Two investigations conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board were concluded last week with very similar results. The deadly aviation crashes both involved medical helicopters which were returning home after delivering patients. The NTSB was already aware of an increase in medical helicopter crashes. The safety organization had identified a number of factors that contributed to this increase. These two accidents demonstrated that the concerns have not yet been properly addressed.
The National Weather Service is receiving a significant upgrade in its radar technology this year. By improving the ability to forecast precipitation and storms, it is hoped that the new radar system will help prevent deaths, including aviation fatalities related to bad weather. The upgrade is being compared to the installation of Doppler radar that started nationwide in the early 1990s.
An air traffic controller with a history of disciplinary problems almost caused an airline disaster at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport last year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The narrowly averted airline accident involved an Embraer ER145 jet with 53 passengers and crew and a Cessna 172. The two planes took off at the nearly the same time on two runways that crossed each other. The planes passed within 300 feet of one another in the air over the airport. One air traffic manager called it a "miracle" that no one was killed in the incident.
The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board have teamed up to recommend mandatory testing for sleep apnea among obese truck drivers. Sleep apnea has been linked to numerous truck accidents where the driver either fell asleep or was exhausted at the time of the crash. The two committees are preparing a formal recommendation to present to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration later this year. Sleep apnea is a known-issue in the trucking industry, with several leading companies already testing their drivers to ensure that proper steps are taken.
A number of questionable practices in the Cook County Highway Department have placed workers and the driving public in danger. According to Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, many of the 320 trucks in the fleet have not passed, and would not pass, safety inspections, increasing the risk of serious truck accidents. While some vehicles have continued to be used despite not passing inspection, the County also used fraudulent practices to help some of its other vehicles sneak through the state's safety inspection.
When the National Transportation Safety Board releases its annual Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements, it almost always contains a goal regarding operator fatigue. As part of the NTSB drive to reduce deadly aviation accidents, it has led efforts to combat pilot fatigue. That is why the NTSB is celebrating a new rule released by the Federal Aviation Administration last week. The new rule offers a science-based approach to gauging pilot fatigue and reducing the incidents of tired pilots in the cockpit.