News from ALPA's Committees
Air Line Pilot, June/July 2005, p.26
ALPA Hosts ASAP Summit
On May 6, ALPA hosted the first “summit meeting” on Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAPs) at the Association’s offices in Herndon, Va. Attending the meeting were the ASAP Event Review Committee (ERC) representatives (ALPA, the FAA, and management) from five airlines--ASTAR, ATA, Independence Air, Northwest, and United. Co-hosting the meeting were ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman, Capt. Terry McVenes (US Airways); FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nick Sabatini; and Capt. Scott Griffith (American), chairman of the FAA’s ASAP Aviation Rulemaking Committee.
Each of the five airlines made an informal presentation that provided an overview of that airline’s individual ASAP program, operating practices it has incorporated into its programs, issues it has faced, and how it has dealt with those issues. At the end of the day, each person attending the meeting was asked to list an operating practice heard during the day that he or she wanted to take back to their individual program.
The summit attendees suggested a number of ASAP “good operating practices”:
Use the University of Texas ASAP database for comparisons.
Use the ERC alternate members to review the ASAP report if the ERC regular members can’t reach a consensus on the appropriate action to take.
Use a risk analysis prioritization (severity vs. probability) of all reports before the ERC meeting.
Prioritize reports before holding ERC meetings and tackle the tough ones first.
Develop an archiving system to review previous reports.
Add fatigue data (e.g., time on duty, quality of rest) to ASAP reports.
Develop a “root cause” analysis of ASAP reports.
Involve other company departments (Flight Operations, Training, Dispatch, and senior management) in carrying out the recommended corrective actions.
Get ALPA and company ERC members to attend the FAA’s ASAP school.
Improve communications about the ASAP program throughout various company departments, with the FAA Certificate Management Office that oversees the airline, and among employees.
Concentrate efforts to educate all stakeholders about the ASAP process.
Invite members of upper-level management to attend an ERC meeting to educate them on the ASAP process and accountability.
Ensure that adequate feedback is provided to all stakeholders involved in the ASAP process.
Involve flightcrew members who have submitted “sole-source” reports in training and information-gathering by making them part of the solution.
“The feedback I have received has been most positive,” Capt. McVenes wrote later to the central air safety chairman (CASC) of each ALPA pilot group. “It appears that everyone attending the meeting found this event to be both educational and beneficial to their own ASAP program. I believe it will be worthwhile to provide a similar venue for the other eight airlines that wanted to participate in this event as well as for others that currently have an ASAP program or may be interested in starting up an ASAP program on their property.”
Pilot Input Sought to Develop FAA Safety Video on Lasers
Capt. C. W. “Bill” Connor (Delta, Ret.), Ph.D., reports that the FAA would like information from active line pilots to help prepare a safety video.
The FAA’s Flight Simulation System Lab and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) G-10 Operational Visual Interference Procedures Subcommittee are jointly developing a 15- to 20-minute video to give safety guidelines to pilots regarding laser illuminations.
The FAA will distribute the video to airlines, general aviation organizations, aviation ground schools, and the general public. The operational procedures guidelines will include several areas of interest:
Basic information on laser technologies--how laser power, beam divergence, distance from power source, and duration of exposure determine the type of visual impairment (flash blindness, after-image, or glare).
How pilots’ eyes respond to laser illuminations and why and how the eyes restore themselves.
How aging of the eyes and scatter characteristics affect pilots’ ability to see cockpit instruments and obtain information from them.
Step-by-step operational procedures for pilots to follow to successfully aviate, navigate, and communicate after a laser illumination of the cockpit.
To guide development of the video, the FAA and the SAE would like ALPA members to fill out an online questionnaire. The questionnaire covers pilot experiences with laser illuminations, if any; training received on this hazard, if any; existing FAA advisory material; and the new Visual Warning System, which uses eye-safe lasers to alert pilots that they are violating an Aircraft Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
Capt. Connor asks that all pilots interested in completing the FAA/SAE questionnaire contact Leon McLin at firstname.lastname@example.org. McLin is a Northrop Grumman employee working with the U.S. Air Force as a laser expert.
ALPA Checks Out Eye-Safe Laser System for Warning ADIZ Violators
The Department of Defense, on May 21, began using an eye-safe, groundbased laser system to warn pilots if they are violating the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around the National Capitol Region (NCR) airspace. The NCR ADIZ surrounds--and is designed to protect--Washington Dulles International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, as well as the White House and the U.S. Capitol.
Capt. Rory Kay (United), ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Vice-Chairman, plus Jerry Wright, manager for human performance and security, and Mike Fredericks, security specialist, both in ALPA’s Engineering and Air Safety Department, attended a briefing and inflight demonstration of the VWS on April 13. Based on that firsthand experience with the VWS, the Association issued ALPA Operations Bulletin 2005-05 on May 13 to inform members about the new system.
This demonstration confirmed that “the lights are highly visible [and] eye-safe, and should help warn pilots that they have illegally entered the ADIZ,” the ALPA bulletin advised. “Given the well-known problem of illegal laser use, the intentional use of lasers to provide a government-issued warning may seem to be counter-intuitive, but it is well suited for this particular task.”
The VWS is intended for general aviation pilots who are operating in the ADIZ without radio contact and without ATC clearance. “If you are operating on a scheduled, IFR flight plan,” the ALPA bulletin continues, “you should never encounter these lights. However, if you do, contact ATC immediately for clarification.”
ALPA recommends that pilots flying into or near the National Capitol Region ADIZ become familiar with
NORAD and FAA guidance on the VWS at Internet websites www.norad.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.news_fact_vws and www.faa.gov/news/news_home/visual_warning, and
VWS documentation posted on the ALPA website, www.alpa.org, on the Members-Only page, under the Safety/Security tab; included is a brief video clip of the VWS operating at night.
Pilots who have questions or comments about this or any other aviation safety or security issue should contact the ALPA Engineering and Air Safety Department via the Association’s toll-free telephone line, 1-800-424-2470.
ALPA Urges Better Volcanic Ash Monitoring
A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report released in late April is “the latest evidence of the growing threat volcanic ash poses to aviation, and underscores the urgent need to fully fund the National Volcano Early Warning System,” Capt. Terry McVenes (US Airways), ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman, said when the report was issued.
The USGS report, “Framework for a National Volcano Early Warning System” (www.usgs.gov/newsroom), was released at a Capitol Hill briefing that included Capt. Ed Miller (United, Ret.), leader of ALPA’s Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety Program, among the presenters. The report highlights U.S. volcanoes that are not monitored well enough and pose a serious threat to aviation, including Mts. Pagan, Agrigan, Alamagan, Guguan, and Asuncion in the Mariana Islands; Mts. Vsevldof and Kiska in Alaska; Mono Craters in California; Crater Lake in Oregon; and Glacier Peak in Washington.
Of particular concern to ALPA are the active volcanoes in the Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory located in the North Pacific, which USGS reports pose a significant threat to aviation. Only two of the volcanoes have some ground-based, real-time monitoring, and six have no ground-based monitoring at all. The Marianas fall in the path of many U.S. flights bound for Hong Kong and Manila.
“On average, a flight crosses over the Marianas Islands about every 22 minutes,” Capt. Miller advised. “With so much at risk, the USGS needs to be equipped to fully monitor the Marianas volcanoes to protect the thousands of travelers flying across the Pacific.”
Capt. Miller pointed out that “the five-minute warning that pilots received during the Mount St. Helens eruption in 2004 proved that the USGS system works. That’s the kind of warning system pilots need for every volcano, and it can only happen through the USGS monitoring program.”
Volcanic ash--small, hard particles that may stay aloft for weeks--poses a significant safety hazard to jet airplanes. When the ash first enters a jet engine, the hardness of the volcanic material causes excessive wear on the turbine blades. In the hot section of the engine, the ash melts and adheres to moving parts, causing high temperatures, power loss, and stall or flameout.
Volcanic ash also has damaged aircraft windshields so extensively that pilots have not been able to see through the opaque sections. Moreover, volcanic ash has caused loss of airspeed indication and prevented radio communications because of the static electricity generated by the ash.
“The North Pacific averages five to six eruptions each year, with volcanic ash falling close enough to flight routes to become an aviation safety concern on as many as 12 days per year,” Capt. Miller warned.
Between 1980 and 2004, more than 100 jet aircraft sustained damage after flying through volcanic ash clouds. The repairs cost more than $250 million. At least seven of the encounters resulted in temporary engine failure, with three airplanes temporarily losing power from all engines. The engine failures occurred at distances ranging from 150 to 600 miles from the erupting volcanoes, and aircraft damage from volcanic ash encounters has been reported from as far as 1,800 miles from the volcano.
With the growing number of passengers choosing to travel by air, and the increasing number of flights passing near active volcanoes, ALPA strongly advocates that
Congress fund the USGS National Volcano Early Warning System, which would enhance the several Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers distributed around the globe (the VAACs use satellite-based and ground-based systems to detect eruptions and then issue warnings to appropriate parties), and
the USGS be able to alert air traffic control enroute centers of an ash-producing eruption within 5 minutes of the start of the eruption.