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An aviation researcher, writer, aviation participant, pilot & agricultural researcher. Author of over 35 scientific publications world wide.

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Sandilands report on comparison ATSB and CASA vs. NTSB in the US

 

NTSB to hold Asiana crash hearings on automation issues

It is examples like this move by the NTSB that shows the difference between competent, diligent and fearlessly open disclosure of air safety problems and issues in the US today, and the rotten performance in this respect of our own air safety bodies.

NTSB photo of its investigators on the scene of the Asiana 214 crash

US air crash investigators are now homing in on the biggest and possibly most important safety lessons to be learned from the crash of a Korean airliner at San Francisco airport earlier this year.

The National Transportation Safety Board or NTSB says its will focus on pilot awareness in highly automated aircraft in a two days of  public investigative hearings on 10-11 December, announced yesterday, as part of its continuing probing of the causes of a violent crash landing of an Asiana 777-200ER at SFO in 6 July that ended in the deaths of three passengers, and injuries to 180 of the 307 people on board, including 12 critically injured.

 The hearings will also look at the emergency services response, which included the accidental running over and killing of one the passengers, and matters concerning cabin safety.

The NTSB has already determined that the crew responded too late to an approach that was flown too slowly and steeply toward the runway before the it struck the top of the seawall at its end and then spun and burst in flames as it came to rest.

Automation in cockpits, which all current and proposed airliner designs use to aid the safer and more efficient control of  flights, has been argued in many places as having also been a factor in accidents where it was either misused, or misunderstood, or in some manner flawed in ways that did not become apparent in the testing and certification of the jets concerned.

It’s a complex and controversy prone discussion at any level, and also raises questions world wide as to whether pilot training in automation and airline operating practices for aircraft dependent on automation have failed in some manner and in so doing contributed to crashes like that of Asiana 214.

The 777-200ER involved in this crash is a now superseded yet highly capable variant of the 777 family which became available in the second half of the 90s after the base model entered service in 1995.

It is the topic, not the type of airliner, that is the more important, although 777-200ERs are in service with Air New Zealand and the more recent and larger -300ER version is flown by the Kiwi carrier and Virgin Australia.

One feature of the NTSB investigative process in the US which is lacking in Australia and Europe is its transparency and openness.

There is none of the disgusting collusion and suppression of embarrassing disclosures as seen between our safety investigator, the ATSB, and our safety regulator, CASA, over the 2009 Pel-Air crash, nor the spectacle of the responsible minister, which in that case was Anthony Albanese, failing to fulfil his obligations to respond the detailed remedial recommendations made concerning the Pel-Air matters by an all party and unanimous Senate inquiry.

It is examples like this move by the NTSB that shows the difference between competent, diligent and fearlessly open disclosure of air safety problems and issues in the US today, and the rotten performance in this respect of our own air safety bodies.