Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST)
The US establishment, CAST, was instituted in the year 1998 with a sole aim of lessening the commercial aviation fatal accident rate in the country. The projected goal at the time of its institution was to realize an 80% decrease of the total aviation fatal accidents by the year 2007. Appraisals run on the institution in 2007 revealed that the organization has been able to meet its target by an 83% accident reduction rate (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010). The aviation industry has benefited from the adaptation of this pro-active strategy by saving annual revenue of at least six hundred and twenty million dollars. These achievements have been realized through CASTs incorporated data-driven approach in the reduction of aviation accidents both in the US and internationally. CAST uses sixty-five safety improvement procedures to accomplish its goals.
The first aviation accident addressed is the controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). CFIT can be defined as a type of accident that is induced by a pilot when an airworthy aircraft, experiences difficulties (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2004). The pilot flies the aircraft into a piece of land, a hill, water or any other type of barrier. Since the creation of commercial aircrafts, at least nine thousand lives have been lost in CFIT mishaps. One cause of CFIT is bad climatic conditions like storms and fog that reduce the pilot’s visibility. Erroneous navigation and pilot inaccuracies are two other causes of CFIT. The latter has been identified as the biggest factor in such accidents. A good example of this can be noted by the April 2010 Tu-154 military aircraft crash in Russia that left ninety-six Polish citizens, including the president, dead; the cause of the accident was low visibility due to heavy fog that made the pilot miscalculate the landing.
CAST has fourteen procedures to combat CFIT accidents with the first requirement being the installation of Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) in all commercial aircrafts. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decreed this as a mandatory prerequisite in the year 2000 and five years later, all aircrafts had complied with the regulation. The TAWS was created to enhance auditory and visual cautions to the pilot and his crew regarding any impediments. To ensure that crewmembers are conversant with the systems, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), CFIT tutoring through the crew resource management (CRM) program, CFIT education and training aid program, and ATC CFIT training programs were introduced. Precision approach implementation has introduced perpendicular aircraft descents capabilities on landing strips in 84% of airports, visual glide slope indicators (VGSI) located at all landing strip ends to be used by air carriers and distant measuring equipment (DME) that aid aircraft to perpendicular descents at the end of landing strips (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010).
In addition to this, 3D RNAV (area navigation) technology is being used to ensure precision and stability is enhanced in the vertical descent navigational instruments. The National Transportation Safety Board ensured that all airports had the 3D RNAV equipment by 2009. Further, this process approach will use the x-LS technology that will ensure lateral and perpendicular safe landing guidance infused in all landing strips’ ends that lack Instrument Landing Systems (ILS). Grounded radars that are used as elevation warnings for aircraft are governed by the minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) equipment that has to be evaluated every five hundred and forty days. Lastly, for the risks and problem detection process, the Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) were instituted (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010).
The second aviation accidents addressed are those that occur during the landing phase. Just like CFIT, landing accidents are caused by poor visibility and piloting inaccuracies (Stolzer, et al, 2008). Eleven approach and landing procedures are used by CAST to reduce such accidents. The first three clauses address the culture promoted in Approach and Landing Reduction (ALAR). The Handbook Bulletin Air Transportation (HBAT 99-19) documented all strategies required to make the goal a success and all CAST aircraft affiliates were issued with the document. HBAT 99-07 was used as a training guide for the crewmembers while HBAT 99-16 was printed and distributed to aircraft producers to ensure that the aircraft are designed and assembled with compliance to all safety and quality systems identified. Four maintenance practices are also included for the FAA airfield supervisors to ensure that nose landing procedures are enhanced as advised by the manufacturers, as well as the inspection command approach to trimming these accidents. SE 11-19 gives the framework to be used during audit procedures to be used for evaluation of the supervisors (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010).
Loss of control (LC) marks the third cause of aircraft accidents. This can be due to mechanical failures like engine malfunction, fire outbreak when the aircraft is airborne, fuel loss, leakages or exhaustion, engine icing, collision with birds, and any other factors that may infuse a level of uncontrolled navigation (Stolzer, et al, 2008). CAST has formulated fifteen requirements to minimize these. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has engaged in collaborative ventures with other pilot alliances to come up with programs that train the pilots on new and improved techniques to be used in cases where such constraints may emerge. HBAT 99-07, ASAP and FOQA among other frameworks have been used to govern the program. The safety proposal number 30R1 will be used for Part 121 aero carriers to instruct the crew on flight automation (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010).
Advanced Maneuver Training (AMT) will be used to instruct pilots specifically on airborne upsets, halts, land proximity, inapt power, and airstream shear. Airplane Upset Recovery Training Aid (AURTA) is a comprehensive package featuring different maneuvering techniques. The use of autopilots, alert systems, procedures for iced weather, vertical situation displays (VSD) and flight envelop safeguards are to be incorporated by aircraft manufacturers to aid pilots in case of uncontrolled navigation instances. The Uncontained Engine Failures (UEF) routine checks aided by technology have to be executed on all engines and other supportive mechanical components to ensure that they are working at maximum capacity before any take-off.
The fourth category of aircraft accidents is the runway incursion. This occurs when a landing aircraft collides with other aircrafts, people or vehicles erroneously left on a landing strip. With the high landing speed, the impact from such collisions may prove to be fatal (Stolzer, et al, 2008). Ten clauses govern these types of aircraft accidents. The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) offers training programs to grounds men, tower personnel and traffic regulators to ensure that they are conversant with the safety measures needed to ensure safe flight landing and taxiing. Various technological programs have been introduced to ensure accuracy is maintained on landing strips. These are Airport Target Identification System (ATIDS), Next Generation Air-Ground Communications System (NEXCOM), Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS), Automated Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), Surface Movement Advisor (SMA) and Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE-X). Instruction programs dealing with pilots and crewmembers are handled by the Runway Safety Program Office (RSPO) and it has the obligation of ensuring that such accidents are eliminated (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010).
Turbulence is the fifth cause of aircraft accidents. A mechanical turbulence may transpire from the flow of uneven strong airstream currents on the aircraft caused by uneven topography and barriers. Storms and in particular, thunderstorms, are a common cause of turbulence. In cases where the aircraft moves in different air currents marked by warm or cool currents, thermal turbulence is likely to occur. Turbulences are of four categories with the light and medium types being less of a threat, as they are easy to overcome since the pilot is able to direct the craft (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2004). The severe category is marked with position and elevation challenges causing intense variations of wind velocity that poses a great challenge to the pilot. Craft control may be lost and movable items tend to be displaced from their original locations thereby causing harm to other components and the people aboard the craft. The extreme category is the severest and it often leads to a final loss of craft management resulting to a crash (Stolzer, et al, 2008). Advisory Circular (AC) 120-88 A provides guidelines that can be used to ensure that human and machine protection is enhanced during an encounter with turbulence. The document aims at reducing the number of wounded that can be reported for such a case.
For a pro-active approach, further clauses have been identified by CAST to govern any other risks that present themselves as possible avenues for aircraft accidents. Six of these deal with cargo crafts. The most comprehensive of these deals with security enhancement from hazardous substances and fire outbreak. The others have been instituted to aid in the creation of a complete cargo framework as well as the definition of its culture. The risk of icing is currently being tackled through the institution of the Turboprop Aircraft Ice Detection Systems (TAIDS) that automatically triggers evaporative mechanisms (thermo regulators) when such cases crop-up. Visibility enhancement through ice is to be enhanced through the avionics program. Lastly, the Engine Failure Recognition and Response (EFRR) is to be used for instruction purposes to the flight crew as it will improve their knowledge on handling engine surges initiated by icing. Midair collisions will be addressed through the B/C/D designs and superior navigation programs that will heavily rely on current technology (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2010). The other clauses define the maintenance program.
From the discussion, it is evident that most CAST requirements rely on technology to improve aircraft navigation systems that will consequently lead to fewer accidents. These sixty-five safety improvement procedures have reduced CFIT, Approach and Landing, LC, runway incursions and turbulence craft related accidents. With the positive results got from the 83% drop in aircraft accidents, technology proves to be a useful proponent in safety enhancement. Further developments should be realized that would improve CASTs efforts towards the elimination of aviation accidents. Truly, this notable initiative rightfully deserved the 2008 Collier Trophy for its efforts.
Commercial Aviation Safety Team. (2010). Safer Skies/CAST 65 Selected Safety Enhancements 40 Completed/ 25 Underway. Retrieved July 23, 2010 from
Commercial Aviation Safety Team. (2004). Process for Conducting Joint Implementation Measurement and Data Analysis Teams (JIMDATs). Retrieved July 23, 2010 from http://www.cast-safety.org/
Stolzer, A. J., Halford, C. D., & Goglia, J. J. (2008). Safety Management Systems in Aviation. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd