Monthly Archives: september 2015

Safety Goals

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The safety goal «Zero Accidents» has been replaced with «As Low as Reasonable Practical». This probably because the «Zero Accidents» goal is found impossible to achieve. Many aviation professionals including me, are not to happy about this. After all «Zero Accidents» is a goal which is achieved by most of the individuals in the aviation community throughout their career, whether they are professionals or into aviation sports. So it it obviously a realistic goal for the individuals, groups, companies and clubs. For the entire aviation industry, it is fair to say that it might be unrealistic as a goal. But it is not as a vision! Most companies or clubs, their employers or members follows that vision and as mentioned, succeed. Hence the vision for the majority has materialized as an achieved goal.

«As Low as Reasonable Practical» sounds good, but what does it really mean, or rather how is is interpreted. What is reasonable and what is practical. To me it´s an invitation to stretch the safety issue according to needs and convenience. In todays competitive markets with new low cost airlines taking to the sky at a rate which cannot meet yesterdays safety efforts, such a safety goal is not precise enough. Add to that the offshore oil industry and the helicopter companies which are under pressure from their customers to reduce costs. You don´t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the safety goal «As Low as Reasonable Practical» will be used to allow higher risks. A reminder of the old proverb: «If you think safety cost, try an accident».

Lost aircrafts can be replaced, lost lives cannot! – The best Safety Goal is hence Zero Accidents!

Safety & Low Cost Airlines, Accidents and Airmanship

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The major low cost airlines in Europe like Norwegian and Ryanair have had no fatal accidents so far, which is a better record than most of the full cost (major) airlines have had. This might be a contradiction to what we would expect. One reason might be that fatal accidents are seldom happening in the airline industry. Hence it is random which airline which suffers from an accident. I.e. there are so few accidents that you cannot produce statistics. I believe that is true.

However, there might also be another reason contributing to the excellent safety statistics in the low cost airlines so far, and that is attention to Airmanship. The low cost airlines are «young» compared to the «old» major airlines, hence the attention and hence culture might be different. The low cost airlines are well aware of the fact that a major accident with loss of life, might shut them down as their public image will be suffering severely. The major airlines have another standing and their public image will be more easily «forgiven» after a major accident. Hence the focus on safety and it´s impact in a commercial view might be different.

Now many aviation professionals might react as safety is a professional issue and has nothing to do with the commercial aspects of aviation. Well my answer to that is «wake up», everything is directly connected to the commercial side, the cost / benefit part of safety is subject to a a commercial risk analysis as everything else. I have spoken with enough Ryanair pilots to learn that their training and recurrent training is demanding excellence with regard to performance. So why don´t I fly Ryanair with a cheaper fare? I have done it twice and the way they treat their customers like cattle is not «my bag of tea»! The way they threat their employees is also to much for an old union chairman. Comments is highly appreciated. Have a nice weekend!


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We are sorry to inform that due to temporary illness the blog has not been followed up as planned. There will also be a delay in the release of the Nepal Flying Video.

Regards Stein A. Fossum

Error Syndrome 3, The Advanced Syndrome

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Now you have experience and status. You are a senior and recognized for it. This is the stage where complacency prevails and even the best do mistakes, often with serious consequences, simply because you not as focused as you used to be. The guard is simply not up.

The proverb «There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots», is not true! If you don´t recognize that, you have an accident waiting to happen. There are plenty of bold pilots who survived to this stage and some of them do «the big mistake» at the end of their career. Don´t be one of them.

Error Syndrome 2, The Intermediate Syndrome

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Now you are an aviator with the insight and skills needed for safe basic flights. At this stage this is the trap, as you don´t know it all, neither do you have the capability (knowledge and skills) to handle everything thrown at you. your own perception could lead you to maneuver with too small margins or in an area you are not competent to operate in. It could be in an advanced aircraft or the equipment or flying conditions. One sample might be to operate in low visibility or clouds without the proper training and equipment, i.e. an instrument rated and current pilot in an instrument approved aircraft. Without these requirements it´s a killer, so stay in safe distance from low visibility and clouds. Be aware of your limitations and that learning to fly, or rather operate an aircraft is a life long learning process.

Error Syndrome 1, The Beginner Syndrome

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Through the career as an aviator we are always error prone. However, the type of errors changes through the career cycle. There is 3 basic syndromes: 1. The Beginner Syndrome, 2. The Intermediate Syndrome, 3. The Advanced Syndrome.

The Beginner Syndrome (1) is fairly obvious and is basically that the aviator does not have the knowledge and/or skills to perform the flying safely. This might be due to lack of theoretical knowledge or skills, to perform safely at a particular level. I am deliberately not mentioning experience as a parameter as experience is not necessarily a measure of proper capability. I have too often seen that pilots have experienced that things goes well albeit they are operating in an environment which is to advanced for the level they are at. The proverb «There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots» is simply wrong, as too many pilots survive in spite of their ignorance and capability.

The first beginner´s syndrome in aviation history is the myth about Icarus, who in spite of warnings from his father Daedalus, flew too close to the sun, the wax which held the wings together melted and he plunged to the ground. This ancient myth are hundreds of years older than the first flight. It is sad we did not learn from it.

The second warning about the syndrome was Leonardo DaVinci´s apprentice who secretly tried to fly Leonardo´s aircraft from a tower, by jumping into the air without forward speed. He hence plunged to the ground and we learned that proper airspeed is a must for a successful take-off. We are not sure if this actually happened or if it was our second warning.

The third warning however was as real as it was lethal. The great pioneer Otto Lilienthal, who build an artificial hill with a hangar built into it, flew his glider several times until a gust of wind lead to a stall and a lethal crash. The story tells that his last word to his sons who ran down to the crashed aircraft and lifted it of their father, was: «The miracle has begun, continue!» – Shouldn’t we honor the ancient knowledge and his sacrifice by not do the beginners mistakes?

Rules and Regulations vs. Norms

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It is said that Man (including Woman) follows Norms not the Law, i.e. Rules and Regulations. So what is a norm? It is simply what is normal to do, in a group or society. A now retired chief of police in a Norwegian city, was asked if he ever had broken the law. His answer was «I have a car!». Based on that simple statement it is fair to say that most of us are not always following the law. We rather follow the norms of our societies. Norms is not the same everywhere as they are a part of the culture in the group. The culture is a result of traditions which are created and kept within the group. These are mainly created and promoted by the leaders in the group, the Alfa males and/or females. An important contribution to the safety standards in any aviation group will always be how serious these leaders are about safety.