Worldwide statistics show that excursion-related business aviation accidents are up to 60 percent higher than those for commercial aircraft. Chuck Weirauch takes a look at how the industry is incorporating enhanced training to remedy these statistics.
While runway excursions are a leading cause of accidents for both commercial and business aviation operations, they also account for some 30 to 40 percent of all business aviation mishaps. Since unstabilized approaches are often the cause of runway excursions, lately aviation safety and industry organizations are taking a closer look at why pilots approaching in unstabilized attitudes continue to land rather than conduct a go-around. The goal is to find ways to mitigate such behavior through more enlightened unstabilized approach procedures and enhanced go-around training.
Runway Excursion Threats
"2015 is the first year that we really did a statistical analysis so that our top safety issues were precipitated out of the incident and accident data that we had available on hand," said the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)'s Safety Committee chairman Steve Charbonneau. He is also senior manager of Aviation Training and Standards for Altria Client Services, Inc.
When the NBAA looked at what data it had available for approach stability - much of it from a number of business operators voluntarily contributing data into the FAA Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASAIS) program - the organization recognized that business transport category aircraft are in line with commercial operators as far as approach stability, Charbonneau said. The ASIAS data allows the Safety Committee to compare business operators' statistics with commercial operators' statistics, he explained.
"That's allowing us to really understand how we fit into the whole national airspace structure," Charbonneau reported. "This has been a really important and positive step for business aviation in the US for sure."
When the FAA issued its Safety Alert for Operators for Scenario-Based Go-Around Training (SAFO 15004) this March, the NBAA's Safety Committee was quick to embrace the agency's recommendation and advocate the adoption of such training by its member operators into their training programs.
The SAFO is the result of a study of numerous loss-of-control (LOC) accidents and incidents conducted by the voluntary Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) organization, which included a number of events that occurred during the go-around phase of flight. Based on its accident and incident analysis, the CAST group considered that go-arounds related to unstabilized approaches were enough of a serious issue to recommend scenario-based training to improve air carrier training.
Through the SAFO, the FAA agreed with the CAST findings, and encourages air carriers to incorporate several go-around scenarios into their ground and flight procedures and training. The NBAA considers the unstabilized approach/go-around problem serious enough to have business aviation operators flying transport-category business aircraft - the vast majority of its membership - to do the same.
"The sense of a scenario-based go-around training concept is very much in line with the NBAA Business Aviation Training Project," Mark Larson, senior manager of Safety and Flight Operations for the NBAA explained. "Seeing the SAFO come out is another thing that allows us to raise awareness with business aviation operators as a community, for their consideration of incorporating it into their training, whether they are using outside training centers or have their own training programs. We would certainly encourage operators to take a look at that and incorporate it where they see fit. We are just trying to raise awareness."
Charbonneau, who also is a Member of the ASIAS General Aviation Analysis Team, said that SAFO 15004 is particularly important, since it is one of the first that was spawned by the CAST organization's work with ASIAS data.
"It is very important that the CAST organization actually determined this need for scenario-based go-around training through a study of the ASAIS data," he declared. "This is very much a predictive discovery implementation of data within the ASIAS program. And from that they developed some safety enhancements, and one of which was to raise the level of awareness to this SAFO. This really represents a holistic or systemic approach that we are very much interested in for business aviation."
Similar Go-Around Issues
While the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has identified a number of physical safety issues related to runway excursion accidents, including weather conditions, one that has begun to disturb the industry is a human-factors issue. In the commercial aviation world, an Airbus Go-Around Study showed that only three percent of crews flying an unstable approach actually executed a go-around, while an FAA study came up with the same results. In other words, 97 percent of those pilots continued with a bad approach. 83 percent of those accidents could have been prevented with a go-around, the study concluded.
"Clearly there is an alignment between the business and commercial aviation communities concerning the go-around issues," Charbonneau said. "As we gain a deeper understanding of the issues in the business aviation community through flight data monitoring programs, safety reporting programs, and the ASIAS program, we are learning about unstabilized approach issues, and we are seeing that the rate of go-arounds following unstabilized approaches is very low, in the neighborhood of one to two percent."
Just why both commercial and business aviation pilots continue landing during an unstabilized approach is under study to develop some means to mitigate this behavior. But one study made for the Flight Safety Foundation by the Canadian research firm Presage came to an eye-opening conclusion - nearly all pilots who fly professionally ignore company policies regarding go-around procedures. To help counter this negative trend, Presage recommended that operators revamp their go-around policies to reduce the subjectivity of a go-around decision while working on ways to enhance pilot situational awareness.
When the NBAA Safety Committee released its 2015 Top Safety Focus Areas this March, that document highlighted two primary safety issues - loss of control in flight (LOCI) and runway excursions, which the Committee’s research showed should be primary risk-mitigation targets for all operators. Included in the report was a list of seven aviation safety hazards, one of which notably was Procedural Non-Compliance. Others on the safety hazards list included Distraction and Technology Management, Fatigue, Airspace Complexities, Birds and Wildlife, Ground Handling Collisions, and Single-Pilot Task Saturation.
To find a solution to the pilot go-around non-compliance issue, the NBAA has assigned its Professionalism Working Group to look at this issue. This group is looking at how to get NBAA members to look at the issue of procedural non-compliance, and to do it within the framework of a just safety culture. The first step is to understand why such procedures are not complied with, and then appropriate mitigations can be developed and applied.
"On the aggregate, pilots have to understand that they need to build a habit pattern that is not accepting of error," Charbonneau emphasized. "And that habit pattern begins with strict compliance with guidelines, policies and procedures. We need to try to motivate pilots to be more procedurally compliant. The NBAA Safety Committee promotes a just safety culture, and when we think about things such as procedural non-compliance in the scope of a just safety culture, we consider that there are three types of errors. One is just a human error - another is at-risk behavior, while the third is reckless behavior. So as we consider procedural non-compliance, we need to understand why the procedure is not complied with. Obviously, we are most concerned with reckless behavior."
Implementing Training Mitigations
In 2014, to help NBAA members decide whether to incorporate scenario-based go-around training and other modules into their training programs, the organization issued its Training Management Systems Guide. According to the NBAA Safety Committee, this document is described as a systematic approach to evaluating operators' training needs, and provides some guidance on how to integrate training needs with safety management systems.
The key focus areas of the Guide are on how to identify risk, how to determine training mitigations and then ultimately how to create and deploy those mitigations. The NBAA encourages business aviation operators to use their safety programs to assess their needs and then to partner with their training vendors to implement the appropriate mitigations.
When CAT surveyed some business training providers, CAE reported that it provides business aviation go-around training as an unscripted scenario to meet FAA and EASA requirements. The company also noted that a 2014 EASA Safety Information Bulletin made recommendations that training organizations and operators place more emphasis on conducting go-around maneuvers with all engines operating in an FSTD during initial and recurrent training programs. In accordance with this notice, CAE has incorporated this training as a part of its Phased training program.
In addition, for FAA training, CAE reported that it is reviewing the FAA go-around scenario-based training. These scenarios address landing approaches during which a speed decay led to a stall or a significant nose-down input. The primary cause for such situations is considered to be a result of a pilot's reaction to encountering a somatogravic illusion. According to CAE, it has no current method to generate this specific illusion, but will be further studying this topic, as it is of significant industry concern.
While CAT was unable to obtain a direct response from FlightSafety International, Charbonneau reported that the company is working with the Corporate Aviation Standards and Training Roundtable to approve Part 61.58 scenario-based training modules, with the first one to deploy on the Gulfstream 550 program this fall. CAT will investigate this work in a future article.
"The vast majority of our members that are flying transport category aircraft are training at Part 142 training centers, and thus would benefit from a partnership with the FAA through the ASIAS program," Charbonneau concluded. "So as the FAA discovers issues, and the General Aviation Analysis that is a part of the ASAIS program conducts analyses and discovers trends and concerns, then we can develop mitigations that can be published through SAFOs and Operator Notifications. We can even go so far as direct initiatives to initiate changes in the 61.58 Program to include scenario-based training. So that is the systemic approach that we are hoping for - and clearly SAFO 15004 is a demonstration of how that could work for business aviation. In other words, we really want to work together with the regulator to identify and implement training improvements, rather than having the regulator to regulate or legislate."