I am extremely conservative about aviation safety and security at 38,000 feet, as an aviation expert, like most of us are in this small highly technical community. Mainly because when traveling at that stratospheric flight level, “failure is not an option.“
Since commercial aviation began over seven decades ago, nevertheless, we have had only a hand full of incidents of a pilot “going kamikaze” with hundreds of innocent passengers on board.
Nonetheless, this is why I have publicly across international media called for the aviation industry to “adopt belts and suspenders retrofit measures” in this post 9-11 era of international commercial passenger travel safety and security. So, we don’t ever teach some bad folks how to do bad things. While, we are flying the friendliest skies these days and future ones too.
Here is where an integrated focus on “the people just as much as the devices” is key to integrity and trust alongside accountability and responsibility of the soundness of the aviation industry and its future as a going concern in the international public interest, as I discussed below on Sky News Live on Thursday, March 26.
Final Feverish Moments Inside Germanwings Flight 4U9525.
On Tuesday, March 24, French officials and crash investigators shocked everyone around the world, when it was determined that the cockpit safety and security protocols were breached in the final ten minutes inside an Airbus A320-200 airliner, registration D-AIPX, performing as Lufthansa low-cost subsidiary carrier Germanwings flight 4U9525.
The flight departed from Barcelona, Spain en route to Dusseldorf, Germany for an anticipated nearly two-hour normal flight plan, carrying 144 passengers and 6 Germanwings crew.
Captain Patrick Sondenheimer, pilot of Germainwings flight 4U9525, was one of 150 people who died on Tuesday, March 24, when the plane crashed in the French Alps traveling from Barcelona, Spain, to Dusseldorf, Germany, according to a CNN report.
He had logged more than 6,000 hours of flight time, had been with Germanwings since May 2014 and had worked with Lufthansa and Condor before that, the Germanwings press office said.
The flight was anticipated to be normal flight plan, whereupon around 40-45 minutes into the flight at 38,000 feet and about 30 nautical miles southeast of Marseille, France, the Airbus A320-200 airliner suddenly without warning initiated a rapid descent.
“France’s Air Traffic Control reported there had been no emergency call from the aircraft. There had been confusion initially, Marseille controllers declared a Mayday distress call for the aircraft, when they observed the aircraft below safe altitude,” according to Aviation Herald.
Radar contact with the aircraft was lost at about 6800 feet at around 10:41 (local time) (09:41 Zulu), approximately 12 nautical miles southwest of Barcelonnette, France, and 75 nautical miles northeast of Marseille.
Upon crashing into the terrain of the French Alps at 700 kilometers per hour (or slightly less than 400 nautical miles per hour), wreckage and debris of the doomed flight was dispersed across the remote region at 1673 meters or 5488 feet elevation, as all 150 passengers and crew on board perished.
“The victims included babies and schoolchildren going home from an exchange visit, a pair of acclaimed opera singers, three generations of the same family, a vacationing mother and son, people on business trips and others going home,” according to Salon and the Associated Press.
Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the airline has contacted victims’ families. He said the 144 passengers and six crew members included 72 Germans, 35 Spaniards, three Americans (including a mother and her daughter, the U.S. State Department has confirmed), and two people each from Australia, Argentina, Iran, Venezuela, and one person each from Britain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Israel. Several of the victims may have had dual nationalities in that Spain’s government said 51 citizens had died in the crash, and British authorities confirmed 3 British citizens were also killed.
The French Ministry of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve reported Tuesday afternoon, about 8 hours after the Airbus A320-200 disappeared from radar, that a first black-box had been found. Helicopters had spotted the badly crashed cockpit voice recorder, which was quickly rushed to French BEA safety investigators for immediate analysis. The BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile) is the French authority responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in civil aviation.
According to the BEA, “the safety investigation, whose sole objective is to prevent future accidents and incidents, includes the gathering and analysis of information, the drawing of conclusions, including the determination of cause(s) and/or contributing factors and, when appropriate, the making of safety recommendations (European Regulation 996/2010 article 2 part 14).”
“The identification of causes does not imply the assignment of fault or the determination of administrative, civil or criminal liability (European Regulation 996/2010 article 2 part 04).”
Remi Jouty, the head of France’s accident investigation bureau BEA, said Wednesday, March 25 that it has yielded sounds and voices, but so far not the “slightest explanation” of why the plane crashed, killing all 150 on board.
The shocking revelations leaked to The New York Times late Wednesday evening, March 25 by French authorities confirmed from the cockpit voice recorder that 28-year-old German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked himself alone in the cockpit, and “willfully ” in an alleged criminal act deliberately steered the aircraft into the mountainous terrain of the French Alps, according to Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin.
One of the pilots is heard leaving the cockpit, then banging on the door with increasing urgency in an unsuccessful attempt to get back in, The New York Times reports.
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” The New York Times quotes an unidentified investigator as saying. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
Eventually, The New York Times further quotes the investigator as saying: “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down,” adding further, “authorities don’t know why the captain left. He also does not want to speculate on why the first-officer didn’t open the door or make contact with ground control before the crash.”
Meanwhile, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, French public prosecutor Brice Robin confirmed that the aircraft’s second “black box,” the digital flight data recorder, had been found at the crash site.
The Airbus A320-200 black-box, found blackened by the fireball and buried deep in mountain terrain of the crash site, was transported to Paris late Thursday and specialist investigators began to analyse the data immediately.
“This ‘black box’ was the same color as the rock,” Marseille Prosecutor Robin said. “It was found to the left of a ravine that had already searched but it was embedded. It had to be dug out. It had obviously been in fire, because it is charred. However, its general state leads us to hope there is a possibility that it can be exploited.”
“Work is continuing to determine the precise sequence of events during the flight,” the BEA said.
French public prosecutor Brice Robin said the device should contain 500 flight records tracing air speed, altitude, engine status and other technical data that are vital “for finding out the truth” behind the Airbus A320-200 crash.
The flight recorder was flown to Paris on Thursday evening, April 2, 2015 for examination by experts at the French air accident investigation bureau, the Marseille Prosecutor said.
“It will give us all the details of the flight itself from its departure from Barcelona to the crash, and above all the actions of the pilot,” Robin said. “It will tell us if there was only one pilot operating at the time of the crash … it’s a complement to us understanding the final minutes of this flight.”
Authorities found the second black box, which contains technical flight data, on Thursday after an exhausting 10-day search in remote French Alps mountainous crash site of a wide spread of wreckage and debris from the Airbus A320-200.
Alice Coldefy, the only woman on the 43-strong elite mountain police team, uncovered the box on her first day on the search.
“Everyone was happy. (It was a) relief for all the people that had been working there for a week and a half without a break,” the 32-year-old told AFP.
In a leaked transcript that purportedly documents the flight’s final moments, Captain Patrick Sondenheimer — locked out of the cockpit after a bathroom break — pleads with the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz to let him back in as the plane plunges down toward the French Alps.
“Open the damn door!” Germanwings Captain Sondenheimer says at one point in a recording from one of the plane’s so-called black boxes, according to a report published by German tabloid newspaper Bild sources a CNN report.
The recording, according to Bild, also includes “the sounds of loud metallic bangs that sound like someone trying to knock down the cockpit door.”
Recent reports on Friday, April 3, 2015 have surfaced that the co-pilot Andrea Lubitz, locked inside the cockpit, repeatedly increased the flight speed, as the Airbus A320-200 airliner was directed towards the rapidly closer mountainous terrain of the French Alps, according to French BEA investigators’ ongoing analysis of the airliner’s flight data recordings.
“A first reading shows that the pilot in the cockpit used the automatic pilot to descend the plane towards an altitude of 100 feet (30 metres),” said the French BEA crash investigation office in a statement, sourcing Haveeru Daily.
“Then, several times during the descent, the pilot changed the automatic pilot settings to increase the aircraft’s speed,” added the investigators.
Upon just moments later crashing into the French Alps, the Airbus A320-200 airliner traveling at a very high speed of about 750 kilometers per hour (or slightly less than 400 nautical miles per hour) exploded into thousands of pieces, spreading the aircraft’s wreckage and debris across a wide area of the remote mountainous region, 75 nautical miles northeast of Marseille.
Tragically, the lives of all 150 persons on board were instantly taken, including the first-officer himself locked inside the flight deck with the captain locked outside in what upon first glance appeared to be an apparent “kamikaze” suicide crash.
The latest revelations confirm the theory that Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz willfully crashed the plane into the mountains, killing himself and all 149 others on board.
“The most plausible interpretation is that the co-pilot, with a voluntary abstention, refused to open the cockpit’s door, and pressed the button that initiated the descent (as a willful act to destroy the aircraft),” Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin revealed, during a press conference held on Tuesday, March 24.
French BEA safety investigators discovered that the captain exited the cockpit briefly and the co-pilot alone inside the flight deck seized upon this moment to perform his willful act of destroying the Airbus A320-200 airliner. As the captain attempted to return back inside the flight deck, the cockpit door was locked, according to post 9-11 era aviation safety and security protocols.
As Germanwings flight 4U9525 pilot can be heard on the cockpit voice recorder repeatedly identifying himself to the co-pilot adhering to such post 9-11 security protocols, astonishingly no answer from the co-pilot came from inside the flight deck.
The cockpit security breach then quickly escalated to a full-scale emergency safety breach inside the flight deck, as the Airbus A320-200 airliner flight path began a controlled eight minute descent (from about the 09:30 time stamp to approximately the 09:40 time stamp), according to Flightradar24 tracks of the aircraft’s final moments of altitude changes (in thousands of feet) and speed changes (in kts, being plural of knot, or 1 nautical mile per hour) shown below.
French BEA safety investigators were shocked by the flight deck recordings revealing the Germanwings captain feverishly attempting to break the cockpit door down in front of the shocked passengers and flight attendants. The passengers and flight attendants did not understand what was happening until moments before the crash, Marseille Prosecutor Brice Robin said, referring to passengers screams heard on board the Airbus A320-200 cockpit voice recorders just before the airliner’s impact into the French Alps. The captain’s attempts to break the door down and save the doomed airliner, of course, were impossible as the cockpit door was specifically designed to post 9-11 security protocols to “keep the bad folks out of the flight deck, but not to keep the bad folks inside the flight deck.”
As the captain’s attempts to get inside the flight deck failed, Germanwings flight 4U9525 tragically flew in a controlled descent until the aircraft eventually crashed into the French Alps, 75 nautical miles northeast of Marseille.
French BEA safety authorities were also amazed to uncover from their analysis of the cockpit voice recorder that German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz “was calm and breathing normally just before the crash.” Lubitz did not utter a word, but his breathing was distinguishable, safety investigators reported.
Post 9-11 Cockpit Security Protocols Needed In The Wake of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 Aviation Tragedy.
Tragically, it appears that the poignant question John Scott and I discussed on Fox News Happening Now Tuesday, March 24, 2015 prior to the New York Times breaking article about a “possible incident of crisis inside the Germanwings Flight 4U9525 cockpit” is now upon us as breaking news since Thursday, March 26.
- It is absolutely most critically time for immediate adaptation of the International Civil Aviation Organizations’ (ICAO) recommendations of real-time global flight tracking of all aircraft flying around the world.
- We also have to seriously consider “ejectable black-boxes” and also it’s time to put “the black-box in the cloud”, so we can not only know definitive answers about these reoccurring aviation tragedies immediately, but also so we can finally ensure absolute quickest knowledge and more immediate understanding about the safety and security of all global flights around the world in this age of heightened security threats to the aviation industry and the safety of the international commercial passenger traveling public.
- Since March 8, 2014, when the greatest aviation security breach in aviation history fell upon us in the MH370 aviation tragedy, we have altogether lost nearly 1,050 lives in a year of numerous international aviation safety and security incidents (including Malaysia Airlines MH370, Malaysia Airlines MH17, AirAsia 8501, TransAsia GE235, Germanwings 9525, and several other aviation safety mishaps leading to catastrophic crashes). Losing these nearly 1,050 lives this past year is the most we encountered in close succession like this in nearly six and a half decades. This suggests some immediate attention is needed by the international aviation industry, where the theory of the business of commercial passengers flying at 38,000 feet is “failure is not an option.” Here is where an integrated focus on “people just as much as the devices” is key to integrity and trust alongside accountability and responsibility of the soundness of the aviation industry.
- Just as important, we have to take another look at safety regulators’ locked cockpit specific stipulations, addressing several questions including: what exactly does it mean to have a “locked cockpit door,” and how can we establish more flexible and adaptive secret backup security code overrides of a locked cockpit door that are more specific to each and every flight.
- And perhaps reconsider the overarching aviation security question, “should we return to having a three-pilots rule” (like we did back in the “old Pan Am days” of the movie “Airport,” but of course, including 21st century flight management competencies in digital navigation, real-time digital communications, and cyber-security monitoring) on board all aircraft tied to real-time global aircraft tracking protocols, so that at least there are two pilots inside a locked cockpit at all times of all international and domestic flights. Sure airlines will grapple as an industry over cost-benefits of implementing any new business of aviation safety and security by further “adopting belts and suspenders retrofit measures” in the aftermath of the Germanwings flight 4U9525 aviation tragedy. And of course, the airline industry does transport tens of millions of passengers annually safely around the globe without incident. However, the “three-pilot rule” that I’ve first proposed publicly heightens the security inside the flight deck with well-qualified flight management personnel at all times inside a post-911 “locked cockpit door.” Inasmuch as, international aviation safety and security is all about adhering to the finest public interest mission of flight transportation at 38,000 feet, which is stated once again, “failure is not an option.“
- Finally, former United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Michael Hall’s recommendation of placing on board cockpit video taping is now going to be seriously considered in spite of the pilot unions’ resistance due to privacy reasons, which is now a moot consideration given the most imperative international aviation safety and security concerns in the wake of the Germanwings flight 4U9525 tragedy.
International Human Factor Concern as a Result of a Troubled Operator of Germanwings Flight 4U9525.
Revelations about Lubitz’s battle with depression and a “mental illness” — which he allegedly hid from his employers — came as investigators searched his home on Thursday, March 26 for clues about what his motivation could have been for deliberately crashing Germanwings’ Airbus A320-200 on Tuesday, March 24.
French police scoured the German co-pilot’s apartment in Dusseldorf, looking for anything that could explain the mysterious decision or motivation to invoke this aviation tragedy in the French Alps, a remote area of extremely taxing access. French authorities have stressed that there are no reasons revealed by investigators that link this tragedy to a terrorist attack, Marseille’s prosecutor stressed.
A note found in Lubitz’s trash said he was “declared by a medical doctor unfit to work,” Dusseldorf prosecutor Christoph Kumpa said Friday, March 27, according to CNN.
Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr insisted at a news conference on Thursday, March 26 that “Lubitz gave no indication that he was mentally unstable after he resumed his pilot training. If he had an ongoing medical condition, he never revealed it to his employers.”
“After he was cleared again … He passed all the subsequent tests and checks with flying colors,” Spohr said. “His flying abilities were flawless.”
The co-pilot of the downed Germanwings Airbus 320, who French authorities believe intentionally crashed the plane told his former girlfriend that he wanted to do something to “change the system,” German newspaper Bild reports concurrently sourced by Business Insider.
“Germanwings first-officer, 27-year-old German national Andreas Lubitz — described by people close to him on Thursday as a “rather quiet,” “polite,” and “fun” young man — reportedly told his ex-girlfriend that he was disillusioned with his career at Germanwings.”
“He understood that because of his health problems, his big dream of a job at Lufthansa as captain and as a long-haul pilot was practically impossible,” his former girlfriend, a 26-year-old flight attendant identified only as Maria W., told Bild.
She also told Bild that he told her, “One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.”
Significant controversy in the media has arisen today regarding alleged video evidence surrounding the final moments of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 crash on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
Sourcing Sky News: “European newspapers Paris Match and Bild have reported that the video, which Sky News has not seen, was discovered on a mobile phone found among the wreckage of flight 4U 9525.
Paris Match, which has not published the video, reported: “The scene was so chaotic that it was hard to identify people, but the sounds of the screaming passengers made it perfectly clear that they were aware of what was about to happen to them.
“One can hear cries of ‘My God’ in several languages.”
The newspaper added that metallic banging can be heard in the footage, before the screaming gets louder and the video ends.
A lead investigator into the crash later called on anyone with footage of the disaster to hand it over to authorities.
Prosecutor Brice Robin said videos were not yet an official part of the probe, but that anyone with footage “must hand it over immediately to investigators”.”
Read more inside Sky News.
According to The New York Times: “Lufthansa revealed the co-pilot accused of deliberately crashing the Germanwings plane told officials at a training school he had gone through an “episode of severe depression”.
Lufthansa said a search of its records found an email showing that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had informed the company of his condition as he was seeking to rejoin its training program after an absence of several months.
The airline said in a statement that Mr. Lubitz had sent its flight training school the email, which included medical documents describing a “previous episode of severe depression.” Lufthansa is the parent company of the budget Germanwings airline that operated the jet that crashed on March 24.
Lufthansa said it had now turned the information over to the German prosecutor investigating the crash, in which Mr. Lubitz and the other 149 people aboard the plane were killed.
It was the first acknowledgment by Lufthansa that it knew of Mr. Lubitz’s mental health issues before the crash, and raised further questions about why the airline had allowed Mr. Lubitz to complete his training and go on to fly passenger jets.”
“… Lufthansa’s statement on Tuesday, March 24 came five days after its chief executive, Carsten Spohr, a former pilot, said the airline had found Mr. Lubitz to be“100 percent flight-worthy without any limitations.”
Mr. Spohr said last week that candidates for flight school were chosen not only on the basis of their technical ability but also for their psychological fitness. He said Lufthansa’s screening process was considered state of the art, “and we’re very proud of it.” …”
However, further sourcing a contrary perspective in the Los Angeles Times: “Two European publications claim to have seen a video of the last moments inside the doomed Germanwings flight before it slammed into a mountain, but French authorities say the reports have no credence.
A French magazine and a German tabloid newspaper claimed to have seen video retrieved from a mobile telephone data card found in the wreckage of the Airbus A320 in the French Alps. They said it appears to show the chaos as the aircraft descended, with the captain trying to force open the cockpit door and passengers screaming “My God!” …
French police denied the video’s authenticity, telling CNN that the reports were “completely wrong” and “unwarranted.” The public prosecutor leading the crash investigation, Brice Robin, said none of the mobile telephones collected at the crash site had been sent for analysis.
“All are for now being kept at Seynes-les-Alpes. If people at the site have picked up mobile phones, I am not aware of it,” he told Reuters news service by telephone.
He said that “in the event that somebody has possession of such a video, he should hand it in to investigators.” …
Bild am Sontag’s online editor in chief, Julian Reichelt, is quoted in the German tabloid as saying he had watched the video.
“The recording is from the cabin of the plane and shows as far as we know the last moments before it smashed into the mountain,” Reichelt said. “It is very shaky, it’s very chaotic. But there are certain elements that match what we already know about the crash. There are metal noises, which we believe to be hammering on the cockpit door.”
Read more inside the Los Angeles Times.
How Airlines Can Guard Against Future Security Breaches Inside The Flight Deck?
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, cockpit protocols inside U.S. domestic and international airlines adhere to the “don’t leave one pilot alone in the cockpit” rule. The standard United States Federal Aviation Administration regulation of flight deck operations is that if one of the pilots leaves — for example to use the bathroom — a flight attendant takes their spot in the cockpit.
Before the Germanwings flight 9525 aviation tragedy on March 24, it was clear that European flight rules had adopted a slightly reduced operating procedure, allowing pilots to be by themselves inside the flight deck. As of March 26, the U.S. domestic and international airlines standard operating procedure of “two-person cockpit rule” has now been invoked, insisting on two pilots inside the flight deck at all times.
But, what happens when one of the pilots has to use the bathroom? Where is the second pilot qualified to fly the aircraft? It doesn’t make common sense to have a flight attendant inside the locked flight deck to satisfy a two-person rule inside the cockpit, even for a brief moment.
More important, flight attendants are highly qualified to ensure the safety and security of the cabin and passengers inside the aircraft. At all cost for passengers and crew safety, the flight deck requires an even higher security protocol on all aircraft.
Because, Germanwings flight 4U9525 has now shown us that it takes only a moment to have an aviation safety and security breach inside a locked cockpit door.
“The reinforced doors required after 9-11 to prevent hijackings can help a pilot who wants to crash his own plane. If a pilot simply moves the cockpit door switch to lock, no combination of codes punched into the keypad outside will open the door. That lockout lasts five minutes and the pilot can repeat it,” according to NBC News Channel.
“One person controls access to the cockpit and controls the plane.”
Some critics, like myself, say airlines should go back to three pilots, which used to be standard.
“You don’t want to bring flight attendants in the cockpit, because they can’t fly the aircraft,” notes aviation analyst Oliver McGee on NBC News Channel.
The Telegraph (U.K.)’s former transport editor, David Millward, reports from the U.S. on how airlines can guard against the threat from pilots:
“In the USA there are calls for the most sweeping reforms since 9/11 to prevent a repetition of the Germanwings disaster. Michael Hall, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, has called for video taping of the cockpit – a move which is likely to face resistance from pilots’ unions.
Oliver McGee, who was a science and transport adviser to Bill Clinton, asks whether there should be a minimum of three pilots on all flights, so there will always be at least two in the cockpit.
In common with other experts he believes that black box data should automatically be stored remotely to make it instantly available if needed.”
“At this point, there is no explanation,” French BEA Director Remi Jouty said. “One doesn’t imagine that the pilot consciously sends his plane into a mountain.”
Jouty said “sounds and voices” were registered on the digital audio file recovered from the first black box. But he did not divulge the fullest contents, insisting days or weeks will be needed to decipher them, according to the National Post sourcing the Associated Press.
“There’s work of understanding voices, sounds, alarms, attribution of different voices,” the French BEA chief said.
“Confusion surrounded the fate of the second black box. French President Francois Hollande said the casing of the flight data recorder had been found in the scattered debris, but was missing the memory card that captures 25 hours’ worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane. Jouty refused to confirm the discovery,” sources the National Post through the Associated Press.
Ejectable data recorders used on military aircraft and helicopters, alongside real-time limited black-box data streaming technologies are costly to adopt for large commercial passenger airlines.
However, as advances are made with cloud streaming, efficient management of big data, and powerful wireless communication device technologies, such cost concerns held by the world’s hundreds of airlines will quickly erode in the future.
Given that international air travel is expected to explode in the next decade (according to Boeing and Airbus industry projections), particularly in Southeast Asia given the large number of aviation safety mishaps that have occurred in the region this past year.
This is highly dependent upon air travel across deep seas and remote oceans for millions of people in the Asiatic region.
Consensus on recommendations of global flight tracking of commercial passenger airliners, jet black-box data streaming, and ejectable flight data recorders, must be reached quickly among airline chiefs, aviation experts, and government officials at the ICAO safety conference on international commercial passenger aviation travel safety and security held in February 2-5, 2015. Additionally, ICAO plans to publish in 2016 its global flight-tracking standards.
Crucial analysis of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders give crash investigations further insights into the overarching human factor concern of flight deck conversations between the captain and co-pilot moments before an airliner crashes, and fullest array of flight performance data and information (such as the aircraft’s vertical and horizontal speeds along with engine temperature determining its real-time power).
In addition, human factor errors (including other related human breaches perhaps associated with psychological, emotional and physical fatigue during crisis flight management moments) are typically the result of ninety percent of catastrophic aviation accidents, according to years of research by the United States Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Now is the Time for Consensus on Recommendations on the Future of International Aviation Safety and Security.
With a deeper integrated focus on “the people just as much as the devices,” in a single year, since March 8, 2014, according to Aviation Herald, we have lost the lives of 1,047 international passengers and flight crews on seven compelling global aviation crashes, comprising:
- the oceanic loss of a Boeing 777-200ER airliner, flown as Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8, 2014, where the loss of 239 passengers and crewon board are now officially declared an accident and all lives lost;
- the shooting down over a war-torn eastern Ukraine region of a Boeing 777-200 airliner, performing as Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, wherein295 passengers and crew aboard were blown out of the sky;
- a crash in the Java Sea of an Airbus A320-200 airliner, operating as AirAsia flight QZ8501 on December 28, 2014, killing 162 passengers and crew aboard;
- a shocking local automobile dash video splashed across international media that recorded a real-time double engine flame-out crash in the Keelung River in Taipei of a Regional ATR 72-212A airliner, moments after takeoff from nearby Taipei International Airport, operating as TransAsia flight GE235, on February 4, 2015, killing 43 persons on board;
- a TransAsia flight 222, involving a Regional ATR72 airliner at Makung on July 23, 2014, impacted buildings on approach with stormy weather trailing behind a typhoon, which is now believed to be the likely cause of the airliner crash on a Taiwanese island that killed 48 people on board and injured 10 on the plane and five on the ground. The small Regional ATR-72 airliner, operated by Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways, was carrying 58 passengers and TransAsia crew, when it crashed, while trying to land in the Penghu Island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday night on July 23, 2014, according to the Aviation Herald. The plane was flying from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. The victims included 46 Taiwanese and two French medical students, who were interns in Taiwan;
- a crash Southeast of Gossi, Mali of a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 airliner, operating as Air Algerie flight 5017 on July 24, 2014, causing 110 fatalities of passengers and crew on board;
- a crash in the French Alps of an Airbus A320-200 airliner, performing as Germanwings flight 4U9525, whereby 150 passengers and crew died.
Losing these 1,047 passenger and crew lives aboard international commercial airliners this past year is the most we have encountered in close succession like this in nearly six and a half decades.
What has happened to our once stellar world of commercial passenger airline safety in this new world slowly grappling from the aftermath of MH17 and MH370 and most recently Germanwings 4U9525?
Commercial passenger air travel industry groups released a report on global flight-tracking recommendations and monitoring standards on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 with adoption at ICAO’s “Second High-level Safety Conference” at its headquarters in Montreal Canada on February 2-5, 2015.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) held a news conference at its Geneva headquarters Wednesday, December 10, 2014, announcing the report recommendations on global flight-tracking for its 240 member airlines. IATA’s 240 member airlines encompass 84% of international passenger air traffic.
ICAO’s “Second High-level Safety Conference” included “various topics covering three major themes: reviewing the current situation, the future approach to manage aviation safety and facilitating increased regional cooperation. In particular, the Conference attendees discussed emerging safety issues, including the global tracking of aircraft and risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones.”
Attendees included experts and strategic decision-makers of international civil aviation, which convened to “build consensus, obtain commitments and formulate recommendations deemed necessary for the effective and efficient progress of key aviation safety activities,” according to the conference’s website.
Here, airline chiefs, aviation experts, and government officials approved a concept of operations for global flight-tracking, and moved forward in developing a global flight-tracking and monitoring standard, carefully stepping forward beyond February 2015, which should now be accelerated well before a proposed February 2016 plan released by ICAO in the wake and aftermath of the Germanwings flight 4U9525 aviation tragedy.
Road Map to Global Flight-Tracking Standards 2014-16, as chronicled inAviation Week.
March 8, 2014 • MH370 disappeared from radar over the Gulf of Thailand en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China.
March 31- April 2, 2014 • International Air Transport Association (IATA) convened Operations Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and created Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF) to focus on identifying near-term options for global tracking of aircraft, including a concept of operations (Conops).
May 12-13, 2014 • International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held Special Meeting for Global Flight Tracking in Montreal, Canada, and reached consensus to track all airline aircraft. • IATA agreed to early voluntary implementation; ICAO to develop standards in parallel, while developing global standard on a parallel track.
May 26-27, 2014 • International Telecommunications Union (ITU) held Expert Dialogue on real-time monitoring of flight data in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. • ITU asked to provide necessary spectrum allocations for emerging flight-data monitoring needs and worked with ICAO to implement it.
June 11-13, 2014 • IATA ATTF held first formal meeting and launched effort to define current state of flight-tracking with member and non-member airlines, air navigation service providers.
September, 2014 • IATA ATTF presented preliminary Conops for global flight-tracking to ICAO in Montreal, Canada.
December 10, 2014 • IATA communicated ATTF findings to member airlines.
February 2-5, 2015 • ICAO held a high-level safety meeting in Montreal, Canada to approve Conops from ATTF and move forward in developing a global flight-tracking standard.
February, 2016 • ICAO to publish global flight-tracking standards.
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Oliver McGee is professor of mechanical engineering at Howard University. He is an aerospace, mechanical, and civil engineer, and author of six books on Amazon. He is former United States deputy assistant secretary of transportation for technology policy (1999-2001) in the Clinton Administration, and former senior policy adviser in the Clinton White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1997-1999).
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