Comment on Firearm Safety Recommended Practice

The good folk over at the Australian Aviation Wildlife Hazard Group (AAWHG) have released their first Recommended Practice. It's still in draft form and comments are welcome. First off the block is a draft RP 3.2.1 - Firearm Safety. The document outlines a range of "shoulds" and is a great start, if not an end, for airport operators to get their own processes and procedures up to an industry standard - perhaps even, best practice.

Draft AC 139 - HazMat Handling - Open for Comment

Here is another chance to have your say - this time it's a revision of the old CAAP 89I-1(2) to match the more modern CASR Part 139 and associated advisory circular format. Draft AC 139-12(0) - Handling of Hazardous Materials on an Aerodrome "provides guidance to Aerodrome Operators on aerodrome administration andoperating procedures for the handling of hazardous materials on the aerodrome" as required by CASR 139.095.

Send your comments to Matt Windebank by 3 October 2011.

Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons

A couple of weeks ago a question came into the Aerodromes Inspectorate at work regarding the accuracy of airline scales at airports. In Australia, that's not necessarily an airport operator's responsibility and is not covered by our aerodrome regulations. Anyway, that's not the point of this post. This earlier event made me notice this story from the LA Times on the same topic, so I read with interest to see what other countries do. I couldn't exactly work out whether it was the airport or airlines responsibility but in Los Angeles at least, a government department comes in to give the scales the big tick of approval. But the angle of the story was what really stood out.

The journalist writing the story and the policy of the responsible bureau puts the emphasis of the process on money - basically the airline's attempts to charge the passenger for excess baggage. While that is by far the most apparent effect of these scales that is not why they are there.

Switching back to Australia now - an airline is required to have scales at an airport thanks to Civil Aviation Orders 82.3 and 82.5. The need for accurate weight calculations is spread across a range of other regulations. They are a safety device designed to provide the airline/pilot-in-command with an accurate weight of what is being thrown on to the aircraft. Why? Well, in the first instance if the aircraft is too heavy, it doesn't get off the ground and in the second instance, if weight is not distributed around the aircraft appropriately, it may be or become uncontrollable in flight. Accident databases have plenty of records of overloaded and out-of-balance aircraft accidents.

Back to the story - here is what is required when a scale is found to be inaccurate:

"If a scale is off by more than one-tenth of a pound in favor of the airline, bureau inspectors put the scale out of service until it is repaired. If a scale is off in favor of the passenger, it can still be used but must be repaired within 30 days, said Jeff Humphreys, deputy director of the bureau."

So if the scale over-reads by 45 grams its instantly out of service - good, not extra baggage tax! But if it under-reads by any amount (no limit stated) the airline has 30 days to fix it, really? So overloading an aircraft is okay but overcharging passengers is not okay?

I see this type of thing a lot. People doing something which appears to be correct but on closer examination it's for the wrong reason. It is very important to ensure that what you do is for the right reasons because over time, the wrong reasons might mean something is missed or worse, your actions contribute to an accident.

An example from my recent experience goes like this:

An airport operator was not providing an aerodrome works safety officer for minor works (slashing, etc.). They got pulled up by transport security officials because at the same time they weren't providing the appropriate security escort. The airport operator's solution was to provide staff with the appropriate security card to supervise the works and lucky for me, those people were all trained works safety officers.

But what happens when someone working for that operator gets an appropriate security card but not the required works safety officer training?

If the operator is not doing the right things for the right reasons, they could easily end up with an unqualified person supervising aerodrome works with no understanding of the risks they are meant to be controlling. They might not even have the right equipment (e.g. an airband radio) because the procedure has morphed into a security role and safety has been forgotten.

Killing two birds with one stone is fine, but make sure you remember to kill 'em both all the time*

Something to consider when you do your next aerodrome manual review, right?

* I am not condoning violence towards animals - even though I'm under siege from swooping magpies at the moment.

New Advisory Circular - Aerodrome Staff Training

A reformatted and revised CAAP 89C-1 has been released under the current regulatory regime as AC 139-13(0) - Training of Aerodrome Reporting Officers & Works Safety Officers. Overall, the new AC outlines CASA expectations with respect to aerodrome staff training with nationally-recognised training featuring heavily. While Registered Training Organisations were included in previous advisory material, this material was published prior to the development of the Aviation Training Package (AVI08). This package supersedes the Australian Airport's Association's competency standards - although these are still available on the CASA website.

What's New

There are some new recommendations to be found inside the AC. Training should take at least five days and students with no prior experience should undertake an extra two days of practical field experience. Plus refresher training should be conducted at least every five years although two is recommended.

More to Come

There are quite a few active aerodrome regulatory projects in progress - stay tuned for more releases.

Guyana & Runway Safety

This week's news of a runway excursion in the South American country of Guyana got me thinking of the current focus on runway safety. So, I turned my mind to writing something on the subject. Unfortunately, I turned too slowly and Andy Pasztor at the Wall Street Journal beat me to it! Thats what I get for having a day job :(. There's a few good quotes but for me the take home message is:

"Nonetheless, the latest crash illustrates the persistent hazards of so-called runway excursions: accidents and serious incidents in which airliners careen off runways, often because pilots landed too fast, touched too far down the strip, or didn't recognize the difficulty of stopping on wet, slushy or snow-packed surfaces."

Check it out - Guyana Crash Adds to Runway-Safety Worries - and here's some visuals courtesy of youtube.


The Simian Menace

There's more whacky animal-airport news this week. This time, its India with a rampaging group of monkeys sending aircraft on go-arounds! This story has got the works - poor planning in the placement of a garbage dump nearby, the hard work being done by airport staff to mitigate the risk as best they can and the need for a coordinated response with some success.

Despite this, I continue to pledge my allegiance to the reptilian conspiracy attacking airports in the US and Australia.

image - (cc) from

"a sweep of the runway collected more than 20 bird carcasses"

I spied a couple of news reports of a mass bird-strike at DFW Airport today and the above quote jumped out at me. The procedure for checking the runway following a bird-strike is not required under Australian regulations and is not always included in the aerodrome manual - despite being a really, very, really good idea. In this instance there were no injuries although there was some damage to the aircraft. But the concern is not the struck aircraft, it's what's left on the runway. Twenty dead birds present an attractive meal for a predator or scavenger (including domestic animals) and any aircraft debris is also a hazard to other aircraft.

Topic of the Month: Runway Safety

The stories surrounding runway safety (i.e. runway incursions, excursions etc.) have been coming out steadily in the lead up to and following the global runway safety symposium. The stats formed the call to action and the responses have included the technological, the educational, the multi-disciplinary and the collaborative. I'm definitely not across all these initiatives (new or established) and I'm waiting for a debrief from CASA's symposium attendee (my boss). Becoming more familiar with these plans is, however, definitely on my to-do list.

In the meantime, here's a video of a real runway excursion (a run-off) flowing a rejected take-off - details found in the video's description on youtube.

A Really Old Bomb Scare

News out of Pisa over the last couple of days could give some food for thought for all those aerodromes built during WWII.

Pisa airport in central Italy shut down yesterday evening with all flights in and out cancelled after a World War II bomb was uncovered near the runways during maintenance works.

As I've travelled around I've heard my fair share of stories of underground bunkers, gun placements and even possible ammunition caches. Perhaps these stories should be included in the aerodrome's risk register which had been developed as part of it safety management system. For any WWII-era aerodrome, I don't think the above scenario is beyond serious consideration.

For those aerodromes, unexploded ordinance could be added to risk register as a newly identified hazard. The Safety Officer is then typically tasked with assessment of the hazard and the development of appropriate risk controls. They may be assisted by a committee of aerodrome stakeholders or other subject matter experts - in Australia's case, the Department of Defence. The treatments are then included in the aerodrome manual and other documents, airside/work-site induction etc., as required.

Given the level of works being undertaken at aerodromes across Australia and especially in the north, I'll be pushing this issue as I travel around.

Apron Rampage

This story, to me at least, falls well into the security sphere which I tend to consider somewhat separate from safety. The difference between the two would make for an interesting discussion (maybe one to revisit later) but I usually consider security to encompass events involving an agent from outside of the aviation system intent on causing harm to it or within it. Of course there are exceptions to aspects of my definition - for example the security threat may come from the inside and the issues surrounding such events may straddle the security/safety disciplines.

Anyway, this week's apron shenanigans in Cork make for interesting visuals and remind us that hazards/threats don't always come from the headlines.


What if ... the NOTAM system went down?

A great deal of risk/hazard identification is running through "what if" scenarios. Obviously, the big one is "what if an aircraft crashed?" but others include "what if the lights failed?" and "what if key staff left?" A tweet and associated webpage from the NBAA got me thinking about this scenario - "what if the NOTAM system went down?" Granted, the linked scenario is planned maintenance but it still requires consideration and maybe so does it's unplanned alternative scenario.

How would your aerodrome handle the NOTAM system being down? Do you have sufficient communication systems in place to ensure adequate flow of information to regular aerodrome users? Would you reschedule or abandon airside works? There are plenty of things to consider and the relative importance of each will vary between airports.

Perhaps NOTAM system vulnerabilities should make an appearance on your airport's risk register.