LAUNCHED within a few months of the 2009 Colgan Air crash at Buffalo, the US Regional Airline Association's strategic safety initiative is intended to study operational safety performance with a view to recommending, to the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress, actions to address "challenges facing the airline industry".
RAA senior vice-president operations and safety Scott Foose says four main action areas are being addressed:
The RAA set up a taskforce comprised of safety directors and operations directors from the regional airlines to review safety procedures and "giving particular attention to issues or procedures cited by the NTSB as a contributing factor to any accident".
The RAA has commissioned a study by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center to look at the impact of fatigue and other human factors on pilot performance. The core issue, says the RAA, is to understand the effects of multi-sector operations on fatigue, because existing sleep science in the USA, according to the association, only deals with long-haul operations.
The RAA has developed a fatigue awareness programme for use by its member airlines and their crews.
Recommendations - representing the fourth area - include the following:
The FAA should maintain an integrated database of pilot records to provide airlines with real-time information about pilot qualifications and performance, to improve the process of recruiting, hiring, and training new pilots (this measure looks close to agreement).
The FAA should work with industry stakeholders to examine the concept of random fatigue tests on pilots to ensure they are rested before flying.
The RAA wants Congress to examine the issue of long-distance commuting to work by pilots, with a view to determining whether legislation to limit commuting is appropriate.
The RAA wants to be able to audit cockpit voice recordings from ordinary line flights.
The RAA wants to improve the completeness and transparency of pilots' records of check-rides during service.
The association says: "The FAA and the airlines may be able to increase the level of safety through more detailed analysis of this testing over the entirety of a pilot's career. By working with regulators and employee groups, the industry may develop a better methodology for assessing pilot performance and instituting remedial training programmes that will ensure a higher level of safety."