Slippery runway & more so the safety area at Kozhikode may be a leading cause of the Air India Express crash

RESA  The entire state machinery is on overdrive to defend the Calicut Airport stating that it was completely safe for flight operations. There are two significant points to focus on while determining the causes of the accident.  1. Previous safety audits have pointed to vegetation on the runway end safety area (RESA). 2. The rubber deposits at the ends of the runway may have been a contributory cause of the accident. Comparison A comparison of the runway friction values indicates a possibility of higher rubber deposits or poor runway friction levels at both ends of the runways. A friction level below 0.47 requires maintenance action as per the Indian Aeronautical Information Publication. The combination of runway friction and vegetation on the RESA may have been a significant factor that may have caused the Air India Express 1344 runway overrun at Kozhikode on 7th Aug 2020. Must note that the runway has a pronounced crown close to the middle and drops more than 25 feet on either side.

Indian aviation's startling disclosure, upto 80% incidents due engineering/technical issues


Facts as told by the Government!

Indian aviation has witnessed an increase in number of incidents in the past few years and so has the traffic increased. The surprising revelation is that the 70-80% of the incidents are attributable to Engineering and Technical issues including component failure.15-20% Operational issues and 5-10% Human error.
(Source Lok Sabha Question Answer 2020).

The statement above shows that Human Factors is NOT understood by the policymakers and the people responsible for safety. The terms remains buried in text waiting to be understood.

Globally, accident numbers have dropped significantly with the introduction of the Generation 4 aircraft types. Statistics over the life of each generation of jet show a significant improvement in the level of safety since the introduction of third generation aircraft and the latest fourth generation. Introducing TAWS technology with the third generation aircraft saw a huge reduction in the number of CFIT fatal accidents when compared to the previous first and second generation. The benefits of Fly-By-Wire technology and energy management systems can also be seen in the lower number of Loss Of Control -Inflight and Runway Excursion accident rates for fourth generation aircraft when compared with its previous third generation. 

4 Generations

Human Factor or Human Error?

The term ‘human factors’ refers to the wide range of issues affecting how people perform tasks in their work and non-work environments. The study of human factors involves applying knowledge about the human body and mind to better understand human capabilities and limitations, so there is the best possible fit between people and the systems in which they operate.

Human factors are the social and personal skills (for example communication and decision making) which complement technical skills. Understanding and applying human factors is crucial for safety because of the continued threat of accidents, particularly in low capacity and charter air transport operations.

Human Factors for Pilots: Introduction Video 

Human error is a generic term that involves all those instances where a planned activity fails to achieve its intended outcome. For example, forgetting to set your park brake in your car or misapplying your vehicle brakes in wet and slippery road conditions.

The best non academic definition of human error comes from my former PhD supervisor Professor James Reason who often remarked that saying that an individual makes errors are about as useful as breathing oxygen or implying it was bad luck. In other words errors are quite normal.  

Engineering and Component failure

Component failures are an indicator of poor quality systems and safety management systems. The purpose of a reliability program is to ensure that the aircraft maintenance program tasks are effective and their periodicity is adequate, in addition, the reliability program may result in the escalation or deletion of a maintenance task, as well as the de-escalation or addition of a maintenance task.

Failure of an aircraft structural component can have catastrophic consequences, with resultant loss of life and of the aircraft. The investigation of defects and failures in aircraft structures is, thus, of vital importance in preventing further incidents.

In general, failures occur when a component or structure isno longer able to withstand the stresses imposed on it duringoperation. Commonly, failures are associated with stress concentrations, which can occur for several reasons including:

Design errors, e.g. the presence of holes, notches, and tight fillet radii; 

The micro-structure of the material may contain voids,inclusions etc.;

Corrosive attack of the material, e.g. pitting, can also generate a local stress   concentration. 

Incident data
India Incident data

 Human Factors in Engineering

A 2007 European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Safety Analysis and Research study analyzed all worldwide commercial aircraft accidents from 1990 to 2006 and found that in 8% of the accidents, the primary cause was maintenance.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that, from 2010 to 2013, approximately 83% of maintenance Aviation Safety Reports (ASRs) was related to technical publications and other written company procedures.

Human Factors training is instrumental in fostering a positive safety culture and serves to introduce the workforce to concepts related to risk assessment, voluntary reporting, event investigation, and peer-to-peer support.  

The need of the hour is to look at the problem in the face and find a way to deal with it rather that keep deflecting the issue till it becomes unmanageable. 




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