Pilots’ Concerns Echoed NTSB Safety Recommendations <


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Pilots’ Concerns Echoed NTSB Safety Recommendations

By Bill Goldston

February 22, 2010 - The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), commends the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for continuing to use its Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements to draw attention to many of the most serious safety challenges the U.S. airline industry faces today. 

“We are gratified that the NTSB continues to push the FAA to enhance safety in critical areas, including the need to take on pilot fatigue, reduce runway incursions and excursions, and provide better guidance to ensure safe flight in icing conditions,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “ALPA strongly supports the Board’s call for expedited action to better safeguard passengers, crews, and cargo against these threats.” 

For decades, ALPA has urged the airline industry and the FAA to address pilot fatigue by modernizing airline pilots’ flight- and duty-time limits and minimum rest requirements based on science. During the meeting, the NTSB reinforced the need to reduce accidents and incidents caused by human fatigue.

On June 28, 2008 at approximately 10:15 pm pacific daylight time, Airborne Express flight 1611, a Boeing 767 aircraft, registration N799AX, caught fire just aft of the cockpit area while the flightcrew were preparing to start the engines. The airplane was parked at plot 11 at the San Francisco International Airport with all cargo loaded at the time the fire erupted. Both flightcrew members exited the aircraft safely via the cockpit windows.


“Our union has been deeply involved in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee and Congressional efforts to address pilot fatigue,” said Prater. “We hope the visibility surrounding this NTSB meeting will provide an added push to get the proposed regulatory changes through the process and out to the public.”  

In addition, the Association applauds the NTSB’s continued focus on efforts to provide safer operations on and around runways. ALPA continues to be an industry leader in work to eliminate runway incursions and excursions. Technologies such as ADS-B and cockpit moving map displays, combined with runway status lights and enhanced runway markings, will help pilots safely navigate increasingly complex and congested airports. 

Prater said that ALPA pilots are encouraged by the FAA’s commitment to increase the number of airports with runway status lights in 2011, but he underscored that the airline industry must continue to pursue the range of high- and low-tech solutions to making runways as safe as possible. 


While supporting nearly all the NTSB’s Most Wanted Safety Improvements, ALPA, the world’s largest non-governmental aviation safety organization, remains adamantly opposed to the Board’s recommendation for the use of cockpit image recorders. 

“Well-proven and far superior methods exist to gather safety information without the threat of becoming the distraction in the cockpit that video cameras pose,” concluded Prater. “Cameras also hold the potential to compromise the accident investigation process and invade privacy. In addition, the absence of international safeguards makes it a virtual certainty that such data would be misused. These powerful drawbacks make it clear that cockpit image recorders have no place in a commitment to advancing aviation safety.” 

NTSB Most Wanted List For Aviation Actions Needed By FAA  

Require Image Recorders

• Install crash-protected image recorders in cockpits to give investigators more information to solve complex accidents.  

Improve the Safety of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Flights

• Conduct all flights with medical personnel on board in accordance with stricter commuter aircraft regulations.

• Develop and implement flight risk evaluation programs for EMS operators.

• Require formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures including up-to-date weather information.

• Install terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) on aircraft used for EMS operations.  

Improve Runway Safety

• Give immediate warnings of probable collisions/incursions directly to flight crews in the cockpit.

• Require specific air traffic control (ATC) clearance for each runway crossing.

• Require operators to install cockpit moving map displays or an automatic system that alerts pilots when a takeoff is attempted on a taxiway or a runway other than the one intended.

• Require a landing distance assessment with an adequate safety margin for every landing.          

Reduce Dangers to Aircraft Flying in Icing Conditions

• Use current research on freezing rain and large water droplets to revise the way aircraft are designed and approved for flight in icing conditions.

• Apply revised icing requirements to currently certificated aircraft.

• Require that airplanes with pneumatic deice boots activate the boots as soon as the airplane enters icing conditions.  

Improve Crew Resource Management

• Require commuter and on-demand air taxi flight crews to receive crew resource management training.

• Reduce Accidents and Incidents Caused by Human Fatigue in the Aviation Industry

• Set working hour limits for flight crew s, aviation mechanics, and air traffic controllers based on fatigue research, circadian rhythms, and sleep and rest requirements.

• Develop fatigue awareness and countermeasures training program for controllers and those who schedule them for duty.

• Develop guidance for operators to establish fatigue management systems, including a methodology that will continually assess the effectiveness of these systems.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada.

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