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U.K. Government releases results of drone / aircraft mid air collision damage study
23 July 2017

U.K. Government releases results of drone / aircraft mid air collision damage study

The U.K. Government released the results of a drone / aircraft mid air collision study.

The study was commissioned by the U.K. Department for Transport, the Military Aviation Authority and British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) to determine effects of a mid-air collision between small remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, commonly known as a drones) and manned aircraft. The study was conducted by QinetiQ and Natural Impacts using laboratory collision testing and computer modelling.

The study aimed to find the lowest speed at collision where critical damage could occur to aircraft components. Critical damage was defined in this study to mean major structural damage of the aircraft component or penetration of drone through the windscreen into the cockpit.

The study has indicated that:

  • Non-birdstrike certified helicopter windscreens have very limited resilience to the impact of a drone, well below normal cruise speeds.
  • The non-birdstrike certified helicopter windscreen results can also be applied to general aviation aeroplanes which also do not have a birdstrike certification requirement.
  • Although the birdstrike certified windscreens tested had greater resistance than non-birdstrike certified, they could still be critically damaged at normal cruise speeds.
  • Helicopter tail rotors are also very vulnerable to the impact of a drone, with modelling showing blade failures from impacts with the smaller drone components tested.
  • Airliner windscreens are much more resistant, however, the study showed that there is a risk of critical windscreen damage under certain impact conditions:
    * It was found that critical damage did not occur at high, but realistic impact speeds, with the 1.2 kg class drone components.
    * However, critical damage did occur to the airliner windscreens at high, but realistic, impact speeds, with the 4 kg class drone components used in this study.
  • The construction of the drone plays a significant role in the impact of a collision. Notably, the 400 g class drone components, which included exposed metal motors, caused critical failure of the helicopter windscreens at lower speeds than the 1.2 kg class drone components, which had plastic covering over their motors. This is believed to have absorbed some of the shock of the collision, reducing the impact.
  • The testing and modelling showed that the drone components used can cause significantly more damage than birds of equivalent masses at speeds lower than required to meet birdstrike certification standards.

More information:

Audit: FAA needs to enhance its flight deck vulnerabilities mitigation efforts

According to an audit, the U.S. FAA has taken steps to identify flight deck vulnerabilities but needs to enhance its mitigation efforts.
In the wake of the pilot-suicide crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in March 2015, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein requested that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) evaluate the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of commercial airline flight deck safety. The audit objectives were to assess the effectiveness of FAA’s actions to (1) identify vulnerabilities to flight deck security, and (2) mitigate identified flight deck vulnerabilities.
The OIG made six recommendations to the FAA to improve cockpit safety and security; FAA concurred with three recommendations, partially concurred with one recommendation, and non-concurred with two recommendations. We are requesting that FAA reconsider its response for two recommendations.
The Department of Transportation has determined that this OIG report contains sensitive security information (SSI) and will therefore not be disclosed to the public.

AAIB and BEA issue annual safety reviews

The U.K. AAIB Annual Safety Review for 2016 contains information on the activity during 2016 and includes an overview of the 57 Safety Recommendations and Safety Actions published in the 36 field and 208 correspondence investigation reports during the year.

It also includes information on the occurrence factors established from the AAIB investigations, with articles on the AAIB’s use of simulators and drones in accident investigation.

The French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) similarly published their annual report for 2016. During 2016 a total of 116 investigations were opened and 46 Safety Recommendations were issued.


Canadian committee recommends mandatory use of SMS for all commercial operators

A Canadian Parliament Committee issued a report to the federal government with 17 recommendations, aimed at enhancing aviation safety in Canada.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard 47 witnesses and received 11 briefs, leading to a report with 17 safety recommendations.


Notably the Committee recommends the mandatory implementation of a Safety Management System for all commercial operators in Canada, including the air taxi sector. Also, the federal government is urged to implement the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommendation on 300-metre runway end safety areas.


  1. That Transport Canada use its proposed regulation for fatigue management, based on scientific evidence and with safety as a primary concern, for the purpose of soliciting comment and advice, while pursuing consultation with stakeholders, in order to find ways to take into account the specific operating conditions of certain regions.
  2. That Transport Canada review Interim Order No. 5 Respecting Flight Deck Occupants in consultation with stakeholders to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.
  3. That the federal government revise the 50:1 passenger to flight attendant ratio in consultation with stakeholders and experts on flight attendant ratios, while keeping the security of Canadians as a top priority.
  4. That the Minister of Transport examine best practices for flight training, striking a balance between in flight and simulator based training and certification for pilots. And that in his study, the Minister take into account recent technological advances, as well as seek input from industry and pilot associations.
  5. That Transport Canada reviews its decision to allow Transport Canada and Transportation Safety Board pilots to renew flight certifications using only simulators.
  6. That the implementation of a Safety Management System becomes mandatory for all commercial operators, including the air taxi sector.
  7. That Transport Canada:
    a. establish targets to ensure more on-site safety inspections versus Safety Management System audits;
    b. use poor results from Safety Management System audits (including whistleblower input) as a ‘flag’ for prioritizing on-site inspections;
    c. Review whistleblower policies to ensure adequate protection for people who raise safety issues to foster open, transparent and timely disclosure of safety concerns.
  8. That the government make sure that Safety Management Systems are accompanied by an effective, properly financed, adequately staffed system of regulatory oversight: monitoring, surveillance and enforcement supported by sufficient, appropriately trained staff.
  9. That Transport Canada review all training processes and training materials for civil aviation inspectors to ensure they have the resources to perform their duties effectively.
  10. That Transport Canada establish an expedited process for responding to Transportation Safety Board of Canada air safety related recommendations, including the backlog, and that an enhanced reporting system be adopted to prevent recommendations from languishing, without action, on the Transportation Safety Board Active Recommendations list regarding aviation.
  11. That Transport Canada invite the International Civil Aviation Organization to conduct a comprehensive audit of Canada’s civil aviation oversight system.
  12. That Transport Canada undertake an air safety review and report its findings back to Parliament.
  13. That the federal government produce an annual compliance report on Transport Canada’s implementation of any measures identified in the audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
  14. That the federal government implement the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and International Civil Aviation Organization recommendation on 300-metre runway end safety areas.
  15. That Transport Canada examine the various security databases upon which security clearances rely to ensure they are as current as possible.
  16. That the government increase the financing of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, in particular by making sure that the revenues from the fees paid by travelers are allocated to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
  17. That Transport Canada develop a plan and a timeline to address the specific operating conditions and infrastructure needs of airlines serving Northern Canada and small airports.


Portugal starts study on near miss incidents involving drones

The Portuguese Office for the Prevention and Investigation of Aircraft Accidents and Rail Accidents (GPIAAF) announced that they will initiate a study relating to the operation of drones in the country’s airspace.

Reason for the study is the amount of near miss incidents between drones and aircraft in the country. The study will addres the following aspects:

  1. Characterization of the history of incidents in Portugal involving the proximity of drones to manned aircraft;
  2.  Characterization of drones and applicable legislation;
  3. Operational practices in the air and on land when sighting a drone in a restricted area;
  4. Dissemination and training programs for drone users;
  5. Perception of key stakeholders as to the adequacy and effectiveness of legislation and regulation;
  6. Review of international practices and experiences in this area;
  7. Review of recommendations issued by research organizations;
  8. Possible preparation of recommendations for prevention of this type of occurrences.

More information:

EASA publishes Annual Safety Review of 2016

EASA published their ‘Annual Safety Review 2017’, covering the year 2016.

The only fatal accident in Commercial Air Transport aeroplane airline operations in 2016 that involved an EASA Member State operator was the accident of a Canadair CRJ-200 performing a cargo flight on 8 January 2016. EASA reports a lower number of non-fatal accidents involving Member State operators in 2016 than the 10-year average, with 16 accidents compared to the average of 23.1 over the previous 10 years. At the same time, there was a 36% increase in the number of serious incidents over the same period resulting in a total of 106 serious incidents compared with the average of 78.2. In terms of fatalities, the single fatal accident resulted in 2 fatalities (the flight crew, the only occupants of the aeroplane), which is much lower than the 10 year average.
There was also a slight decrease in serious injuries with 9 serious injuries compared with 10 over the previous 10 years.

More information:


ASN releases drone near-miss database

The Aviation Safety Network today released the ASN Drone Database, containing over 2800 reports of unmanned aircraft (UAS) sightings from pilots and airprox occurrences involving UAS and aircraft. The types of UAS covered include consumer and professional helicopter type drones, larger military fixed wing (reconnaissance) drones, and model aircraft.

Most of the data has been sourced from official government agencies, like the U.S. FAA, Transport Canada, and the UK Airprox Board. The data has been structured and enriched so it can be easily filtered by among others aircraft type involved, altitude, estimated separation distance.

The database includes eight cases of suspected and confirmed UAS collisions with aircraft and 73 cases in which an evasive manoeuvre had to be carried out by a pilot to avoid colliding with a drone.

The database is available for download as .CSV (spreadsheet) and .PDF (document) files.

MH370 most likely in new search area says new ocean drift analysis

A new report released by the Australian CSIRO further confirms the most likely location of the missing flight MH370 is in the new search area identified by a review conducted in November 2016.

Even though the active underwater search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has stopped, researchers continue to pinpoint the most likely area where the Boeing 777 went down. The new report published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) features data and analysis from ocean testing of an actual Boeing 777 flaperon.

This added an extra level of assurance to the findings from earlier drift modelling research, which was conducted using replicas of the a flaperon found on La Reunion Island.

An actual B777 flaperon was sourced and cut down to match photographs of MH370’s flaperon, and then testing was done in the waters near Hobart.

Knowledge of  how the flaperon, and the other parts of MH370 that have been found, respond to wind and waves were combined with the currents of the Indian Ocean.

CSIRO combined both in a model to simulate the drift across the ocean, to be able to compare the results with observations of where debris was and wasn’t found, in order to deduce the location of the aircraft.

The new report’s findings support the conclusions of the first report. It indicates that the most likely location of MH370 is in the new search area identified and recommended by the First Principles Review report, and most likely at the southern end of that, near 35 degrees South.

“We cannot be absolutely certain, but that is where all the evidence we have points us, and this new work leaves us more confident in our findings,” CSIRO states.

More information:

Dutch Safety Board publishes findings of Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport safety investigation

In recent decades, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has expanded to become one of Europe’s main civil aviation hubs. The airport is sandwiched between densely populated urban areas, so trade-offs must continually be made between growth and the consequences thereof for the surrounding area. Safety needs to have a prominent place in these trade-offs, as the effects and impacts of civil aviation accidents can be substantial.
Following a series of incidents (some of which occurred more than once), the Dutch Safety Board carried out an investigation to identify any vulnerabilities in the safety system around Schiphol. The investigation found no evidence to suggest that safety at Schiphol is inadequate. However, the investigation did reveal a number of safety risks that need to be tackled integrally and systematically in order to guarantee safety both now and in the future.


1. Both Amsterdam Airport Schiphol’s physical infrastructure, its formal usage framework and its everyday operations are highly complex, giving rise to safety risks.
a. The complexity involved in handling air traffic at Schiphol is largely due to historical and recent choices regarding the airport’s design, layout and operation.
b. Schiphol’s plan and layout are complex in nature. The numerous taxiways, runway exits and entries, the relative (sometimes converging) runway orientations, maintenance hangar locations and the location of the S-platform (cargo) introduce risks of incidents and accidents.
c. The complexity in handling air traffic stems from:
— the implemented concept of operations involving a ‘wave system’, featuring peaks in traffic levels;
— the terms of operation relating to noise annoyance mitigation; noise preferential flight operations result in many runway configuration changes;
— the way parties organise their processes.
d. The increase in air traffic adds to the complexity. Since 2014, the increase in air traffic has gone hand in hand with an increase in the number of incidents.
e. Schiphol airport is approaching the limits of its ability to handle air traffic safely within the current operational concept.

2. In decision-making processes about Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, safety is taken into account as a precondition. The impact on safety of various noise abatement measures is factored into the assessment. The way in which safety (as a precondition) is implemented, has the following shortcomings:
a. Decisions are tested against the ATC standard, in which a maximum acceptable accident risk per flight is defined for the air traffic control system. This safety standard covers only a small part of the operational safety risks at and around Schiphol.
b. Prior to the introduction of the new standards and enforcement system, no integral analysis took place of the effects on safety. The safety effects of frequent runway configuration changes have not been examined.
c. The external safety policy is of marginal significance to the safety of local residents.
The standard for local risk provides scant guidance to the sector parties. There are no clear standards for group risk.

3. The cooperation in the field of safety between the main sector parties at Schiphol has a number of shortcomings.
a. At strategic level, there are no safety consultations with common agendas and common safety goals.
b. Cooperation within the Schiphol Safety Platform (Veiligheidsplatform Schiphol) is too noncommittal, primarily reactive, and limited to the operational level.
c. The Schiphol Safety Platform lacks the authority to enforce safety measures at the parties involved.

4. The State assumes responsibility for the integral safety of air traffic at and around Schiphol in a way that is too limited.
a. In the system that is to guarantee air traffic safety at and around Schiphol, the Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment fulfils several roles that are at odds with each other.
b. the Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment has no idea about the total level of safety of air traffic at and around Schiphol and the effect of the total amount of changes on that safety level. A testable criterion for integral air traffic safety is lacking. It is unclear how it can be ascertained that safety on the whole is improving.
c. Safety is not given enough priority in the decision-making with regard to the development of Schiphol airport.
d. The Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment leaves the role of safety watchdog in the Schiphol Community Council (Omgevingsraad Schiphol) to Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland).
e. Subject-knowledge and capacity of the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport) are inadequate for maintaining effective oversight of air traffic safety at and around Schiphol. The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate has only a limited idea about the safety effects of successive changes to the ATM system.
f. The Aviation Occurrence Analysis Bureau (Analysebureau Luchtvaartvoorvallen) fails in its functions as feedback mechanism for policy and oversight and as an instrument for proactive risks identification.

More information:

UAE recommends operators to exercise oversight of fuel suppliers after fueling incidents

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) recommends operators to exercise oversight of aircraft fuel suppliers following several fueling incidents.

On 16 February 2016 an Airbus was scheduled to operate a passenger flight from the United Arab Emirates, to United States. The aircraft was parked at the parking stand and the fueling commenced at 01:10 LT by the fueling supplier. Fueling was in progress and 163,057 liters of fuel had already been pumped to the aircraft when, at 02:12 LT, the fueling operator observed dark black smoke emanating from the vehicles’ engine compartment. The operator immediately released the ‘deadman’ control and started to attend to the fire using a fire extinguisher. Another fueling operator who was awaiting an aircraft arrival on the adjacent stand, noticed the fire and informed his supervisor, who in turn informed the fire service, the airport authorities and the Operator. The second fueling operator then attended to the fire with his vehicle’s fire extinguisher. The Emergency Hydrant Shutdown Switch (ESD), which is positioned 80 meters from the incident site, was activated at 0218 LT. Six fire extinguishers were emptied before the airport rescue and firefighting team arrived and extinguished the fire. No injuries were reported and fire damage was limited to the hydrant fueling vehicle. The aircraft was subsequently released to service and fueled with the remaining 81,610 liters by another fueling vehicle.

This incident was one of twelve fueling incidents that have occurred in the United Arab Emirates. Of these 12 events, nine involved fuel leaks during the fueling process. The fuel leaks were caused by aircraft fuel system defects, or fuel system handling issues.

The GCAA’s Air Accident Investigation Sector (AAIS) is concerned with the quality of safety oversight of fuel agents as third party service suppliers to operators in the United Arab Emirates.
The current regulation excludes certain third party service suppliers from the requirement to establish and implement an approved safety management system. Furthermore, CAR Part X Safety Management System, omits the requirement for air operators to describe their interaction with third party service suppliers. A solid interaction with third party service suppliers would reduce the likelihood that defenses in the operator’s safety management system are weakened by third party staff, or unsuitable equipment standards.
This situation requires from the air operator not only a good understanding of relevant operational risks, but also the initiative to manage the risks sufficiently, while exceeding current regulatory requirements.

In light of the findings, the Air Accident Investigation Sector recommends that the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates:

  1. Establish a requirement in CAR Part X- Safety Management System, that the operator apply their safety management system to fuel suppliers. The extent of application of the operator’s SMS to fuel suppliers should be documented in the contract agreed between the operator and the fuel supplier.
  2. Establish a requirement for operators to exercise oversight of aircraft fuel suppliers. The extent of oversight should be documented in the contract agreed between the operator and the fuel supplier.

More information: