Codeshare audits and runway safety ‘not good enough’

US carrier codeshare audits of foreign alliance partner airlines are not monitored adequately by the Federal Avia­tion Admin-istration, says the Govern­ment Accountability Office (GAO). Meanwhile, the National Trans­port­ation Safety Board has launched a scathing attack on a key FAA-approved system designed to prevent accidents resulting from runway incursions.

The codeshare safety audit programme was a reaction to the September 1998 Swissair flight 111 crash off Nova Scotia. A total of 53 US passengers had bought tickets on the flight under a Delta Air Lines codeshare, and all on board were killed. Now the GAO reveals that on 270 occasions from February 2000 – when the codeshare audit system was established – through to the end of fiscal year 2004, the Department of Transportation (DOT) authorised or reauthorised US airlines’ codeshares “and did not suspend any arrangements because of known safety concerns”.

According to the GAO, the FAA has not provided its own programme reviewers – or participating airlines – with definitions of “safety-critical” findings that the carriers must resolve immediately or “non-safety-critical findings” to resolve after the audit is closed.

It also accuses the FAA of “not documenting its reviews”, so no one can check whether required corrective actions were implemented, and says the FAA has not established the necessary qualifications for its audit review staff. The FAA says it generally accepts the GAO’s findings and has agreed to study the recommendations.

Meanwhile, NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker has condemned one of the FAA’s key safety systems – the airport movement area safety system (AMASS) – as inadequate following a rise in serious runway incursions at key US airports such as Boston, Los Angeles and New York JFK.

In several cases, the AMASS was just not working. “That is not good enough,” said Rosenker, addressing the American Association of Airport Executives’ (AAAE) runway and airport safety summit in Dulles, Virginia. “Despite the efforts of pilots, controllers, FAA management and airport operators to mitigate the risks of surface operations, the continuing occurrence of hazardous incidents shows we still have work to do.

“The board is aware of several near-collisions at AMASS-equipped airports that were prevented not by a timely warning from the system, but instead were resolved through flightcrew actions sometimes bordering on the heroic – along with a lot of luck.”


Source: Flight International