Broader debate needed on operational safety and flight deck procedures

March 28, 2015 Updated Mar 30
A leading Australian aviation identity has warned against knee-jerk regulatory reactions following revelations that the A320 tragedy in the French Alps was the result of deliberate action by a crew member, and the ensuing calls for revision of flight deck protocols. John Vincent, the President of the Australian Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society, says that there is a need for a much broader debate around operational safety, including the security of the flight deck.
“It’s understandable that the initial reaction to what has happened in Europe has been to demand that there should always be two crew members present on the flight deck of a commercial aircraft, but we should not rush into over-regulation,” Mr Vincent says. “There are other issues at stake and this tragic event can be examined in conjunction with a broader and ongoing problem facing all airlines.
“The demand for commercial pilots is recognised globally as something that is going to grow dramatically, even across the next 10 years. Such demand requires maintenance of the highest pilot recruitment and training standards so as to not even suggest a lowering of the bar for entry to this exacting profession.
“Even now there is debate in the airline industry about the best way to be training pilots to meet the expected growth in airline travel in the coming years. Resolution of this controversy is proceeding, but perhaps with not enough sense of urgency.
“It is to be hoped that in reviewing procedures and regulations following this tragedy in Europe, the broader issue of maintaining the highest standards in the face of increased demand can be considered in parallel.”
Mr Vincent has an extensive airline engineering and maintenance experience over a professional career spanning more than 40 years, including more than 25 years in executive and general management roles in large airline engineering and maintenance organisations.
His main career focal areas have been leadership development, business strategy, business process improvement, change management, governance, regulatory compliance, operational and occupational safety systems, risk management, employee engagement/communication and relationship management. He is now an executive consultant providing services to the aviation and broader engineering communities.

Update

Qantas however has announced that “Following discussions with the Federal Government, regulators and industry, the Qantas Group will have two approved people in the cockpit at all times in-flight.”

The Qantas group policy will apply to all aircraft with over 50 seats, so the measures will exclude Qantaslink’s fleet of 18 Q200s and Q300s, which generally operate on short sectors of one or two hours where Qantas says the need for pilots to leave the cockpit is minimal.

Qantas Group flights have between two and four operating pilots on board, depending on duration and aircraft type.

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About Paul Phelan

Paul Phelan flew for over 50 years in private, charter, corporate and regional aviation, worked in senior management roles with a major regional airline, and retains his license. In parallel he has been writing for Australian and international aviation journals for well over 20 years on all aspects of aviation including aircraft evaluation, flying, industry affairs, infrastructure, manufacture, regulatory affairs, safety, technologies and training. He has won three separate National Aviation Press Club awards for "best technical aviation story of the year."

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