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FAA to test drone sensor detection systems around airports
9 May 2016

FAA to test drone sensor detection systems around airports

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that it signed three companies in an effort do develop a system to detect illegal operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying too close to airports.

The FAA signed  Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRDAs) with Gryphon Sensors, Liteye Systems Inc. and Sensofusion.

The companies’ prototype drone sensor detection systems will be evaluated at airports selected by the FAA. The agency and its federal government partners – particularly the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – will work with the companies to study how effective their respective technologies are, while ensuring they do not interfere with the safety and security of normal airport operations.

The CRDAs with Gryphon, Liteye and Sensofusion expand upon collaborative efforts with industry to develop system standards to identify unauthorized UAS flights near airports, which could pose a hazard to manned aircraft. The agency has seen a steep increase in reports of small UAS close to airports over the last two years.

The FAA has also partnered with DHS and CACI International on similar research to explore how that company’s prototype detection technology may help detect UAS.

EASA task force to study risk of collision between drones and aircraft

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced the creation of a task force to assess the risk of collision between drones and aircraft.

EASA will chair the task force which will include representatives of aircraft and engine manufacturers. The task force will consult the European member states and other relevant stakeholders as well as foreign authorities. At the end of July, it will publish its results and will organise a workshop with stakeholders to present and discuss its findings and recommendations

The task force will:

  • Review all relevant occurrences including the occurrences collected by the European Member States,
  • Analyse the existing studies on the subject of impact between drones and aircraft,
  • Study the vulnerabilities of aircraft (windshields, engines, and airframe) taking into account the different categories of aircraft (large aeroplanes, general aviation, and helicopters) and their associated design and operational requirements,
  • Consider the possibility to do further research and perform actual tests (for example on windshields).

A 2015 scientific impact analysis by Aero Kinetics Results showed that a drone strike to the windshield and engine ingestion of a commercial airliner would cause damage and economic losses, while a head-on rotorcraft drone strike would cause significant damage and be non-survivable.

Virginia Tech also studied drone strike effects, among others using a simulation of the effects of a drone being ingested in a turbofan engine:

ATSB: Two items of debris found on Mozambique coast ‘almost certainly’ belong to MH370

Both parts and the location on the aircraft

Both parts and the location on the aircraft

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) concluded that two items of debris found on the Mozambique coast were almost certainly from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO that went missing on March 8, 2014.

On 27 December 2015 and 27 February 2016, two items of debris were independently found, approximately 220km apart, on the Mozambique coast. Both items were investigated by the ATSB to determine the origin.

The first part was initially identified from a number stencilled on the part (676EB), as a segment from a Boeing 777 flap track fairing (Fairing No. 7) from the right wing. All measurable dimensions, materials, construction and other identifiable features conformed to the applicable Boeing drawings for the identified fairing.

The 676EB stencil font and colour was not original from manufacture, but instead conformed to that developed and used by MAB during painting operations. The part had been repainted, which was consistent with MAB maintenance records for 9M-MRO.

The second part was primarily identified from images showing the materials, construction and “NO STEP” stencil, as a segment of a Boeing 777 RH horizontal stabilizer panel. All measurable dimensions, materials, construction and other identifiable features conformed to the Boeing drawings for the stabiliser panel.

The part was marked on the upper surface in black paint with “NO STEP”. The font and location of the stencil were not original from manufacture, however the stencilling was consistent with that developed and used by Malaysian Airlines.

A single fastener was retained in the part. The fastener head markings identified it as being correct for use on the stabiliser panel assembly. The markings also identified the fastener manufacturer. That manufacturer’s fasteners were not used in current production, but did match the fasteners used in assembly of the aircraft next in the production line (405) to 9M-MRO (404).

Ongoing work is being conducted with respect to the marine ecology identification as well as testing of material samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete.

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IATA publishes Safety Report 2015

Accident per million sectors

Accident per million sectors

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published their  annual Safety Report, detailing the 2015 safety performance of the commercial airline industry.

The IATA analysis agrees with ASN’s 2015 review in that the accident rate continues its downward trend.  According to IATA:

  • The 2015 global jet accident rate was 0.32 hull losses per 1 million flights, which was the equivalent of one major accident for every 3.1 million flights. This was not as good as the rate of 0.27 achieved in 2014 but a 30% improvement compared to the previous five-year rate (2010-2014) of 0.46 hull loss accidents per million jet flights.
  • There were four accidents resulting in passenger fatalities in 2015, all of which involved turboprop aircraft, with 136 fatalities. This compares with an average of 17.6 fatal accidents and 504 fatalities per year in the previous five-year period (2010-2014).
  • The 2015 jet hull loss rate for members of IATA was 0.22 (one accident for every 4.5 million flights), which outperformed the global rate by 31% and which was in line with the five-year rate (2010-2014) of 0.21 per million flights but above the 0.12 hull loss rate achieved in 2014.
  • The loss of Germanwings 9525 (pilot suicide) and Metrojet 9268 (suspected terrorism) that resulted in the deaths of 374 passengers and crew are tragedies that occurred in 2015. They are not, however, included in the accident statistics as they are classified as deliberate acts of unlawful interference.

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MS181 is eighth hijacking involving an EgyptAir flight

The hijacking of flight MS181 on March 29, 2016 was the eighth hijacking involving an EgyptAir flight, according to ASN’s Safety Database.

23 Aug. 1976  Boeing 737-266  Flight: Cairo – Luxor
The EgyptAir Boeing 737 was hijacked during a domestic flight from Cairo to Luxor. The aircraft took off from Cairo at 07:15 hours local time. As the aircraft neared Luxor, three armed passengers hijacked the aircraft. They demanded to be flown to Libya, but the aircraft had to land at Luxor because the pilot told the hijacked he did not have enough fuel to reach Libya.
On the ground at Luxor the hijackers demanded the release of five prisoners, detained for plotting an assassination of dissident Libyan and Yemeni political leaders.
At 17:30 hours the aircraft was stormed by army commando forces and all hijackers were arrested.

24 Nov. 1985 Boeing 737-266 Flight: MS648 Athens – Cairo
On November 23, at 19:35 the EgyptAir Boeing 737 was hijacked by 3 men. The Egyptian security guard who was onboard shot and killed one of the hijackers before being shot and wounded himself, along with two flight attendants. Although the hijackers demanded to be flown to Tunisia or Libya, they agreed to land at Malta for refueling were it landed at 21:15. At Malta, the two wounded cabin crew members were released, along with 11 women. Because Maltese authorities refused to refuel the plane unless all passengers were released, the hijackers threatened to kill a passenger every 10 minutes. A total of 5 additional people were shot and thrown off the aircraft, two of them were killed.
After 22 hours of negotiation the plane was stormed by Egyptian forces. In the fight which followed hand grenades were thrown into the passenger cabin, causing a fire.

22 Oct. 1993 unknown aircraft Flight: MS767 Cairo – San’a
The EgyptAir flight was hijacked by a man carrying a large knife. The hijacker demanded to be taken to Aden, Yemen. The man was arrested after landing in San’a.

27 March 1996 Airbus A320-231 Flight: MS104 Luxor – Cairo
An Egyptian man and his teen-aged son and nephew hijacked Egypt Air flight 104 a few minutes after takeoff from Luxor. The flight had just stopped there en route from Jeddah to Cairo. The hijackers claimed to possess explosives and demanded to meet with world leaders. The pilot diverted the plane to Libya and landed at Derna-Martuba. The hijackers surrendered to Libyan authorities and stated that they had a message from God to deliver to Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi.

19 Oct. 1999 Boeing 737-566 Flight: MS838 Istanbul – Cairo
Aboard EgyptAir flight 838 was one passenger who was being deported from Turkey back to Egypt. Shortly after departure from Istanbul the man entered the flight deck (the cockpit door was inadvertently left open during the flight). He threatened the flight crew with what was initially believed to be a knife but almost certainly was a ballpoint pen. He alternately demanded that the flight be diverted to London or Germany. The airplane flew to Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel Airport (HAM), Germany where all passengers were released. German police apprehended the hijacker.

11 May 2000 Airbus A321-231 Flight: MS233 Cairo – Aswan
A man brandished a jar of hair gel and claimed it to be a bomb on board EgyptAir flight 233. The hijacker told the chief flight attendant that he wanted to go to Afghanistan so that he could find a job. After making the demand, the hijacker attempted to storm the cockpit of the Airbus A321 aircraft but was unable to gain entry and was overpowered by crew members. The plane landed in Aswan where the hijacker was taken into custody and charged with air piracy and threatening the lives of airplane passengers. None of the 19 people on the flight were injured.

21 Oct. 2009 Boeing 737 Flight: MS738 Istanbul – Cairo
A Sudanese passenger on board the EgyptAir flight pulled out the knife at a female attendant, minutes after takeoff saying he wanted the flight diverted to Jerusalem “to liberate it” Two air marshals overpowered the hijacker, who later turned out to be intoxicated.
News media reported the airplane involved to be a Boeing 737 while the EgyptAir timetable suggested the airplane usually used on the flight was an Airbus A320.


European task force recommends common European risk assessment of conflict zones

The European High Level Task Force on Conflict Zones pubished its final report. The report contains recommendations which address the risks to civil aviation when flying over conflict zones.

The recommendations of the report include the development of a common European risk assessment of conflict zones and a quick alert mechanism to notify the aviation community. The report calls for cooperation among Member States and with the European Commission to enable the timely sharing of information and the timely identification of rapidly emerging threats. The report concludes that measures need to be taken at national and European levels to limit the risks posed to civil aviation from regional conflicts zones.


The report will now be submitted to the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union for action.

The European High Level Task Force on Conflict Zones was composed of high level representatives of the European Commission, the European External Action Services, several European Civil Aviation Authorities, the International Air Transport Association IATA, KLM, and EASA.

A summary of the report can be found here.

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Dutch Safety Board starts investigation into safety at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport

Surface movement radar, Schiphol Airport (Photo: Mark Brouwer / CC-BY-SA)

Surface movement radar, Schiphol Airport (Photo: Mark Brouwer / CC-BY-SA)

The Dutch Safety Board has started a thematic investigation into air traffic safety at and around Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport.

Over the past few years, the Dutch Safety Board has investigated multiple incidents at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. With a view to further improving safety at the airport, the Board decided to investigate whether these incidents may be due to multiple root problems, such as the design, location and use of the airport.

Among other things, the investigation will determine whether the parties involved followed up the Board’s previous recommendations. The Board will also gather information on how the parties involved have been fulfilling their responsibilities with respect to the various safety aspects of air traffic. Also, the Board will analyse the decision making processes regarding the airport to find out how safety relates to economical and environmental factors.

The events and incidents investigated previously by the Board included aircraft taking off from a runway not cleared for use, runway incursions and technical problems.

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Audit: Enhanced FAA oversight could reduce flight deck automation hazards

The U.S. Office of Inspector General completed an audit on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of the use of flight deck automation by air carrier pilots, concluding that enhanced oversight could reduce hazards associated with increased use of flight deck automation.

The Office of Inspector General initiated the audit in Februari 2014 at the request of Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Subcommittee on Aviation. Reason for the audit was the fact that some safety experts have expressed concerns that pilots rely too heavily on automated systems, which could erode manual flying skills.

While airlines have long used aircraft automation safely to improve efficiency and reduce pilot workload, recent accidents have shown that pilots who typically fly with automation can make errors when confronted with an unexpected event or transitioning to manual flying.

FAA has established certain requirements governing the use of flight deck automation during commercial operations. In particular, FAA has developed limitations regarding minimum altitudes at which autopilot can be engaged and how automated systems within the cockpit are configured to provide ease of use. FAA also requires that pilots be trained, tested, and proficient in all aircraft they operate, including any onboard automated flight deck systems. However, FAA does not have a sufficient process to assess a pilot’s ability to monitor flight deck automation systems and manual flying skills, both of which are important for identifying and handling unexpected events during flight, according to the auditors. In addition, they say that FAA is not well positioned to determine how often air carrier pilots manually fly aircraft. FAA has also not ensured that air carrier training programs adequately focus on manual flying skills.

Two recommendations were made to enhance FAA’s ability to ensure that air carriers sufficiently address pilot monitoring and manual flying skills. FAA partially concurred with one recommendation and concurred with the other as written.

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Despite high profile accidents, 2015 was the safest year ever according to ASN data

The Aviation Safety Network today released the preliminary 2015 airliner accident statistics showing a record low total of 16 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 560 fatalities. 

Despite several high profile accidents, the year 2015 turned out to be a very safe year for commercial aviation, Aviation Safety Network data show.

Over the year 2015 the Aviation Safety Network recorded a total of 16 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 560 fatalities. This makes 2015 the safest year ever by number of fatal accidents and the 5th safest year ever in terms of fatalities. Most accidents involved passenger flights (7) . Given the expected worldwide air traffic of 34,000,000 flights, the accident rate is 1 fatal passenger flight accident per 4,857,000 flights.

The low number of accidents comes as no surprise, according to ASN President Harro Ranter: “Since 1997 the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organisations such as ICAO, IATA, Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry.”

The worst accident last year happened on October 31 when a Metrojet Airbus A321 crashed in the Sinai Desert, killing 224. While investigation is still ongoing, it is claimed that the accident occurred as a result of the detonation of an explosion device. This accident represents the dark side of 2015, together with the accident involving Germanwings flight 9525. The Airbus A320 crashed in France on March 25 and is likely attributed to pilot suicide.

Just three previous years (1988, 1983, 1985) show a higher death toll of accidents (likely) attributed to sabotage, shoot downs and pilot suicide.

Two out of 16 accident airplanes were operated by airlines on the E.U. “black list”.


Statistics are based on a selection of worldwide fatal accidents involving civil aircraft with a minimum capacity of 14 passengers.

The Aviation Safety Network is an independent organisation located in the Netherlands. Founded in 1996. It has the aim to provide everyone with a (professional) interest in aviation with up-to-date, complete and reliable authoritative information on airliner accidents and safety issues. ASN is an exclusive service of the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF). The figures have been compiled using the airliner accident database of the Aviation Safety Network, the Internet leader in aviation safety information. The Aviation Safety Network uses information from authoritative and official sources.

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Harro Ranter
the Aviation Safety Network
e-mail: hr@aviation-safety.net
twitter: @AviationSafety


ASN records over 80 aircraft bombings since 1945

Infographic aircraft bombings 1945-2015

Infographic aircraft bombings 1945-2015

Aviation Safety Network records indicate that at least 81 passenger aircraft were involved in (partial) explosive device detonation events since 1945.

From the extensive ASN accident database, a list was compiled detailing 81 cases of passenger airplanes involved events in which an explosive device (partially) detonated on board. The majority of these events (60%) occurred during the 1970s and 1980s.

The first suspected case of the use of a bomb in terrorism was the February 1970 bombing of Swissair flight 330 which crashed after takeoff from Zurich, Switzerland, killing all 47 on board. On the same day an explosion occurred in the cargo hold of an Austrian Airlines flight out of Frankfurt, Germany. This flight landed safely.

Until then the motives of most bombings were wither murder or suicide, often with the aim of cashing in on life insurance policies.


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