Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter lost the radio contact during scheduled flight between Pokhara and Jumla in Nepal on 16th February 2014.The aeroplane was discovered on the following day with the crew members and passengers dead with total fatalities of eighteen. Many incidents that took place in the recent past including Caribbean Airlines, Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501, and Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that was indeed mysterious.Accidents in the aviation industry can occur in various forms, but irrespective of the nature of an accident, it is probably caused due to faulty equipment, pilot error, aviation administration, as well as negligence of federal air traffic controllers and flight service station employees. Magnitude and scope of aviation accidents can be classified as major accident, fatal accident, hull loss and total or constructive total loss. Safety risk assessment and safety risk management process are evaluated that concerned with the control of hazards. Hazards are present in virtually every area of work in the aviation industry including aircraft refueling operations, catering operations, improper aircraft loading, the improper cargo labeling and failure of anti/de-icing system. The accident of Nepal Airline happened due to the weather, and it shows how important it be to train pilots on handling adverse weather conditions in addition to mitigation and safety practices for handling accidents and hazards.
Air transport is safe mean of transportation; however, it is still susceptible to losses and accidents. Although air accidents seldom happen when compared to road accidents and accident through other modes of transportation, but when accident occurs in air transport, it is usually fatal. More so, like in every other industry there are hazards and causes of losses and problems in the aviation industry that need to be addressed in order to take the industry a notch higher.
Accidents can occur in various forms in the aviation industry. The accidents are grouped into general aviation accidents and major carrier accidents. Irrespective of nature of accident, it is probably caused due to any one or more of the factors listed below:
- Faulty equipment,
- Pilot error,
- Federal aviation administration regulations violations,
- Negligence of federal air traffic controllers,
- Negligence of flight service station employee,
- Selection negligence for third party carrier ("Aviation accidents -”).
These sources of accidents if not controlled can wreck the aviation industry. The incident that took place in the Caribbean Airlines led to the suspension of the air traffic controller and two other staff. The Boeing 737 arrived from Trinidad and was due to land in the airport. Until a manager guided the flight safely from the tower, it had to circle Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown. That showed how critical, such negligence is in the aviation industry. The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 was indeed mysterious. Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 which was set to move from Guam to Clark Air Base in Philippines on March 16, 1962 disappeared. After a futile air and sea searches in the Pacific, it was reported that the plane suffered an explosion in the mid-air. The mystery behind the disappearance of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina C-54 remains unsolved. It was unknown whether or not the flight disappeared in the thick forest of Costa Rica or the azure Caribbean Sea.The Nepal Airline accident took place on February 16, 2014 with DHC-6 Twin Otter 300; 9N-ABB; flight 183 flying between Pokhara and Jumla in Nepal. Aviation Safety Network data even revealed that over 80 aircrafts have been missing since 1948 ("Aviation human factors," 2014"; Recent accidents," 2014).
Figure 1Location map of airplane accident
Figure 2 Search operation displaying snow and hilly area
The injury sustained in an accident can be classified as fatal and serious. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defined fatal injury as one that result to death following an aircraft accident within 30 days duration of the accident. Serious injury is said to occur if the aircraft accident results in hospitalization of travelers for over 48 hours within seven days of the incident. The extent of the aircraft damage is classified as substantial when it leads to structural failure that affects the flight performance and structural strength of the aircraft and also will require major repair and replacement of the affected parts of the aircraft (Lampton & Valasek. 2012) .
Aviation accidents can be classified as major accident, fatal accident, hull loss and total or constructive total loss. A major accident occurs when the aircraft is destroyed; number of fatalities occur, or the aircraft is intensively damaged and at least one fatality occurs. A fatal accident is one that results to at least one fatality caused by the accident. In hull loss, the aircraft is destroyed beyond repair. Statistics on aviation accidents revealed the reduction in the overall aviation accidents and its rate. Accident rate plummeted in 2013 by 10% compared to 2012.involves commercial operators plummeted by 13% from 2012 to 2013 ("Aviation human factors," 2014").
Hazard and Exposure
Safety risk assessment and safety risk management process are concerned with the control of hazards and alleviating their consequences. A hazard is referred as a condition, event, activity or object which has the propensity of causing injuries to personnel, loss to material, damage to structures or equipment or reducing the performance setting in a given work environment. Hazard identification is, therefore, targeted at recognizing or identifying the threats or failure conditions which resulting to the escalation of the accident scenario and identifying the characteristics of the undesirable events (Guidance on hazard, 2011).
Airline workers are often exposed to hazards in their work environment which they may not even be aware off. For effectively controlled aviation hazard, it is important to identify and recognize the hazards that may occur in the work environment. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) provide assistance to airline industry workers and employers as well as information to help them in developing a safe and healthy work environment. OSHA sets some specific standards to help in regulating exposure to hazards in the aviation industry.
Hazards are present in virtually every area of work in the aviation industry. Below are some of the possible hazards in the industry:
- Carbon Monoxide Hazard in Aircraft Refueling Operations
Workers who fuel jet aircrafts are vulnerable to occupational hazards. Carbon monoxide released in the process is very dangerous. As little as 0.001 of 1 percent of the gas in the air can cause symptoms of poisoning and 0.2 of 1 percent of the gas in the air may prove fatal in less than 30 minutes. Airline workers have to spend a good deal of time sitting in vehicles with substantial concentrations of this poisonous gas (OSHA).
- Catering operations in aircraft
Catering operators are vulnerable such as falling from heights when executing their services. Hazards could happen when opening aircraft doors or during the catering of aircrafts (OSHA).
- Improper aircraft loading
When aircraft is improperly loaded, hazards could occur. That usually occurs while the pilot attempts to take-off with the wrong configuration of the aircraft. This hazard could result to multiple fatalities if not controlled or tracked (Guidance on hazard, 2011).
- Improper Cargo labeling
It is also a common hazard that occurs in the aviation industry. The process proves destructive due to ignition of flammable in the cargo hold. That hazard has the tendency of resulting in aircraft disintegration as well as multiple fatalities (Guidance on hazard, 2011).
- Failure of Anti/de-icing System
That hazard proves fatal especially with the accretion of ice on the airframe or engines. It can result to multiple fatalities and even the loss of the aircraft.
- Ground Service Equipment
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health abbreviated as (NIOSH) issued a report on Fatal Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) that pointed out an incident in which a certified electrician was electrocuted while repairing aircraft runway lights. That occurred because the light was energized while he was still executing the task (OSHA).
Aviation hazards can be categorized into different forms. Hazards can be grouped based on types or causative factors. These are as follows:
- Natural hazards as severe weather or climatic condition, adverse weather conditions, geophysical events, geographical conditions and so forth.
- Technical hazards as aircraft and aircraft components, systems and subsystems as well as equipments, facilities, tools and so forth.
- Economic hazards as diverging interests between operators and shareholders.
- Ergonomic hazards like long and tiresome operations with impact on operators or employees’ performances.
- Organizational hazard
- Airport operator hazards
- Ground handler hazards
- Aircraft operator hazards (Guidance on hazard, 2011).
The aeroplane has been used for about 182 air travels prior to scheduling for flight to Jumla from Pokhara. After 30 seconds of its take off, there was a loss of radio contact. However, the plane was discovered the following day with the crew members and passengers dead. The number of fatalities recorded in the accident was 18. It included the three crew members and 15 passengers involved in the journey. Its means, the accident was fatal as every person travelling by the plane was killed. The accident that took place by 13:15 happened when the plane crashed into a mountain covered by snow. It was engulfed in smoke, resulting to a fatal accident (Aviation safety statistics, 2014). Lampton & Valasek (2012) analyzed the data in the context of icing during flights that is one of the main reasons in aviation accidents .They emphasized on simulation of empirical data that could facilitate to develop an effective methodology to overcome the effect of icing and provide better pilot control.
Figure 3 Scattered parts of Nepal Airplane DHC-6 Twin Otter 300
In addition, it was also reported that the weather conditions were adverse at the time of the accident, indicating a contributing factor to the accident. That simply shows how important it be to train pilots on handling adverse weather conditions and applying the various mitigation and safety practices for handling accidents and hazards. Many aviation accidents were recently reported some proved totally fatal whereas others resulted in major injuries ("Recent fatal plane," 2014).
Status of Control, Prevention or interventions
The services rendered by various agencies like FAA, NTSB and OSHA ensure that safety standards are upheld in the aviation industry. The role of FAA as outlined above is to set safety standards for pilot conducts, aircraft manufacturers, flight operations and enforces FAA regulations through civil penalties or criminal penalties. NTSB simply investigates civil aircraft accidents and hence recommends the appropriate safety standards to leverage in order to prevent future accidents.
The services help in ensuring the safety as well as the control, intervention and prevention of hazards and accidents in the aviation industry. Training of the human factor is vital towards controlling and preventing accidents. Various hazards or safety events require appropriate mitigation or safety risk management to forestall. The services rendered by Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the US Department of Health and Human Services and National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health referred as (NIOSH) and various other bodies ensure high level safety standards. For instance, the NIOSH conducted an investigation to determine the occupational health hazards of fuel jet aircrafts workers by taking into account workers exposure to CO. Moreover, hazards can be tracked and controlled with manual, automated and semi-automated baggage systems that are in line with OSHA's standards. In addition, ramp operations and operation incidents and accidents are tracked, prevented and corrected under aviation safety reporting system.
Aircraft crews work with all dedications to ensure that hazards and risks being controlled and prevented. For instance, it is the responsibility of flight attendants to assist passengers with special needs. It simply explains why human factor training and management is important in the aviation industry as well as other industries and curb accidents and incidents and keep them significantly low. In order to prevent hazards and accidents, substantial mitigations corresponding to each hazard should be put in place. For instance, in the case of the failure of anti/de-icing system, the right mitigation would be system failure warning. The right mitigation for the failure of the crew to detect ice on the airport would be pilot training on cold weather operations (Guidance on hazard, 2011; OSHA).
What Can Be Done To Address The Hazard or Exposure?
- Compliance to the appropriate laws against the exposure
Exposure to pollutants and hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead, mercury and PCB can cause immense health risk. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can result to lung damage as well as the damage of various other organs of the body. Lead can result to dysfunction in learning abilities, behavioral problems, seizures and death and likewise the other mentioned pollutants. OSHA regulation code covers the protection of employees who are occupationally exposed to lead. The regulation also includes the removal of lead containing materials. It forbids the disposal of waste containing up to 350 excess of lead in parts per million ("Los angles world," 2014).
- Human Factor Training and Safety Management Systems
Success within an organization begins with human factor training, and it is equally true in the aviation industry. In order to reduce these hazards and exposures to infinitesimal minimal and control them, human factor training is quite vital. In most aviation companies, upper level managers believe that they do not need to have such trainings. Many aviation errors are associated to management faults and human factor. The training can have its full sway in the aviation industry that can minimize the risks and hazards in all aspects of the industry. No matter their level of experiences, aviation professionals and pilots should be provided with guides against aircraft accidents as well as research materials (Calvano, 2003).
- Addressing Manufacturing Risk Mitigation
Some risks and accidents in the aviation industry are caused by design faults. The Federal Aviation Administration known as (FAA), a division of the Department of Transportation (DOT) released the findings to review the design of Boeing 787, its assembly and manufacturing.
- Distributing Workloads As Controllers Reach Saturation Points
Many accidents occur when aircraft controllers' brains are over-tasked and, therefore, could not think properly. Thus, to improve efficiency in the aviation industry, there is need to distribute the workload at such saturation point. With the new development by Robert Jacob and Sergio Fantini, both of the Tufts University in Boston developed a headband that reads the activities of the brain and transmits the data obtained to computers which will detect whether the wearer is sharp, fatigued or bored. That will help the computer to distribute the workload accordingly among the controllers and hence ensure efficiency. With this technology, efficiency in a simulated airplane was increased by 35 percent in average ("Aviation human factors," 2014).
- Avoiding oversights and deficiencies in the technical area
Accidents usually occur as a result of oversights and deficiencies in the technical area. It includes mechanical problems and aircraft maintenance. Many accidents related to the maintenance problem even greater than those related to CFIT were recorded in 2003 (Calvano, 2003).
The aviation industry is facing many risks and hazards that require appropriate mitigations to overcome. The hazards occur in different types and virtually every aspects or field of the industry. Addressing these hazards is a huge concern in the industry, and it is quite important not only to ensure the safety of the workforces but also that of the masses in general. Many accidents happened in recent past including Nepal Airlines that was major in nature and can be declared fatal injury as per standard definition. It was caused due to weather and radio control system. Aviation industry serves the masses and hence minimize the hazards translate to great benefit to the consumers in general. The mitigation of these hazards begins with the human factors and aviation management.
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