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Aviation Archives

Study Shows Sleep Deprivation a Problem in Transportation Industries

The National Sleep Foundation released the results for the 2012 Sleep in America poll this month. The results may be alarming for safety advocates and those looking to reduce aviation accidents and other transportation industry mistakes. Of the 202 pilots who responded, roughly one in five acknowledged that they made a serious error while working because they were tired. Roughly 25 percent admitted that sleepiness has a negative impact on their work at least once every week. The problem seems to extend beyond the total sleep time available to pilots and others in the transportation industry.

FAA Makes Changes to Improve Information Gathering

In an effort to encourage air traffic controllers and employees in charge of maintaining radar installations and other airport systems to speak up when mistakes occur, the Federal Aviation Administration has made several changes. The FAA says it will reduce aviation accidents and make air travel safer for everyone by expanding a non-punitive reporting system currently in place only for air traffic controllers. By focusing on gathering the information, and not on punishing an employee for making a mistake, the FAA says it will generate more information and be in a better position to discover dangers before they impact passengers and crew.

FAA Proposes New Regulations Regarding Pilots

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed the first increase in flight hours required to become a co-pilot for a commercial air carrier since 1973. The previous increase raised the minimum from 200 to 250. The latest proposal raises the 250 hour threshold to 1,500 hours, which would match the requirements for pilots. The new threshold was made necessary by a safety law passed after a Buffalo, New York, aviation accident killed 50 people in February 2009. That crash created significant pressure to review the safety measures taken at regional airlines, as well as the hiring, training and working conditions of pilots.

Boeing Discovers Flaw in New 787 Jets

Boeing Company's 787 Dreamliner jets are made up of composite parts to a greater extent than any airliner that preceded them. The heavy reliance on carbon-plastic parts may now pose a threat of aviation accidents as the aircraft are showing signs of stress in the fuselage. Boeing insists the problems are easily repairable and hopes to avoid further delays in the production of Dreamliners in 2012. So far, the five Dreamliners currently in use have suffered no failures and are operating as expected.

Helicopter and Airplane Collide, Miraculously No One Killed

Both pilots were able to walk away from a mid-air collision that brought a plane and a helicopter down on Sunday. The aviation accident occurred on Sunday evening between Sacramento and San Francisco. Despite significant damage to the helicopter, the pilot was only shaken up after coming down in a field a few miles outside of the nearest airport. The pilot of the airplane, a single-engine plane, was able to fly the craft 20 miles south before coming down near Byron Airport. The fact that no one was seriously injured in a mid-air collision was incredibly fortunate.

Qantas Discovers More Wing Cracks in A380

The A380 had a tumultuous beginning, suffering significant delays before finally beginning passenger flights in 2007. Last month, technicians discovered numerous cracks in the wing ribs of an A380 that had been grounded after having an engine disintegrate in 2010. To prevent an airline accident, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered roughly 100 of the aircraft inspected and repaired. On Wednesday, Qantas workers found similar cracks in the wing rib feet of one of their A380s and ordered the plane grounded. This has prompted questions over how widespread the cracking problem is and what threat, if any, that poses to passengers and flight crew operating the planes.

Pilot Error Cited in Two Deadly Helicopter Accidents

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.

Better Weather Forecasts Make for Safer Travel

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.

Aircraft Collision Narrowly Averted

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.

Pilot Fatigue and the Duty Time Rule

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.

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