The NAAP structural integrity program includes three tests including Widespread Fatigue Damage (WFD), Damage tolerance analysis (DTA) and DTA based airframe repair assessment. The supplemental inspection programs of the FAA ensure that commercial airlines fulfill the structural safety requirements. Any structural defects that are observed during the normal operation of an airplane or those that are revealed after an accident are issued as Airworthiness Directives (AD). The FAA periodically conducts certification reviews and aircrafts that report recurrent problems due to design issues will require compulsory design modifications. [FAA]
6. What is the purpose of flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders? How are they be used for accident-prevention purposes?
Flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders are very useful tools that can be used to understand the events that lead to the accident. Familiarly known as the 'black boxes' these units are helpful for aircraft investigators in reconstructing the disaster. Today most black boxes record data digitally in micro chips. To preserve the vital information that is stored in them both the flight data recorder as well as the cockpit data recorder are located in the safest zone in the airplane, which is the tail region. Even when the crash happens over the ocean the black box can be easily located because a device called 'Pinger' gets activated when the black box gets in contact with water thereby making it easy to locate it under water. Even from depths of 14,000 feet the 'underwater locator beacon' of the black boxes emit signals that can be detected from the surface.
Immediately following an accident the black box is located and taken to the NTSB head office for analysis using sophisticated computer systems that help the analysts understand the vital flight parameters at the time of the crash and the last minute conversations between the pilots and the traffic controller. The "cockpit area microphone" located in the cockpit is very useful for investigators to listen to the engine noise, stall voices and other important system events. Air safety regulations make it mandatory to record at least 88 different flight parameters in the FDR. However, the FDR's in most modern aircrafts can record much more. Together the CVR and the FDR provide vital information pertaining to the final status of the plane and its crew. The FDR and CVR are immensely helpful in identifying any mechanical defects or operational errors or any other probable reasons that caused the accident and this information is very useful to avert future mishaps. [NTSB]
7. Both management and employees have roles and responsibilities in improving human performance. Discuss/explain some of these roles and responsibilities.
Human errors more than anything result in more accidents in the aviation industry. In fact it is estimated that more than 70% of all commercial aircraft accidents are caused due to human errors. Therefore improving human performance is critical for improving aircraft safety. Crew resource management and maintenance resource management are two important human resource management factors in the aviation industry. Airline management has a crucial role to play in improving human performance. Failures in inter-personal communication and decision-making may increase the chances of errors and Crew resource management is aimed at removing these hurdles. Boeing is a case in point. Boeing management was concerned about reducing the human errors in its fleet and employed 'Human Factor specialists' who examined everything from improving human machine interfaces to designing process guidelines for on flight and maintenance crew.
Boeing developed the Procedural Event Analysis Tool (PEAT) to identify causes of human errors and the reasons for departure from established procedures. Management is also responsible to ensure that the crew is not overworked or stressed out as it can directly affect performance. From the employee perspective as well it is essential to adhere to stipulated guidelines and procedures. Simple adherence to established protocol would improve human performance, as failure to follow prescribed procedures are found to be responsible for 50% of all air accidents. Employees should therefore understand the importance of their contribution to the safety of the aircraft and act in a responsible way. Being proactive and reporting any potential safety issue or other issues that could affect the operational efficiency are part of the positive contributions of the aviation staff, [CURT GRAEBER]
8. What are FAA responsibilities during an aircraft accident investigation?
The FAA is one of the important parties to the investigation of the accident conducted by NTSB. The Office of Accident Investigation within the FAA is directly responsible for co coordinating with the NTSB in the investigation of an airline accident. [FAA] By providing addition expertise and technical knowledge, the FAA can help speed up the investigation process. The FAA has developed training materials for use in the aircraft accident site including management of hazardous material, operational protocol for aircraft accidents including emergency medical services, personal protective equipment, etc. Accident Investigation Quality Assurance Program is part of the FAA process that is aimed to improve the quality of the investigation process. Once the main cause of an accident is identified, the FAA evaluates the underlying conditions and initiates corrective action and new regulations that would remove the danger. In particular, the Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program of the FAA analyses the flight data recorder in order to identify the discrepancies from the established procedures. Using the FOQA data the FAA identifies the loopholes in the aviation safety system, and initiates measures to correct the same. [FSIMS]
1) Alexander T. wells, Clarence C. Rodriguez, (2003) 'Commercial Aviation Safety', Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill.