Flight safety in post-Soviet area deteriorates

safety equipment demonstration Since the beginning of this year IAC registered 54 aviation incidents and 24 haul-losses (Photo by Leonid Faerberg / Transport-photo.com)

The number of aviation incidents in the member countries of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) at the end of nine months of 2016 reached the figures registered for the entire previous year. According to the data shared by  IAC’s vice-chairman Alexey Morozov, head of the regulator’s investigations department, up to September 19th, IAC registered 54 aviation incidents and 24 haul-losses, against 56 and 27, respectively, for the whole of 2015. IAC member states are Russia and other 10 former Soviet republics except the Baltic states and Georgia.

“In nine months we reached the levels of the entire last year, which means that in absolute numbers 2016 is already worse than 2015,” Morozov said at the recent Russian Aviation Insurance Association conference held in Moscow in September.  Notably, this is not the case in terms of fatalities – 55 so far this year against 116 in 2015.

According to Morozov, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus, all of which lead in terms of total flight time, are also the main contributors to the incident statistics. In particular, the figures for Russia show 41 incidents in 2015, including 20 haul-losses which resulted in 60 fatalities. From January to September this year there were 43 incidents, including 19 haul-losses with 40 fatalities registered in Russia.

The negative trend is observed, in particular, in the segment of airliners (aircraft heavier than 10 tons). Per 100,000 of flight hours the number of incidents stands at 0.25, crashes – 0.1 so far this year. For the whole of 2015 the figures were 0.11 and 0.04, respectively.

These statistics are clearly not indicative of enhancing flight safety in the recent years, the expert speaker stressed out. In his view, the major causes of the current situation are flaws in flight crew training and oversight. “These are the two key factors that our investigations most frequently point to. ICAO audits confirm our own conclusions and highlight the missing links that we all have to work on. The ever increasing incompliance with ICAO standars is clear evidence that the situation is not improving, in fact, there is a tendency to deterioration,” Morozov emphasized.

He pointed to certain flaws in oversight of flight crew licensing and training, particularly, in the helicopter segment, where the statistic are even worse – in the nine months there have been 3.17 incidents and 0.63 haul-losses per 100,000 flight hours in the helicopter segment, excluding GA.

“IFR flight skills, necessary for clearing from marginal weather are one of the fundamentals for getting a pilot’s license. Regretfully, during crash investigations we often find out that the crew training programs did not include this crucial element, and when the licenses were issued there was no oversight of this particular element. So most pilots that faced the adverse weather conditions were not actually ready for them,” Morozov explained.

He also pointed to the fact that there had been a period of collapse in the post-Soviet civil aviation, which lasted about 10 years, when a mass of qualified pilots were forced to leave the job. “After that period ended and commercial aviation started to recover, which happened about 10 years ago, lack of professional crews brought those pilots back. Turns out, there are no specific regulations in Russia for this particular situation of reinstating pilots. So their old licenses were simply extended, neglecting the fact that they had been received in a different environment, under different requirements.” This particularly concerns smaller airlines, especially those that are not involved in passenger transportation, but perform special missions closer to the Arctic Circle, Morozov said.

In the meantime, he said, globally there is a clear tendency to reducing the number of aviation events, IAC’s expert said.

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