Thursday, August 10, 2017

SMS And Captain’s Authority

There are several accident reports of Captains making one single decision which is leading to a fatal accident. The first officer of other flight crew members may have attempted to communicate with the Captain but without luck. Often investigations would assume that if another flight crew member would have interfered with the Captain’s duties the accident would have been avoided. When sitting at an office desk with 20/20 hindsight, these accidents could have been averted, but at the time and location of event the Captain and first officer were not performing anything else but what they were trained for.

Training is more than the official training where check-boxes are filled in. Training also includes normal operations or organizational expectations of priorities and unwritten rules. Air Florida 90 departing Washington National Airport VA, United 173 on approach to Portland OR, Air Ontario 1363 departing Dryden ON, Uruguayan Air Force 571 in the Andes Mountains and KLM 4805 departing Los Rodeos Airport are all examples of Captain’s decision as the final link of an accident. When a Captain is about to make a fatal decision a lower ranking flight crew member may view this as a responsibility under a Safety Management System program to make safety decisions and interfere with the Captains’ duties, or physically take control of the aircraft.

Major accidents have generated great safety improvements.
The Captain of an aircraft is a person who is acting as the pilot-in-command and having responsibility and authority for the operation and safety of the aircraft during flight time. Flight time is the time from the moment an aircraft first moves under its own power for the purpose of taking off until the moment it comes to rest at the end of the flight.

A Safety Management System does not override this regulatory requirement. The purpose of the Safety Management System is to operate with an additional layer of safety and improve safety by continuous or continual improvements. Continuous improvement is to make changes to the current processes for improvement, while continual improvement is achieved by identifying process capability and making changes to the capability of operations, or processes to produce a more desired outcome. The beauty of an SMS is that the Safety Management System contains a process for ensuring that personnel are trained and competent to perform their duties and that they are accountable to safety. The Captain must always be trained to be competent to make final decisions and perform duties as the final authority. This authority can not be removed from the Captain. Accountability within an SMS-world is for a person, without supervision, to comply with regulatory requirements, standards, policies, recommendations, job descriptions, expectations or intent of job performance and for personnel to be actively and independently involved. Derived from accountability comes a Just Culture, which is an organizational culture where there is Trust, Learning, Accountability and Information Sharing.

When an Enterprise expects a lower ranking crew member to interfere with the Captain’s duties, based on this person’s opinion, the Enterprise has neither trained the Captains nor other flight crew members to perform their duties. The Captain’s duties are the authority for the operation and safety of the aircraft, which includes analyzing any information available for decision making. The Captain is the ultimate authority for the safe operations of an aircraft and interfering with this authority is a regulatory non-compliance activity. Any air operator should have a training program in place where the lower ranking flight crew members has an opportunity to volunteer safety information to the Captain at any time during flight time without the authority to take operational control of the aircraft. When an Enterprise is widely accepting that a lower ranking officer has the authority to interfere with the Captain’s duties there is no opportunity for safety improvements since the Enterprise is relying on the non-captain to make decisions.

Major Accidents Generates Safety Improvements

After the Air Florida 90 departing Washington National Airport VA airlines began enacting policies to ensure that at least one and more seasoned crew member was on board planes at all times. They
Major accidents have generated great safety improvements.
also began reappraising the traditional unwritten rule that the captain could not be questioned. From that point onward, first officers were encouraged to speak up if they believed a captain was making a mistake. Applying this concept is SMS in an undocumented format, where the Captain has access to information from flight crew members to make the best decision for safe operations.
After the United 173 on approach to Portland OR training addressed behavioral management challenges such as poor crew coordination, loss of situational awareness, and judgment errors frequently observed in aviation accidents. Applying this concept is SMS in an undocumented format and accepts that human behaviours or human factors play a role in safety.
After the Air Ontario 1363 departing Dryden ON many significant changes were made to the Canadian Aviation Regulations. These included new procedures regarding re-fuelling and de-icing as well as many new regulations intended to improve the general safety of all future flights in Canada. Applying this concept is SMS in an undocumented format in that proactive measurements are implemented for continuous safety improvements.
After the KLM 4805 departing Los Rodeos Airport accident changes were made to international airline regulations and to aircraft. Aviation authorities around the world introduced requirements for standard phrases and a greater emphasis on English as a common working language.
Cockpit procedures were also changed. Hierarchical relations among crew members were played down. More emphasis was placed on team decision-making by mutual agreement, part of what has become known in the industry as crew resource management. Applying this concept is SMS in an undocumented format where an Enterprise accepts that not only knowledge, but also comprehension of data is vital to safety.
After the Uruguayan Air Force 571 in the Andes Mountains there were no major safety
Remember rules or comprehend safety.
improvements implemented. However, this is also to apply the concept of SMS where the risk level, based on data, is accepted or rejected. In this case the risk level for this type of accident to happen again was accepted and no major changes to safety were implemented. As knowledge and comprehension were gained, human factors later became a safety component which had been overlooked in 1972.

SMS is that aviation safety has no end. SMS is that current safety comprehension level may be different in a few years and that other latent hazards are discovered. SMS is continuous or continual improvements where every day is a new challenge to ensure complete safety for the traveling public.



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