Supplementary Memorandum by the British
Air Line Pilots' Association (AS 12A)
Thank you for your letter of the 25 March 1999,
seeking additional information for the Environment, Transport
and regional Affairs Committee, Transport Sub-Committee, following
the meeting held on 24 March 1999. We submit for your records,
the following additional information, which we hope the Committee
will find helpful.
1. Why would it be undesirable to split the economic
and technical aspects of regulation? Surely the fact that the
SRG, responsible for safety and ERG, responsible for encouraging
competition, are both parts of the CAA causes at least the impression
It is the BALPA view that there needs to be
close co-operation between the regulatory functions. Newcomers
to the industry, particularly now, we are seeing the emergence
of a number of low cost airlines needing to be screened for financial
fitness. The possibility of conflict in the relationship between
ERG and SRG has been highlighted by the ICAO Safety Oversight
Audit (April 1998). The ICAO concern relates to the financial
health of an operator, who, facing economic constraints in an
operation, might be inclined to reduce costs in various areas,
particularly related to the safety of operations, We would support
that view and also add that SRG should not be constrained too
tightly by ERG, safety and competition are not compatible, and
our fears are that safety issues might not be fully addressed
if constraints are too tight.
2. Can you give examples of cases in which the
safety regulation group has been browbeaten by a larger airline?
I thought that I covered this issue quite thoroughly
in the example which I provided on engine inoperative ferry operations.
The guidance to operators, outlined by CAP 360, is detailed and
specific. However, CAP 360 is not law and the operator may, with
the agreement of the CAA, use alternative means of compliance.
British Airways do not follow the CAP 360 guidance for such operations
being permitted to operate quite differently, and with co-pilots
who have never trained for, or experienced an engine out take-off.
BALPA has never received a satisfactory response from SRG as to
why BA should be allowed to conduct themselves quite differently
to the rest of the industry. Quantas for example, before commencing
such a ferry operation, would put both Captain and co-pilot through
a simulator detail, to practice the actual procedure to be flown,
before arranging for them to ferry the aircraft.
We have also seen airlines "browbeat"
SRG into issuing variations to the Flight and Duty Time Regulations.
Last Summer, Bristow Helicopters achieved an approval to operate
five consecutive early morning starts. Only a few months earlier,
SRG at a number of "roadshows", had confirmed that variations
to Flight and Duty time regulations would not be issued without
the approval of the Pilots. This was done without prior consultation,
(apparently there was no time to consult as the approval was needed
quickly if Bristows were to win a particular contract). BALPA
managed to get this stopped, the practice was never used.
3. Do you have any evidence to back up your suggestion
that the current means of funding the SRG is failing?
BALPA has not suggested that the current means
of funding the SRG is failing, but we do see a Regulator prepared
in some cases to bend their own guidelines to extremes (see the
examples given at question 2), which may be attributable to the
way in which SRG is funded.
4. In what ways does the evolution of "virtual
airlines" make it more difficult to police industry standards
and performance in maintenance of safe operations. What impact
do "virtual airlines" have on efforts to imbue "top
down" safety cultures in airlines.
The virtual airline owns nothing and therefore
cannot control its components. There is no guarantee that by mixing
operations (flight deck crew from one company, cabin crew from
another, maintenance elsewhere, etc.), that acceptable safety
standards will be achieved. It becomes difficult to "Police"
standards and without a common aim, without airline safety expertise
managing the company, or a top down safety culture, we are likely
to see an erosion of standards. The Valuejet experience in the
US of a virtual airline is an example where we have seen safety
oversight fail with tragic consequences.
5. What particular problems are posed by "flags
of convenience"? What steps can be taken by UK Authorities
to counter the problem?
This is an area where we would like to see SRG
take on a very much more robust role. Aircraft wet leased into
the UK on behalf of a UK operator, are supposed to meet UK equivalent
standards. Reports indicate that the Air Atlanta operations do
not. The aircraft are based permanently in the UK, do not visit
Iceland and we have not received any assurance that the Icelandic
Authorities send representatives to the UK to provide the required
Regulatory Safety Oversight. We are also advised that some of
the Air Atlanta non-EC crews reside permanently in the Crawley
area. When questioned by UK Authorities, they avoid the work permit
issue by saying "they're in transit".
The purpose of allowing UK airlines the facility
to "wet" lease overseas registered aircraft is "designed
to allow UK Airlines the flexibility to respond to short term
and temporary fluctuations in traffic". One UK charter operator,
wet leased two wide bodied aircraft through last summer, then
had the permission extended to retain the aircraft through the
winter season, and if, as we expect, permission is given for the
aircraft to remain in the UK for the coming Summer, this will
have been an unbroken period of 18 months.
6. Are you satisfied that pilots with low cost
airlines in particular will gather sufficient experience through
the use of simulators to make up for the loss of more experienced
pilots to retirement?
Low cost airlines are not necessarily the poorly
resourced airlines. Most pay well, attract experienced pilots
from the poorly resourced airlines and have very thorough training
standards. The poorly resouced airlines, these are often the regional
carriers, where the overriding imperative is cost reduction, cut
training details to the minimum, often sending their crews to
the larger companies to receive the required 20 sectors training,
after which they are are leased to line flying. We know that some
crew members struggle to achieve the standard required within
20 sectors whereas those employed with a better re-sourced company,
would see the training sectors extended as necessary to ensure
they had achieved the required standard.
7. What is the rate of turnover of pilots at regional
and low cost airlines compared with the major carriers such as
BA and BMA? Is there anything in this trend that concerns you?
The turnover in most of the Regional Airlines
tends to be high. This is the poorer end of the market where remuneration
is lower. Low cost airlines on the other hand, sell a cheaper
no-frills product, but are doing well financially. They remunerate
their crews well and have a relatively low pilot force turnover
rate. The concern is with Regional Airlines, where the experienced
pilots are moving to better paid jobs. This is leaving Regional
Airlines with low experienced crews.
To get round the low experience problem, we
are seeing experienced pilots, often representing lower cost labour,
being brought in from outside the EU. We have recently been notified
that Caledonian are negotiating to bring in US crews to operate
UK registered aircraft out of the UK for this Summer. These crews
are to be admitted to the UK without work permits, under the S.8.
Immigration Act 1971.
8. What percentage of air accidents are caused
by errors by the air crew, and what actions should be taken to
address the problems of Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT)
Accidents? How much would such steps costs?
Seventy to eighty per cent of accidents are
probably attributable to Human Factors, where the aircrew failed
to prevent the accident. CFIT is a result of aircrew being unsure
of their position, but it is debatable why they end up in this
situation, often as a result of other failures, either hardware
or human factors that lead them down this route. EGPWS (Enhanced
Ground Proximity Warning Systems) and improved training standards
will help as well as introducing decent landing aids in places
where CFIT accidents tend to occur, i.e., get rid of poor procedures,
such as Puerta Plata in Columbia, non-precision approach procedures
should depict a constant rate of descent, ideally 3 degrees, from
the Minimum Safety Altitude (MSA).
9. What concerns do you have about the SRG's response
to the TWA 800 accident?
We were not aware that the accident investigation
into this crash had reached a stage where SRG had been invited
to respond. However, there are initial recommendations to the
Manufacturer which have revolved around the fuel centre tank on
the aircraft. These recommendations have resulted in airworthiness
directives (AD's) being produced to eliminate the use of the electric
fuel pumps in the B747 and B767 centre tanks once the fuel load
reaches 500kgs. What we are finding, particularly in the B767,
is that the practicality of achieving this requirement is very
difficult. It needs to be handled at a time of particularly high
workload. SRG have not provided guidance as to how to alert crews
to switch off the pumps at the required time, and they are not
monitoring that there is compliance with this AD.
10. What can be done to ensure that English remains
the language of the air, and what are the safety implications
if this is not enforced?
If onlythere remains a strong argument
that, for example, a French Controller talking to a French Pilot
will handle the situation more efficiently and effectively in
French than if they both take on a foreign language (i.e., English).
However the use of more than one language does not benefit the
overall situational awareness of all the other aircraft operating
that same area of airspace. It would help if the current regulations
were enforced, but they are not, particularly in Italy and Greece.
The answer will probably rest with the introduction of CDTI's
(Cockpit Display of Traffic Information), which will then ensure
that pilots are fully situationally aware.
Note: Please find enclosed the draft transcript
of the Minutes taken on the 24 March, which we are returning with
our suggested corrections highlighted.
Captain David Marshall
8 April 1999