RACCA expresses concerns about NTSB focus on Part 135

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“The NTSB has put Part 135 top on its hit list,” said Tim Komberec, RACCA (Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association) chair Tim Komberec, during the Q&A after Bruce Landsberg , NTSB vice chair, kicked off the RACCA Spring Conference. “We want to emphasis there are different levels of Part 135 that NTSB needs to recognise.”

Landsberg agreed. “I’d like to think our team appreciates the difference between someone operating a Cherokee Six and a cargo operator serving UPS,” he said. “We know one size does not fit all. To compare general aviation to airlines is mixing apples and oranges. Part 121 is a very specialized environment, but GA and Part 135 are all over the lot and you can’t equate them. Safety officials and regulators have to understand the reality of your operation.”

That is all well and good but when NTSB makes a recommendation it applies to all Part 135, another questioner noted.

“We are somewhat variable in our recommendations,” Landsberg acknowledged. “We try to be as specific as possible without being prescriptive. When we see an opportunity to do better, we talk to the regulators. The people in cargo activities, for example, are the cream of the crop and care about doing things the right way. When we make recommendations, we paint with a broader brush than it deserves. A lot of us understand we have to fit these recommendations in where it is appropriate.”

Pilot Impairment

Landsberg said educating pilots and aviation companies on the impact of fatigue and distraction, along will the impairment caused by both prescription and over-the-counter medications, were the board’s top priorities. The drugs found in pilots killed in crashes included everything from blood pressure medication to muscle relaxants, Advil PM, Nyquil, Tylenol and Robitussin, all of which cause some level of impairment.

Landsberg also said the state of NOTAMs was in disarray, overwhelming pilots with useless information so they miss major notifications, a factor in the Air Canada incident at San Francisco when it nearly landed on a taxi-way full of wide-body jets awaiting takeoff.

Of special interest to the cargo industry was the board’s work on coping with the fatigue. Other issues include unstabilized approaches, runway excursions and cargo shifting during flight as well as adoption of safety management systems for all aircraft operators.

“Technology is going to help us up to a point if used appropriately and with the recognition it isn’t going to solve all of our problems,” he said. “There are hundreds of bugs in millions of lines of computer code that we haven’t found yet. This is always a journey in which we never reach the destination. About the time you think you are there something reminds us we are not.”

When asked how to ensure crew privacy while advancing safety with proposals of increased crew surveillance, Landsberg said the idea was not to catch wrongdoing so much as it is to ensure crews are adhering to procedures. “If they have a crash, how much privacy can be expected,” he said. “We should be using data to prevent the crash.”