GLOBAL ISSUES IN AVIATION 15
GLOALISSUES IN AVIATION
Oneyear and it still sounds impossible, how sophisticated jet airlineworth $270 million and carrying 239 lives can disappear without atrace. This is the question that aviation experts in the air crashinvestigation of the Malaysian airline flight 370 have been trying toanswer for the last twelve months. Since the first airplane was builtby the Wright brother in 1903, the aviation industry has undergonetremendous improvement over the years. There have been very manyaviation accidents in the history of the aviation industry most ofwhich has been fatal. Aviation accidents are caused by many factorsranging from technical and mechanical problems, bad weather, flimsyrepair and maintenance of aircraft, pilot error and in the recentpast terror activities and sabotage (Hagen, 2013). Though mechanicalproblems leading to engine failure has been the main cause ofaccidents involving large jet planes in the modern world, it is piloterror that causes a majority of the accident. In fact, half of allplane crashes occur as a result of pilot error. The pilot tasked withnavigating the airplane through dangerous weather conditions, executea safe takeoff and landing and react to mechanical issues. If a pilotmisreads flight equipments, fails to recognize mechanical hitches intime or misjudges weather conditions the result can be devastating.
Modernplanes are fitted with sophisticated kits such as the flight datarecorder, t-cas and black boxes which record crucial information thatcan be used by air crash investigators to unravel the cause of anaccident (Benny 2012). Modern airlines have an incredible ability toovercome many of the aviation challenges that disturbed pilots inearly days of the aviation industry. But Airplanes are machines andmachines can malfunction. No matter the experience of pilots andflight attendance and no matter the level of precautions taken byairline operators, a simple mistake in aviation can cause disastrouseffects (Carrington, 2014). Based on statistics given by the UnitedStates National Security Council the probability of an air crashhappening in the U.S is 1/7,178 (Yan& Cripps,2014).
Thedisappearance o flight MH70 is a unique case. There has not been acase where a major airline has been lost without trace, withoutdebris, without a story. This piece of work shall evaluate theeffects of recent accidents to the aviation industry and explore themeasures that are available to enhance aviation safety, with specialreference to Malaysian flight MH 370, MH 17.
Itwill go as the greatest and most bizarre mystery of the 21st centuryand perhaps the mot fatal accident in the aviation industry. Anaircraft with 227 travelers and 10 crew members on board disappearedin the IN TH EARLY HOURS OF 8 March 2014, en-route to Beijing fromKuala Lumpur, Malaysia (McKirdy, 2015). The jet was at first supposedto have been lost in the South China Sea, but a comprehensiveanalysis of automated “pings” from the jet led crashinvestigators to deduce that it crashed in the Indian Ocean to theWest of Australia after presumably running out of fuel. Questionsarose as to why this would be described as an accident, but theChicago Convention states that in aviation an accident encompasseseven cases where an airplane is missing (Volpe, s 2008).
MH-370was a passenger jet owned and run by the Malaysian airlines. On March2014 the jet Boeing 777-200ER model with 227 passengers disappearedfrom the radar and continued to fly for another five hours before itran out of fuel and plummeted into the Indian Ocean (McKirdy, 2015).Even after aircraft controllers lost trace of the plane, theMalaysian military radar was able to track the Boeing 777 as itswerved from its expected path and crossed the Malay Peninsula. Ajoint investigatory team was soon constituted to uncover the mysterysurrounding the disappearance. A multinational search effortcommenced in the South China Sea and along the Gulf of Thailand, alocation where the MH 370 signal were lost. (McKirdy, 2015). Asecondary surveillance radar indicated that the light continued until08.19 and flew south into the Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, the exactlocation could not be identified.
Athorough analysis of data relayed by satellites showing that theplanned had deviated from the planned route led to the conclusionthat it was very likely that it had plummeted into the Indian Ocean.With no precise data on the location of the plane debris, and withthe agonizingly slow search process occasioned by the lack of signalfrom the plain black boxes, knowing what really happened to MalaysianMH 370 Boeing 777 was not going to be easy at all (McKirdy, 2015).The lack of clear and succinct information from the governmentcreated a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Everyone was leftguessing what could have brought down one of the most technologicallydeveloped aircraft in the world (Yan& Cripps,2014). At first Concerns were raised about the twopassengers who had fake passports, then to the captain who wasaccused of deliberately shutting the equipment down to hampercommunication and then came the claim that the Russian governmentcould have downed the jet, but with no black boxes and voice datarecorder to refute these theories everyone was left to believe whatthey found plausible. Data from the satellites indicating that thejet might have been flying on autopilot since it lost signal, withoutmanual input from the cockpit led to the theory that the pilots mighthave experienced hypoxia (McKirdy, 2015).
Untilhitherto the tragic disappearance of MH370 and the inevitable loss ofall passengers and crew members on board made it the most fatalaviation accident in the history of Malaysian airlines and also oneof the worst where a Boeing 777 was involved, But only to besurpassed months later by the MH 17 that was claimed to have beenbrought down by Russian separatists in Ukraine. This incident alsoraised public attention to the limits of flight recorders andavailable aircraft tracking technologies, an issue that had beenraised earlier after the Flight 447 (Air France) disaster where allpassenger and crew were lost without trace. This led to the creationof a joint task force of the International Air Transport Associationwhich recommended new standards in commercial aviation that calledupon pilots to report their positions after every
MalaysiaAirlines Flight 17
Evenbefore the dust had settled another deadly accidents that shocked thewhole world happened in July, only three months after the fatal MH370 accident. MH 17 was a Malaysian commercial jet – Boeing 777- enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur (Preston, 2014). The jet crashedon 17 July after supposedly being hit by a missile near theUkrainian-Russian border. The crashed killed everyone on board, 15crew members, and 298 passengers.
Theplane shattered in mid air as a consequence of structural damagecaused by penetration by a high-energy object from outside theaircraft. Based on report given by Dutch investigators indicate thateven though they cannot say with authenticity that the jet was hit bya missile, there was enormous evidence that the mid-air crash was notcaused by actions of the crew on board or technical fault (Preston,2014). The Dutch investigators indicated that the jet must have beenblown by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine killing everyone onboard. Unlike in the case of the MH 370 in this case it was possibleto retrieve the black boxes and flight data recorder and it was alltoo evident that the MH 17 flight was normal before being shatteredby an outside object (Preston, 2014).
Radiocalls from the jet to the Ukrainian air traffic control also affirmedthat there was no emergency call from the captain. The debris fromthe shattered jet were spread across eight miles on an area that isunder total control of separatists supported by the Russiangovernment (Yan & Cripps 2014).Even though, the cockpit voicerecorder was located together with the black boxes and plane debristhe person responsible for bringing down the ill-fated jet is yet tobe unraveled. There have also been claims that the separatist havetampered with flight evidence, even though most of the plane wreckagehas been transported to Amsterdam (Preston 2014).
IndonesiaAirAsia Flight 8501
On28, December 2014 another tragic accident hit the headline around theglobe, perhaps surprisingly in the same region as flight MH 370 andMH 17. An Airbus A320-216 run y the AirAsia group, which is asubsidiary of the Indonesia Air Asia with 115 people on board andtravelling for Indonesia to Singapore crashed in the Java sea killedeveryone on board (Branigan 2015). The crash was blamed on manyaspects ranging from bad weather to an inexperienced pilot.Forty-eight hours after crashing dead bodies o most of the passengersand plane debris were found floating on the sea. The lack boxes andflight voice recorders were retrieved from the bottom of the ocean onthe 13January 2015. These indicated that the co-pilot with littleflying experience was in control of the plane at the time of thecrash (Branigan, 2015). The situation was exacerbated by bad weather,and with the captain engrossed in monitoring the ability of theco-pilot and communicating with air traffic controller. By the timehe realized the Airbus was losing control it was too late, and inhaste to redress the situation the captain accidentally cut off powerultimately condemning the plane to a dangerous free fall, that led tothe fatal loss of lives (Branigan 2015).
Followingthe terrorist attack on United States Airlines in 2001, many changeshave been made in the security procedure to bump up safety fortravelers. At the moment, travelers are required to arrive at theairport two hours before their departure time to give securityapparatus more time to conduct security checks on the travelers(Sweet, 2009). After going through the security checkpoint, travelersare randomly selected for further screening, encompassinghand-searching of their carry-on luggage in the boarding area.
TSAand Aircraft Safety
Anincident in the United States where a passenger attempted to blow abomb in his shoe while in stringent security, screeners now askpassengers to remove their shoes when passing through securitychecks. This part shall focus on the current security measures thathave been put in place in the United States to enhance aviationsafety.
Toenhance security in all airports in the United States, there wasfederalization of passenger screening operations. TransportationSecurity Administration (TSA) was officially given the mandate toairport security in the country. Before September 2001 TSA onlymaintained private security screeners (Sweet, 2009). But after thisterrorist attack that led to the loss of many lives and aircraft TSAbegan to carry out travelers screening activities at all commercialairports in the U.S. TSA has ensured that the number of screeners atevery commercial airport is adequate to reduce waiting time withoutcompromising on security. Training for screeners is also regularlydone and more exhaustively FederalAviation Administration, 2014). For example beforethe attack of 2001 screeners were trained for about twelve hours onhow to operate x-ray machines at checkpoints but at the moment TSAensures every screener is trained for at least one hundred hours forboth baggage and passenger screening (Kölle, Markarian, &Tarter, 2011).
Atthe moment there also exists a general system of passenger screeningwhich was also introduced after the 2001 tragedy. Before 2002 only 5%of the checked luggages were screened, but TSA has introduced baggagescreening in two phases (FederalAviation Administration, 2014). From 2002 airlines,are required to either adopt positive luggage matching in which theymatched every checked luggage to a traveler on board a givenairplane. Luggage is also screened for explosives using one of thefollowing methods recommended by TSA: sniffing dogs, explosive tracedetection machines, manual searching of luggage and explosiondetection systems.
Congressauthorized the TSA to install every commercial airport with explosiondetection systems machines. At the moment, all bags are screenedelectronically. The transportation security administration hasconfigured the luggage screening operation in three diverse ways. Ina majority of the airports, travelers first check in at the ticketcounter and then take their luggage to a screening quarter, where itis screened using the explosive trace detection machine explosiondetection systems. In other airports, the baggage is screened firstand then the traveler proceeds to the ticket counter. No matter thepattern of the screening operation, if the electronic technologyindicates the presence of explosives or any banned items, additionalmanual screening is carried out.
Toensure air traffic safety, the TSA supervises the construction ofrunways to see to it that they are built in accordance with theestablished standards. This body also ensures that runways aremaintained in the right conditions and managed accordingly tofacilitate a smooth operating environment at all times. In thislight, the U.S federal government has significantly improved theairport safety technology that directly shapes air traffic safety.This encompasses procedures to ensure air traffic safety duringconstruction at the airport, during upgrading operations, evaluatingtarmac deterioration, checking airport signaling facilities, andmeasures to melt and remove snow from the airports and planes instates where it snows.
Federalagencies and aviation industry stakeholders collect and analyzeaviation data for a range of purposes. The most important purpose forgathering aviation data is to improve safety. To aviation safetyacross the national airspace system, FAA retains data on differentaviation sectors, including air cargo carriers, passenger airlines,and even air ambulance operators (Garibay & Young, 2013). Theagency also collects and analyzes data on the performance of theindustry through supervision and certification programs. This data isused to ensure that all players in the industry comply with thestandard safety regulations. FAA also accesses information gatheredby other relevant federal agencies such as USDA, NTSB, and NASA(Federal AviationAdministration, 2014).
Inaddition, FAA collects quantitative and narrative data on theperformance of the flights and examines these data to augment safety,profitability, and efficiency (FederalAviation Administration, 2014). It also maintainshistorical data on the equipment used in the aircraft and maintenancerecord. In fact, all commercial operators are required to report toFAA on incidences of engine malfunction and failure, accidents andnear midair collisions.FAA has an agreement with all relevantaviation agencies in the country to voluntarily share information ondata in aircraft equipment, information on violation of federalregulations and any other safety events reported to the agencies yairmen, pilots and mechanics. In the recent past, FAA alsoestablished the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (FederalAviation Administration, 2014). This is a voluntaryreporting system to identify and report operational and safetyconcerns.
Asthe rate of air traffic continue to increase the risk of aviationaccident also increases. As mentioned above pilot error is one of themain factors that cause accidents in the modern age. Generally, airtraffic controllers (ATC) are supposed to communicate constantly withcrew members in order to reduce chances of making error.
TheATC uses available ground used systems to direct aircrafts on theground, in the air, when taking off and even when landing (Lee 2014).ATC use special equipments referred to as transponders, which conveydigital messages to computers on the ground. This digital messagerelayed by the transponders on the craft is picked by the groundradars enabling the ATC to recognize the aircraft in question, makeout the altitude and location of the jet on a given airspace(Spitzer, Ferrell & Ferrell, 2014). In this light, the ATCadvises the crew members accordingly on the apt altitude using UHFand VHF radios and, as a result, averts expedites the flow ofairplanes without collisions (NTSB, 2015). The ATC can also advisethe pilot on the condition of the weather, and other crucialinformation that will enable a pilot navigates the aircraft withoutproblems. Air traffic controllers from different airspaces work incollaboration to coordinate flights across different airspaces. Whenthere is a poor coordination leading to information lag betweendifferent ATCS in two airspaces, a situation referred to as a blackspot is created (Chialastri, 2015). A black spot is a communicationlag that emanates during handoff between two ATCS from differentairspaces (Barrett & DeVita2011). Individual with sinistermotives can exploit such information lag to down or sabotage aflight. It is reported that the Malaysian flight 370 experienced sucha situation. The ATC on the Malaysian airspace cut communication withthe MH370 before they could confirm that the jet had initiatedcommunication with the Vietnamese ATC (Almasy 2014). Apart fromtransponders there are special modern planes use special apparatusreferred to as ACARS to relay digital data to the manufacturer of theaircraft. In the case of the MH 370 both the ACARS and thetransponders were put off concurrently, sparking queries of whetherthere was a deliberate move to sabotage the flight by the pilot, whois the only person on board the jet who can execute such an action(Carrington, 2014). Nonetheless, it would not be in order to ignorethe fact that other factors such as fire can interfere with suchsystems.
Itis apparent that the ATC lacked understanding of what the radar wasshowing on the night MH 370 disappeared. In addition the violationestablished standards that required ATC to make a call when a planedoes not check in within three minutes and the fact that the jetveered off it destined route, and there was no way to communicatewith the crew after the shutdown of ACARS and transponders shows thata more effective system of communication and flight control needs tobe considered. The industry ought to adopt the use of satellitetechnology, instead of the basic radar systems that have been in usesince Second World War. Satellite can be more effective in locatingan aircraft in case it disappears or diverts from the normal route(Elias 2009).
Inaddition, modern aircrafts should be fitted with up -to datetechnology, such as smart black boxes that can have capacity torecord real-time data that can be relayed to air traffic controllersfor accurate control. Other imperative computerization should includeautomated cockpit information systems, with improved turbulencedetection radars to forecast and caution crew members about probableinstability, thus steering clear of accidents such as that of AirAsiaFlight 8501, alleged to be caused by bad weather and inexperiencedpilot (Airsafe 2015).
Recentaviation accidents such as those of MH 370 and of AirAsia Flight8501have also increased the need for a better communication system.New communication systems such as the Automated Flight InformationReporting System in Canada and Next Air Transportation Systems inU.S. that can establish the location of a jet using GPRS and relaysuch data to ATC by radar have been identified as some of thesolution to existing conundrum. In the days following thedisappearance of MH 370 and crash of AirAsia Flight 850, globalaviation authorities have moved towards tracking aircrafts moreclosely.
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