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EASA proposes drug, alcohol testing and psychological assessment of pilots
9 December 2016

EASA proposes drug, alcohol testing and psychological assessment of pilots

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published a proposal to the European Commission on new operational rules on pilot mental fitness, drug and alcohol testing. This proposal is part of an action plan following the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident.
EASA’s proposal, Opinion 14/2016, includes the following new requirements:

  • Ensuring that all pilots have access to a support programme;
  • Mandating airlines to perform a psychological assessment of pilots before the start of employment;
  • Introducing systematic Drug & Alcohol (D&A) testing of flight and cabin crew upon employment, after a serious incident or accident, with due cause (i.e. following reasonable suspicion), as well as
  • Unannounced D&A testing after rehabilitation and return to work;
  • As an additional safety barrier for airlines which are not already subject to a national programme for psychoactive substance testing: mandatory random alcohol screening of flight and cabin crew within the EU RAMP inspection programme.

The proposals address relevant safety recommendations made after the Flight 9525 accident by the EASA-led Task Force, as well as by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA).

The EASA Opinion will serve as the basis for a legislative proposal by the European Commission in the course of 2017.

 

FAA extends flight ban for Ukraine’s Simferopol and Dnipropetrovsk FIRs

Simferopol (UKFV) and Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIRs

Simferopol (UKFV) and Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIRs

Due to the continuing hazards the the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is extending the prohibition on flight operations in the Simferopol (UKFV) and Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIRs in Ukraine.

The FAA initially banned all U.S. flights from the Simferopol and Dnipropetrovsk areas on July 18, 2014, the day after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down near Hrabove, Ukraine. The FAA continued to evaluate the situation in the area and has determined there is a continuing significant flight safety hazard to U.S. civil aviation.

Simferopol FIR

Although the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) published a Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) on February 17, 2016, indicating that ATS routes L851 and M856 could be considered for planning flights in the Simferopol (UKFV) FIR, there is continuing concern over the hazard to U.S. civil aviation from possible conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian air traffic service providers. Shortly following the EASA bulletin, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency responded with a press release in which it again asserted that it was responsible for air traffic services in a portion of the Simferopol (UKFV) FIR. The Russian circular (from Feb 21, 2016) further stated, “The Russian Federation does not bear the responsibility for the provision of safety to those flights, which will be operated within Simferopol FIR under control of ATC unit other than Simferopol Air Traffic Management Centre.” Russia contended that EASA’s decision was politically motivated and `pose[d] a threat to aviation safety in the region.’ In addition, there have been reported incidents of purposeful interference, including GPS jamming, in the Simferopol (UKFV) and Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIRs. Based on this information, the FAA continues to assess that there is a significant flight safety hazard to U.S. civil aviation in the Simferopol (UKFV) FIR.

Dnipropetrovsk FIR

In the Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIR, there is an ongoing risk of skirmishes in the area and a potential for larger-scale fighting in eastern Ukraine involving combined Russian-separatist forces, according to the FAA. This could result in civil aircraft being misidentified as a threat and then intercepted or otherwise engaged, as demonstrated by the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. These combined forces have access to a variety of anti-aircraft weapons, to include man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and possibly more advanced surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs) that have the capability to engage aircraft at higher altitudes.
Separatists have demonstrated their ability to use these anti-aircraft weapons by successfully shooting down a number of aircraft during the course of the fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014. More recently, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) unmanned aerial systems (UASs) also have been shot down by surface-to-air missiles and small arms ground fire, and brought down with GPS jamming in the Dnipropetrovsk (UKDV) FIR.

These considerations caused the FAA to extend the flight ban from October 27, 2016, to October 27, 2018.

More info:

U.S. bans all Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones from airplanes

Warning notice on Note7 devices before ban was issued (photo: mike / CC:by-sa)

Warning notice on Note7 devices before ban was issued (photo: mike / CC:by-sa)

U.S. authorities have banned  all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone devices from aircraft over safety issues.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), issued an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States.
Individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States. This prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices. The phones also cannot be shipped as air cargo.  The ban will be effective on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at noon ET.

The order explains that a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device “may cause an ignition or a dangerous evolution of heat or become a fuel source for fire.” Samsung acknowledged this fact with the September 15, 2016 recall, Samsung’s October 11, 2016 announcement that it was suspending the manufacture and sale of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device, and the October 13, 2016 Samsung expanded recall covering all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices. Furthermore, persons have experienced incidents of dangerous evolution of heat with the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device, also on aircraft.

More information:

 

FAA issues airline guidance on recalled devices powered by lithium batteries

Following a Consumer Product Safety Commission recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the U.S. FAA issued general guidance to airlines about the rules for carrying recalled or defective lithium devices on board aircraft as cargo or in carry-on luggage.

U.S. hazardous material regulations prohibit air cargo shipments of recalled or defective lithium batteries and lithium battery-powered devices, and passengers may not turn on or charge the devices when they carry them on board a plane. Passengers must also protect the devices from accidental activation, including disabling any features that may turn on the device, such as alarm clocks, and must not pack them in checked luggage.

The SAFO urges the airlines: to ensure that cargo and passenger processing employees, and those responsible for cabin safety, are aware of the rules; to ensure that cargo customers are aware of the rules; and to include information and guidance on their websites about damaged or recalled lithium batteries and devices.

The SAFO notes that the hazardous material regulations do not preclude an airline from proactively placing its own restrictions on carrying or using specific lithium battery products on board aircraft, prior to an official government recall or advisory.

 

EASA updates medical requirements for pilots following Germanwings 9525

EASA published a set of proposals to the European Commission for an update of the rules concerning pilots’ medical fitness, as part of its Action Plan following the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident. These rules are contained in so-called Part-MED, which covers aviation safety rules related to the medical aspect and fitness of aircrews.

Released in a document known as an Opinion, these proposals introduce the following new requirements, among others:

  • strengthening the initial and recurrent medical examination of pilots, by including drugs and alcohol screening, comprehensive mental health assessment, as well as improved follow-up in case of medical history of psychiatric conditions;
  • increasing the quality of aero-medical examinations, by improving the training, oversight and assessment of aero-medical examiners;
  • preventing fraud attempts, by requiring aero-medical centres and AMEs to report all incomplete medical assessments to the competent authority.

These proposals have been subject to consultation with all concerned stakeholders. They address relevant safety recommendations made after the Flight 9525 accident by the EASA-led Task Force, as well as by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA).

The EASA Opinion (Opinion 09/2016) also includes a broader update of Part-MED, aimed at keeping the rules up-to-date with latest developments in the field of medicine and filling any gaps identified through the operational experience.

Next steps:
The EASA Opinion will serve as the basis for a legislative proposal by the European Commission towards the end of 2016. To support the implementation of the new rules, EASA has prepared draft guidance material (so-called Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material – AMC/GM), annexed to the Opinion. The final AMC/GM will be published when the new rules have been adopted by the Commission. A further set of regulatory proposals in the area of Air Operations will follow before the end of the year

IATA and lithium battery industry call for stricter enforcement

A DC-8 cargo fire in 2006 was likely caused by lithium batteries

A DC-8 cargo fire in 2006 was likely caused by lithium batteries

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) partnered with the lithium battery industry to demand stricter enforcement of international regulations regarding the transport of lithium batteries.

In a joint letter to Ministers of Trade, Industry and Transport, and Directors of Civil Aviation in the world’s largest lithium battery manufacturing and export countries, the organisations call for lithium battery safety regulations to be enforced at the point of origin including the initial shipper and the battery manufacturer.

The letter also called for implementation of cooperative enforcement initiatives between jurisdictions to address situations, where lithium batteries manufactured in one state are driven over a border to be flown from another state. The global associations also called for significant fines and custodial sentences to be imposed on those who circumvent the regulations.

The transportation of lithium batteries is a growing concern in the aviation industry after several accidents involving cargo aircraft in which (suspected) shipments of lithium batteries caught fire on board. To avoid this, regulations are in place regarding the safe packaging and shipping of lithium batteries.

IATA and the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA) have called upon governments to address the danger posed by the wilful disregard of these international regulations by rogue manufacturers and shippers and to close existing legal loopholes that prevent prosecutions of serial offenders.

IATA and the lithium battery industry fear that the lack of enforcement is increasing pressure on airlines and regulators to unilaterally ban all forms of lithium battery shipments from aircraft. This would add to the cost of global supply chains and consumer goods, and encourage those who flout the law to increase mislabelling of batteries, further increasing safety and security risks, IATA claims.

The organisations that signed the letters are: IATA, PRBA, the US Rechargeable Battery Association, RECHARGE, the European Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Battery Association, the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA)

More information:

 

EASA publishes updated guidance on minimum cockpit occupancy after Germanwings 9525

A320 cockpit door lock

A320 cockpit door lock

EASA is offering airlines and regulators more guidance to assess the safety and security risks associated with a flight crew member remaining alone on the flight deck.

Recent accidents involving Germanwings flight 9525 and LAM Mozambique Airlines Flight 470 highlighted the risk associated with a flight crew member remaining alone in a flight crew compartment equipped with a secure door and being able to deliberately lock out the other crew member(s).

On 27 March 2015, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published a Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) addressing this risk. Feedback from airlines led EASA to publish an updated SIB.

CAT.OP.MPA.210 of Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 stipulates that flight crew members required to be on duty in the flight crew compartment shall remain at the assigned station, unless absence is necessary for the performance of duties in connection with the operations or for physiological needs, provided at least one suitably qualified pilot remains at the controls of the aircraft at all times.
In such cases, EASA recommends operators to assess the safety and security risks associated with a flight crew member remaining alone in the flight crew compartment.
This assessment should take the following elements into account:

  1. the operator’s psychological and security screening policy of flight crews;
  2. employment stability and turnover rate of flight crews;
  3. access to a support programme, providing psychological support and relief to flight crew when needed; and
  4. ability of the operator’s management system to mitigate psychological and social risks.

If the assessment leads the operator to require two authorised persons in accordance with CAT.GEN.MPA.135 to be in the flight crew compartment at all times, operators should ensure that:
(a) the role of the authorised person, other than the operating pilot, in the flight crew compartment is clearly defined, considering that his/her main task should be to open the secure door when the flight crew member who left the compartment returns;
(b) only suitably qualified flight crew members are allowed to sit at the controls;
(c) safety and security procedures are established for his/her presence in the flight crew compartment (e.g. operation of the flight deck, specific procedure for entry, use of observer seat and oxygen masks, avoidance of distractions etc.);
(d) training needs are addressed and identified as appropriate;
(e) safety risks stemming from the authorised person leaving the passenger cabin are assessed and mitigated, if necessary; and
(f) resulting procedures are detailed in the Operations Manual and, when relevant, the related security reference documents.

 

 

U.S. adopts new standards to assess runway conditions during inclement weather

The Southwest 737 runway excursion accident at Chicago-Midway in 2005 (NTSB)

The Southwest 737 runway excursion accident at Chicago-Midway in 2005 (NTSB)

In order to reduce the risk of runway overrun accidents and incidents due to runway contamination caused by weather and other factors, the U.S. aviation community will start using new standards to assesses runway conditions during inclement weather.

The FAA developed the standards based on the work of the Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment (TALPA) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which was formed after the December 2005 overrun accident at Chicago Midway Airport.  In that accident, Southwest Flight 1248 ran off the end of the runway and into a city street after landing during a snowstorm.

These standards will be used by U.S. airports, airline flight crews, dispatchers, general aviation pilots, and air traffic controllers, starting October 1, 2016, to communicate actual runway conditions to the pilots in terms that directly relate to the way a particular aircraft is expected to perform.

Airport operators will use the Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM) to categorize runway conditions and pilots will use it to interpret reported runway conditions. The RCAM is presented in a standardized format, based on airplane performance data supplied by airplane manufacturers, for each of the stated contaminant types and depths. The RCAM replaces subjective judgments of runway conditions with objective assessments tied directly to contaminant type and depth categories.

AOC of SA Express suspended due to safety concerns

One of SA Express' CRJ-200's (photo: Bob Adams / CC:by-sa)

One of SA Express’ CRJ-200’s (photo: Bob Adams / CC:by-sa)

Following failure to comply with the applicable civil aviation regulations, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) briefly suspended SA Express’ air operator certificate (AOC). The suspension was effective as of  Saturday, 30 April 2016 and was reinstated on May 1.

CAA personnel conducted an audit on the South African Express operation on 19 and 20 April 2016, during which a series of non-compliances with safety regulations were found. The airline submitted corrective action plan on 29 April. According to a CAA statement,  this was judged inadequate by the CAA.

SA Express stated on May 1 that it met with CAA representatives and submitted required paperwork to the CAA. The same day the suspension was lifted.

SA Express is a regional airline, founded in 1994. It is currently operating ten Canadair CRJ-200ER jets, two CRJ-701ER’s and ten de Havilland Canada DHC-8-402Q Dash 8 turboprops. The airline passed IATA’s IOSA safety audit.

 

 

 

ICAO updates Annex 6 with requirements to help avoid recurrence of MH370-type disappearances

The ICAO Council adopted new provisions aimed at preventing the loss of commercial aircraft experiencing distress in remote locations.

ICAO announced new amendments to Annex 6 to the Chicago Convention (Operation of Aircraft) which will take effect between now and 2021. They relate primarily to:

  • The requirement for aircraft to carry autonomous distress tracking devices which can autonomously transmit location information at least once every minute in distress circumstances.
  • The requirement for aircraft to be equipped with a means to have flight recorder data recovered and made available in a timely manner.
  • Extending the duration of cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours so that they cover all phases of flight for all types of operations.

The provisions relating to one-minute distress tracking are performance-based, meaning that airlines and aircraft manufacturers may consider all available and emerging technologies which can deliver the one-minute location tracking requirement specified.

The new flight recorder data recovery provisions are also performance-based, meaning that related technology solutions may or may not entail the need for deployable flight recorders.

 

On March 8, 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing over the Indian Ocean, triggering an industry-wide effort for a.o. better flight-following in remote areas.