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Safety talks in Tallinn

The third and final meeting of the ERA Air Safety Group for Group for 2018 was held in Tallin, Estonia on 5-6 December. Hosted by ERA member Nordica, the meeting included a full agenda focussed on safety issues and best practice.

Proceedings commenced with Jack Durcan of ASL Airlines Ireland, and chair of the group welcoming all the attendees to the meeting. Erki Teras, Safety Manager for Nordica, then provided an additional welcome address including an historical overview of Nordica and a current business, fleet and network update.

For the first agenda item the group welcomed back Dragica Stankovic, Manager of the Eurocontrol Voluntary ATM Incident Reporting (EVAIR) team. Dragica  went into detail about the EVAIR incident data collection and why there was a slight drop during 2017, attributed to improving industry performance and that new employees were not reporting due to lack of familiarity with the EVAIR system. However, on a more positive note from 2012 to 2017 the average feedback timeframe from the EVAIR system has reduced from 125 days to only 10 days. A big concern identified by EVAIR is the GPS outage yearly trend, which at the time of the meeting had exceeded 1,000 reports for 2018, with a vast majority of such events taking place in the en route phase of flight. Coupled with this problem is the escalation in the use of GPS jammers with more and more flight information regions (FIRs) in the EU becoming affected.

Chris Mason, ERA Manager Policy and Technical provided details of incidents and accidents involving regional operators and/or aircraft since the last meeting. This included some interesting photographs highlighting what had gone wrong.

The group then introduced a new agenda item with each member providing a short presentation on a recent safety event that their operation had experienced. This turned out to be a hugely interesting section of the meeting with many varying issues shared, including:

  • aircraft stuck flaps,
  • autopilot servo actuator seizure,
  • runway incursion,
  • loss of landing gear door in flight,
  • ground collision during engine run-up,
  • evacuation on a runway,
  • smoke in the cockpit and passenger cabin on landing,
  • unannounced customs inspection, and
  • possible drone conflict on short finals.

This session proved so successful that it was agreed it will become a permanent feature in future meetings of the group.

This was followed by the final two presentations of the day, which focussed on the item of safety management. Bob van Riemsdijk, Director Safety & Compliance at ERA Member KLM Cityhopper, spoke about the safety awareness and promotion campaign that KLM Cityhoppper has in place. Bob outlined the introduction programme created for all new staff members that focusses on the importance of safety, including videos that encourage a reporting culture. The objective of the programme is to improve safety culture and safety performance within the organisation and raise awareness of safety initiatives. To ensure the programme obtains the maximum benefit for employees, it is split into the following five categories:

  1. general training – which is mandatory for all staff,
  2. middle nanagement – aimed at cabin crew management and the Chief Pilot,
  3. higher management – board members etc.,
  4. employees in a specific role and tasked with ISMS (Integrated Safety Management Systems) – auditors and investigators etc.,
  5. third parties – visitors, customers and suppliers.

The programme encompasses videos, e-learning modules and there is a ‘sharepoint’ page where de-identified information relating to safety matters can be viewed by all staff members.

This was followed by a presentation on Safety Manager competencies for a performance-based operation, delivered by Jeff Fieldhouse, Safety & Compliance Manager at Jota Aviation. Jeff’s presentation was structured around the following five key areas:

  1. ownership of safety – understand who really owns safety and where the Safety Manager sits,
  2. responsibilities of the Safety Manager - understanding the scope of the Safety Manager's role,
  3. Safety Manager competence requirements - understanding the knowledge, skills and attributes required to perform the role,
  4. The Safety Manager's objectives and how to demonstrate success - understanding what ‘good looks like’ and how to demonstrate it, and
  5. integrating safety with the operation - the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach – the objective is to understand the importance of integrating Safety with the whole organisation.

Jeff outlined that as well as the basic safety skills the Safety Manager is also responsible for, demonstrating a picture of safety and delivering this to colleagues within the organisation on behalf of the accountable manager. This is achieved by having an efficient and proactive culture that recognises the advantages of identifying and managing threats to the organisation. It should benefit both safety and commercial enhancements, whilst remaining within the intent of the regulations.

After day one of the meeting closed, the delegates visited the Old Town of Tallinn for a networking dinner, kindly hosted by Nordica.

Day two of the meeting commenced with Chris Mason discussing with the group the latest EASA SIBs (Safety Information Bulletins) and NPAs (Notice of Proposed Amendments) published since the previous meeting of the group.

During the previous two meetings of the group, the safety members decided to review the groups ‘top 5’ critical safety topics forming the basis of focus for the next two years. After much in-depth discussion the group agreed on the following five items:

  1. Approach and landing threats
  2. Pushback protocol & chocking procedures
  3. ATC interface & communication
  4. Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones)
  5. Developing safety culture (i.e. contractors)

Pilot shortage and training was another popular topic, but as both Montserrat Barriga (ERA) and Chris Mason explained, there are plans to create another ERA group focussing on this topic. Therefore, it was agreed not to include this as one of the ‘top 5’ in order to avoid the danger of duplicating effort.

For the final presentation of the meeting, the group welcomed ERA member Screen4, represented by Robbie Burns, Head of Training. Screen4 provide the most comprehensive random and ‘with cause’ drug and alcohol testing service across all markets. In particular, they are the world leader in managed random and 'with cause' drug and alcohol testing programs within the aviation industry, operating in over 40 countries globally. Robbie shared with the group his experiences on such testing programmes, including a background on society habits regarding drink and drug drivers in the UK. Regarding pilots, he advised that although the figures for pilots failing drug and alcohol tests are low, they are not ‘zero’, which is a concern. The ramifications in the event of a pilot failing such a test are far reaching and can include any, or all of the following:

  • loss of key staff – a pilot being removed from the flight at the gate,
  • bad PR for the airline,
  • public confidence in the airline (and possibly industry) may suffer,
  • financial implications if the flight is delayed or cancelled (due to the removal of the pilot).

Robbie then provided details of the various uses of both drugs and alcohol, which can range from those who may be either experimenting, recreational users or finally individuals that are dependent. To demonstrate the impairment effect of drugs and alcohol on the human body, Robbie selected a ‘volunteer’ from the meeting to undertake a simple ‘walking in a straight line’ test. This was then repeated, but with the volunteer wearing special goggles distorting vision and balance perception and thus mirroring the effect of drugs/alcohol and the result was very interesting!

The final ‘closed session’, the Safety Information Discussion (SIDs) was primarily utilised to continue the previous day’s session, where members talked about a recent event that had affected their operation.

As a result, the following interesting issues were shared with the group:

  • engine failure event,
  • stick shaker after rotation due to accumulation of ice, and
  • prolonged loss of communication between flight crew and ATC.

The next meeting of the ERA Air Safety Group will be during spring 2019, with exact dates and a venue to be advised in due course.