fallen by the wayside, others are forging ahead in processing their AOC. There are fears that there would be over capacity on a lean domestic air travel market if some of them succeed in seeing through the process that could land them the licence to operate. They would be jostling for a small air market of about 10 million passengers annually.

 

Many of the routes are very unviable except for the triangular routes of Lagos-Abuja and Port Harcourt and to a large extent, Enugu.

 

A leading airline official said it doesn’t add up in situations where airlines in a bid to woo passengers will have to charge airfares in naira that are as low as N18, 000 to N22, 000 on routes where you fly for almost 45-50minites.

 

“That’s already like running at a loss. In the United States, no airline does a 50 -60 minutes flight and charges $60 (about N25,000), which is what the airlines are doing right now in Nigeria,” he added.

 

 

Backlash fear

 

Fearing a public backlash should they come out openly to announce increase in air fares, most airlines have opted to such subtle measures as raising fares on competitive routes (such as the Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja) or those routes that they enjoy a sort of monopoly, while lowering fares on those with fewer number of passengers.

 

“We do aircraft maintenances in dollars, buy spares in dollars, pay for insurance in dollars, and even buy fuel in dollars. What the CBN supplies is still not sufficient for us. Most of us still get dollars at the parallel market. And by the time we are converting earnings in naira into the dollars, it becomes very obvious in simple economics that the current fares have to go up by more than 60 per cent if airlines must continue to fly and be profitable,” said an airline’s spokesman.

 

“To be honest, the cheapest or most realistic fare Nigerians should be paying on any route within the country should be N40, 000,” he added.

 

 

Expert’s perspective

 

Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Rtd) said, “Let us be honest, the Nigerian domestic airlines cannot be selling passenger flight tickets at N25,000 to Abuja if the dollar is selling at N360 to $1, the same price it was selling two years ago when dollar was at N200 to $1.”

 

“The present cost of aviation fuel, the high operational cost cannot justify the air fare of N25,000 for an hour flight anywhere in Nigeria. The high operational cost also cannot be sustained except the airlines short change service providers and the supporting agencies or there are inflows of cheap monies coming from sources to sustain their operations”.

 

 

Last line

 

New entrants would be worst hit because the current ticket prices are not in sync or responsive to current realities and this is due to unhealthy price wars and pursuit of market dominance at the domestic side of airline business.

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