Appointing ex-Qantas safety boss won’t alone fix Tiger’s problems

Tony Davis Tiger launch.jpgTiger Australia chief executive Tony Davis will be receiving safety advice from Chris Manning. How will the two work together?

Tiger Airways Australia is further showing how serious it is about improving its safety tract, deficiencies in which led it be grounded on 2 July, by appointing former Qantas chief pilot Chris Manning to the role of Safety Advisor to Tiger chief executive Tony Davis, who took over the job after Crawford Rix resigned in the wake of the grounding.

Now Tiger must demonstrate it is serious about safety. Safety is not guaranteed by only appointing Manning, who was also group general manager of flight operations for Qantas, a position that may not instill safety confidence in everyone given Qantas’s recent troubles, but does bring a wealth of experience.

The problem with Tiger, as is often the case in the industry, is not with pilots but management.

While Manning can suggest to go above and beyond ever regulation and best practice, it is up to Davis and his management team to make Tiger safe again.

The past problems may have been management not having enough advice, management being ignorant, or a combination. Davis must have neither.

While the incidents that prompted Tiger’s grounding–two approaches conducted below minimum safe altitudes–were the responsibility of the same pilot, Tiger’s show cause notice from March focused explicitly on the oversight of maintenance and pilot training. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has said there are systemic problems with Tiger, and systemic implicates management.

Tiger is not alone in being susceptible to management and bean counters, not pilots and safety officers, running an airline.

In the most colourful example, a Jetstar pilot told colleagues to “toughen up princesses” about the back-of-the-clock back-to-back flights Jetstar was having them operate regularly. On at least one route, Darwin to Singapore, Jetstar management introduced a layover to break the flying up. (Note: Jetstar says this was unrelated to the letter or senate safety inquiry.)

Qantas and its Rolls-Royce RB.211 powered-747 fleet are also embattled. The engine has a known problem with its compressor blades from the high pressure chamber leading to contained failures, as happened last week on a flight out of Johannesburg. Qantas is modifying the engines at an ostensibly slow pace as it does not have the capacity to fix them faster following the closure of its Rolls-Royce overhaul shop in Sydney.

On a lesser extreme, V Australia’s April engine surge at Los Angeles was traced to debris in GE90′s compressor as well as a crosswind and static start. While V Australia was following recommend procedures for engine washes, it subsequently elected–as other operators have decided–to conduct washes more regularly than after the every 500 cycles GE recommends.

That all said, in CASA’s view Tiger’s problems are far greater. It remains to be seen whether changes brought over the past 18 days and those still forthcoming are enough to satisfy CASA and let Tiger return to the skies next month.

On Friday the High Court in Melbourne will hear CASA’s case to keep Tiger grounded until 1 August.

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