Air crash incidents are not new in Nepal. Difficult terrain, unpredictable weather conditions, lack of advanced navigational equipments and old aircrafts only add to the woes. No wonder as Nepalese airspace is considered as one of the most challenging when it comes to flying.
Since the investigations are done in closed doors, the exact cause may not see the light of day. Often the conclusion in ‘high level’ investigation reflects to the ‘pilot’s error.’ While most of the time it may be true, very few of us take the pain to understand the cause of ‘pilot’s error’. Too many aviation accidents result in part from distractions, interruptions or preoccupation with nonessentials.
According to a NASA study, distractions and interruptions while taxiing to the active are legion and have caused numerous flight crews to improperly configure their aircraft takeoff. The study demonstrates that these events are more frequent than previously thought, because often the flight crews recover before something terrible happens.
Investigators have found that recent fatal airline accidents caused by pilot disorientation were preceded by crew distractions or fixation on an issue other than flying. This is most common when the distraction occurs just before or during a turn at night.
A few years ago FAA issued Information for Operators (INFO 10003) advisory which stressed that use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) for activities unrelated to flight duties constitutes a safety risk. In issuing the document, the agency noted that recent incidents and accidents indicated crew use of PEDs, including laptop computers and mobile telephones for personal use.
While acknowledging that PEDs, laptops and electronic flight bags can be valuable tools in aviation, the agency wants operators to review and reinforce policies, guidance and crew training to ensure that using such devices does not interfere with cockpit duties. The agency further emphasizes that the sterile cockpit rule prohibits pilots from performing duties unrelated to safe operation of aircraft during critical phases of flight.
Focussed and Professional
To act as a skilled pilot-in-command, one must develop the critical command authority skills necessary to effectively manage the flight. The first skill is to keep the goal of safety uppermost in mind and have it drive all aspects of planning and actions.
Aviation managers must put forth the effort and provide explicit directions to their crews regarding sterile cockpit discipline. The pilots must understand that any deviation can result in significant distraction in workload management and aircraft monitoring.
Complex and dynamic situations are a way of life in the cockpit. Recognise when distractions in the cockpit are pushing tasks to overload levels. To broaden and deepen your safety culture, encourage your first officer to intervene when any situation demands input from the right seat. This will always create a multiplier effect on safety.
The golden rule of cockpit priorities is to “aviate, navigate and communicate.” By adhering strictly to that time-proven order, conscious control and, therefore flight safety is assured.
Airline operators should always focus on pilot training quality, not just total flying hours to improve safety. A tougher minimum training and experience standard before serving as co-pilots will lower the risk of accidents to a great deal. Simply building hours can be done quickly and cheaply in ways that do not meaningfully prepare students for airline operations.
However, some may argue that an increase in hiring requirements by the airlines would likely discourage potential pilots from entering aviation (which is actually the case right now) due to higher costs and longer time to qualify. With fewer student pilots and increase in number of fleet size, an eventual pilot shortage may occur. It may be difficult or impossible to staff the vital jobs provided by general aviation and nation’s air carrier.
Therefore, experience must not be measured in flight time alone. Safety is a combination of experience and training in specific aircraft type and in specific flight conditions, which is more important that logging a specific number of flight hours.