Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
I originally wrote a column on flight safety for one of the 2003 editions of Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology and it has now been decided to introduce a regular flight safety column to focus on, and address, issues of both relevance and interest.
In this first offering I thought that I would set the scene for the future with a few considerations from the past and present. Why?, because I am sometimes left with the impression that people have short-term memories and forget just how much has been achieved over the years. In flight safety terms the last 40 years have been years of great achievement, the result of greater awareness of problems, better education and, most importantly, enormous improvements in technology. Do you know, for example, that in the 1950s the RAF was losing over 350 aircraft per year or, put another way, in excess of 40 aircraft for every 10,000 h flown. Today, this figure is down to a mere fraction of those figures, the number of aircraft involved are now very few by comparison and the rate is down to around 0.2 per 10,000 h flown, and is still reducing. Human factor is the predominant factor in over 60 percent of all aircraft accidents. Technology plays an important part in the elimination of such accidents. Improvements in the design of aircraft and engines has helped make flying a safer environment but other more specific technology improvements play a major part in addressing the human factors element. Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) is a predominant cause of aircraft accidents and to counter this possibility Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) have been developed and introduced. Similarly, Collision Avoidance Systems such as TCAS have been developed and introduced to counter the possibility of mid-air collisions, another major cause of air accidents. Monitoring and recording systems help identify trends and play an important part in accident prevention. The presence of accident data recorders help identify the cause of accidents and further assist with the development of preventive measures. More technology is in the pipeline to make flying even safer.
Identification of the causes of accidents, and the introduction of new technology to counter these causes, has achieved much but there is perhaps another area where there is a growing need for greater attention, aircraft maintenance. This is a subject which I intend to be addressed in a future article, for now I simply sow the seed for thought.
Rick Peacock-Edwards(Air Commodore)