More unstable approaches in COVID19

Safety first half 2020

The global safety indicator for the first half of 2020 has been riding over the 5-year moving average. This is a worrying trend and a sign that the stakeholders don’t have a firm grip on managing safety.

A look at the implementation of ICAO safety management system will give a reality check. Only 3 of the 193 member states have reached level 4(fully implemented SSP), 53 are work in progress. What is the status of the remaining 137 states?

Globally, there has been an increase in the number of unstable approaches during the COVID19 period. This is an indicator that despite lower overall air traffic, an unstable approach is still a threat and is not being addressed correctly. It is a decision of the crew, a conscious decision to continue with an unstable approach, is debatable.

Unstable approaches during COVID19
Unstable approaches per 1000 IATA FDX

The safety data for the first half of 2020 shows that the graph line is riding over the 5-year moving average, which is exceptionally worrying especially since the number of flights has dropped drastically as compared to previous years.

Safety first half 2020
Safety review Aviation safety network

The number of incidents during the COVID times can be visualised from the map below.

Accident/Incident data 1st March-30th June 2020
1st March-30th June 2020
Accident/Incident data 1st Jan-30th Jun 2020
1st Jan-30th Jun 2020

The question arises, is the safety management system implemented and effective?

With 117 of 193 member states having initiated level 1 and 3 having implemented level 4, there is a need to evaluate the effectiveness of the safety management system.

With increasing technological development, it is surprising that no developer has come out with an alerting device for an unstable approach. The inference still is a proxy indicator of a risk and not a direct indicator. The crew still needs to derive the risk by monitoring multiple parameters, whereas it can be easily achieved through the use of technology. Systems like ROW/ROPS are a few tools developed for enhancing safety.

mindFly analysis

Unstable approach has been a threat which has been persisting for a long time. A number of measures have been taken to reduce the numbers but still the industry has not been able to reign it in.

A more humanist approach is required to understand the psychology of an unstable approach. Technological barrier is not the answer for every error that a human makes.

The safety management system will not be effective unless the top management has undergone adequate training and show their commitment to the implementation of SMS. A dismal picture of 3 out of 193 member states have fully implemented state safety programmes is extremely alarming.

About Capt. Amit Singh

I think therefore I am Airlines Operations and Safety balance expert. A former head of operations/training and safety of successful LCC's in India. An experienced member of the startup teams of these airlines has hands-on experience in establishing airlines systems and processes.

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