The commercial aviation industry plays a central role in facilitating the transportation of people and goods in various parts of the globe. The safety of passengers, staff, and goods is paramount in the profit-making aviation industry. For this reason, air transport is one of the safest modes of movement today. However, fatal accidents in the commercial air transport sector continue to raise concerns about the safety aspect. Important to note, commercial aviation safety is one of the factors that account for the sustainability of this class of air transport (Patankar & Taylor 2017).
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In this regard, players in this industry need to establish and observe safety measures that foster the sustainability of the sector. Particularly, the concerned parties in the commercial aviation sector concentrate on the creation and implementation of strategic plans that seek to reinforce the safety of air travel. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is one of the global agencies that foster aviation safety by developing comprehensive strategies such as the Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP). At the national level, relevant agencies also establish strategic safety plans geared towards enhancing the sustainability of the aviation industry (Ornato & Peberdy 2014). In Ireland, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) incorporates a Safety Regulatory Division (SRD) to facilitate the analysis and monitoring of the safety of players in the country’s commercial aviation area. Recently, the IAA established the Ireland Aviation Safety Plan 2017-2020 aiming at enhancing similar objectives and goals in the aviation sector.
In this respect, one of the objectives of this report is to discuss the strategic position and critical analysis of Ireland’s commercial aviation safety. Another objective entails examining the strategic choices and best practices that can bolster the safety of the country’s commercial air transport.
Strategic Position and Critical Analysis
Strategic plans seek to outline specified actions that an organisation needs to undertake to realise its long-term goals and objectives. The integration of strategic plans to realise some predetermined safety goals and objectives in Ireland’s commercial aviation sector is one of the key ways of promoting the sustainability of stakeholders such as profit-making airliners. In this respect, the IAA unveiled the Ireland Aviation Safety Plan 2017-2020 to spearhead efforts towards promoting the aspect of safety besides addressing the systemic issues in relevant organisations and aircraft. The strategic plan spanning over a 4-year period includes various key actions that denote the strategic position of Ireland’s aviation safety. Therefore, describing Ireland’s current strategic position regarding airline safety is relevant.
The Current Position of Ireland’s Aviation Safety
The State Safety Plan 2017-2020 executed by the IAA uncovers the current strategic position of Ireland’s aviation safety. Overall, the IAA SRD’s strategic plan focuses on four important actions, including the implementation of a safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. The current safety policy concentrates on the enforcement of strategy provisions directed towards the wellbeing of the aviation industry. The security risk management actions of the plan focus on the creation of the safety administration needs of the commercial air transport among other stakeholders besides specifying the performance assessment criteria. The strategic plan also denotes that Ireland is concerned with the essence of overseeing and assessing aviation safety by incorporating safety assurance actions. The safety promotion actions focus on offering training and guidance to aviation experts, as well as heightening public awareness regarding aviation safety (IAA 2017). The IAA is currently prioritising the need to develop a strategic policy that underlines the importance of risk management, the assurance of safety, and its promotion in Ireland.
The plan denotes the specific strategic position of the commercial air transport industry in Ireland. In particular, the strategic framework seeks to address the safety risks involved in the commercial air transport sector by establishing measures that can facilitate the reduction of fatal accidents (IAA 2017). Thus, the strategic plan underlines the need for managing the risks factors accountable for accidents in Ireland’s commercial aviation wing. The focus on the risk factors is strategic since it encourages aviation professionals to observe safety standards that prevent aviation accidents from occurring.
The State Safety Plan (2017-2020) identifies the loss of in-flight control as one of the major risks factors undermining the safety of Ireland’s commercial air transport. The loss of control situation usually happens when the aircraft enters a different flight regime. The occurrence surprise created after travelling in a different “envelop” has the potential of leading to fatal accidents among commercial flights in Europe and beyond. Particularly, the loss of control accounts for at least three fatal accidents involving commercial airlines globally (IAA 2017). The approach of addressing the major safety risk shows the extent to which the IAA SRD is concerned with reducing the prevalence of accidents involving commercial flights in Ireland, Europe, and globally. In this respect, the IAA SRD integrates safety promotion and assurance actions to mitigate the loss of control risk factor.
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The current strategic position of the IAA SRD uncovers that the controlled flight into the terrain (CFIT) risk factor is critical in the commercial air transport sector of Ireland. The CIFT scenario occurs when the flight crew accidentally flies into terrain, an obstacle, or water (IAA 2017). Such incidents lead to accidents with considerable fatalities. In this concern, the safety policy actions provide room for the licensing of Iris airport to streamline the vertical guidance of airliners plying the Irish routes. Besides, the need for the airline crew to avoid distractions and navigational errors is prioritised since it goes a long way in preventing CFIT scenarios. Furthermore, the policy actions underline the essence of mitigating technical problems that can jeopardise the safety of commercial flights in Ireland.
Amid their rarity, mid-air collisions also attract the attention of the IAA SRD. The strategic plan holds that safety assurance and risk management constitute actions that are necessary for curbing two or more commercial airlines from getting into contact while in flight (IAA 2017). In this concern, the strategic plan is of the position that commercial air transport service providers need to be in line with the recommended measures to avoid mid-air collisions besides carrying out unceasing technical analysis. Furthermore, it is the view of the IAA SRD that commercial airliners need to heighten the management of safety when flying over an uncontrolled airspace.
The State Safety Plan (2007-2020) identifies runway safety, as well as the wellbeing of ground operations as key towards fostering the realisation of a secure commercial air transport sector in Ireland. Runway incursion and excursion events unearth the degree of safety in the various airports in Ireland. For this reason, the IAA has created Runway Safety Teams to facilitate the implementation of the safety plan. The safety of ground operations is also identified as important amid the low prevalence of related accidents (IAA 2017). In this light, the IAA specifies safety assurance and promotion actions to curb accidents occurring at the runways, as well as in ground operations.
The fire, smoke, and fumes risk factor is also a considerable element of promoting the safety of commercial service providers in Ireland’s aviation industry. In this respect, the strategic plan underlines the need for considering the triggers of such as risk factor, including the carriage of lithium batteries. Besides, observing the recommendations provided by concerned agencies such as the Royal Aeronautical Society is viewed as appropriate towards mitigating the safety threat posed by fire, smoke, and fumes.
Moreover, the current position of the State Safety Plan (2017-2020) emphasises the essence of managing safety risks associated with bird strikes and laser attacks as an approach to enhancing the safety of Ireland’s commercial air transport sector (IAA 2017). Birds can cause damages to the aircraft engine to the extent of interfering with the functionality of the air engine, hence resulting in fatal accidents in adverse situations. As such, the plan advocates for commercial service providers to engage in safety assurance practices such as observing the recommendations of ICAO on the management of risks caused by wildlife strikes. Furthermore, cases of pilots reporting malicious laser attacks in Ireland have prompted the IAA to integrate actions that seek to protect flight crew from such ambushes. In this light, the IAA encourages players in the commercial aviation sector by guiding safety promotion actions such as facilitating the review of “Laser Interference” recommendations.
The current position of Ireland’s commercial air transport safety plan concentrates on encouraging players to manage the risk factors efficiently. By so doing, the countries can attain desirable long-term aviation safety goals and objectives. Therefore, the appropriateness of the strategy in addressing the safety deficiencies experienced in Ireland’s commercial air transport over the years is critical towards bolstering the success of the strategic approach.
The Strategic Plan’s Extent of Addressing the Deficiencies in the Safety Performance Review 2016
The Safety Performance Review of 2016 uncovers the deficiencies that influence the occurrence of incidents and accidents in the Irish commercial air transport (CAT) industry. The review reveals that between 2012 and 2016, at least 22 accidents involved CAT fixed-wing aircraft (IAA 2016). The Irish Safety Investigation Authority identified important categories of accidents that affect the CAT sector in Ireland. The notable deficiencies occur in the areas of ground handling, ground collision, and system failure or malfunction.
Besides the occurrence of accidents, serious incidents also raise concerns over the safety of fixed-wing CAT service providers in Ireland. The Safety Performance Review of 2016 pinpoints serious incidents, including system failure, near mid-air collision, and fire/smoke events, as critical safety issues (IAA 2016). Therefore, addressing the deficiencies is considered important towards fostering the sustainability of the CAT sector in Ireland. One of the important ways of addressing issues in the business world is the establishment and implementation of strategic plans that seek to bolster the long-term competitiveness of players in the field.
Ireland Aviation Safety Plan 2017-2020 addresses some of the deficiencies that trigger accidents and serious incidents that Irish commercial air transport service providers encounter. Ground-handling deficiencies account for the leading causes of accidents involving commercial airliners in Ireland (IAA 2016). In response, the plan addresses the deficiency by integrating the safety assurance actions that focus on improving the safety of ground operations. Particularly, the plan provides room for the establishment of a safety review group to assess aerodrome movements, thus mitigating the threats (IAA 2016). Besides, the plan addresses the issue by recommending CAT players to regularly analyse accident reports concerning ramp and taxiway. By so doing, the IAA believes that CAT service providers in Ireland will realise a greater handling safety in the end. In this view, the strategic framework addresses the ground-handling deficiency to a considerable extent.
Ground collisions also accounted for a considerable number of accidents involving CAT aircraft in Ireland. The Safety Performance Review 2016 indicates that most ground collision cases involve two airplanes crashing on the ground while being serviced, boarded, or manoeuvred at the airport. Besides, ground collisions may involve an aircraft and a person, object, or animal while being operated on the ground. The strategic plan addresses the safety deficiency by underlining the embracement of runway safety, as well as the safety of ground operations (IAA 2016). In this light, the IAA requires aircraft operators to integrate safety reassurance and promotion actions that can reduce cases of ground collisions.
In addressing the ground handling issue, the runway safety element of the plan expects commercial airline players to engage in quality assurance actions such as the training of airport personnel to facilitate their familiarisation with the approaches to preventing runway excursions. The actions ensure that pilots, aerodrome operators, and air traffic controllers among other professionals gain the required skills of mitigating cases of ground collisions. The safety promotion actions provided by the strategic plan also seek to increase the awareness of the threats posed by runway excursions at the national level (IAA 2016). As such, safety promotion and assurance actions in the strategic plan address the issue of ground collisions comprehensively to improve the operations of commercial air transport in Ireland.
The framework also seeks to prevent the escalation of serious incidents to fatal accidents by providing actions to cater for instances such as near mid-air collisions and fire/smoke incidences as identified in the Safety Performance Review 2016. The strategic plan addresses the threats posed by mid-air collisions by conducting an in-depth assessment of the MAC events, as well as establishing initiatives that are geared towards addressing the issue of military aircraft infringing the operations of commercial aircraft over the high seas. On the other hand, the framework shows the willingness of IAA to support commercial air transport service providers in curbing fire, smoke, and fume incidences. Notably, it underlines the need for safety promotion activities that guide operators, as well as passengers, on lithium battery safety. Therefore, the strategic plan devised by the IAA SRD captures the importance of curbing the occurrence of mid-air collisions and events of fire and smoke.
Nonetheless, the State Safety Plan 2017-2020 does not adequately address the deficiencies that trigger system failure or malfunction as a leading risk factor in the safety of commercial air transport in Ireland. It is important to guarantee the efficient functionality of on-board systems besides the engine to prevent unforeseen safety incidents. The failure to address the issue is one of the loopholes of the strategic safety plan adopted by the IAA SRD. Therefore, there is a need to include measures that address the issue of system failure or malfunction.
Measures to Address System Failure or Malfunction
The need to address the system malfunctions that jeopardise the safety of commercial flights in Ireland is critical. The commercial air transport fraternity needs to consider critical measures that range from training to the integration of system failure alerts. The following measures can be considered.
The establishment of aircraft unusual attitude recovery training is crucial for improving the skills of commercial air transport professionals regarding the mitigation of system failure or malfunction (Ornato & Peberdy 2014). As such, there is a need for the devotion of more time to conducting the training of multi-crew pilots on the essence of monitoring. The measure is important since it enhances the preparedness of aviation professionals to unforeseeable events.
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Furthermore, the incorporation of online-based approaches to detecting potential malfunctions of the aircraft is relevant towards improving safety. Particularly, improving the pre-departure access to GA from small aerodromes guided by updated weather information is a reasonable way of preventing possible system failures (Ornato & Peberdy 2014). Private strips can also incorporate online-based approaches to improve commercial air transport safety in Ireland.
Strategic Choices and Best Practices
The prioritisation of strategic choices is important since it ensures that the plan addresses the prevailing issue effectively. Importantly, the strategic choices help in the identification of best practices that can facilitate the realisation of shared goals and objectives. Furthermore, the identification of guidelines and recommendations through the prioritisation of strategic choices is relevant since it provides the roadmap for arriving at the desired goals and objectives (Balcerzak 2017). Therefore, considering the risks and opportunities created by the commercial air transport security issue can influence the development of effective national aviation safety plans.
The Best Practices, Guidelines, and Recommendations of International Aviation Organisations on Safety
The ICAO underlines the need for assessing the focus areas that need improvements to bolster aviation safety at the state, regional, and industry levels. The ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) underline the need for state aviation departments to implement the globally accepted minimum safety levels to enhance the sustainability of the industry (ICAO 2017). In this respect, the ICAO identifies the full implementation of aviation safety standards as a strategic choice since it enforces the integration of the recommended guidelines and best practices in different states. Therefore, the success of national commercial air transport safety can be realised through the efforts put in place by a state towards underlining the importance of complying with SARPs and the best practices of the industry.
The ICAO underscores the need for a state to safeguard the independence of the Regulatory Authority mandated with the task of promoting safety in the aviation sector (ICAO 2017). In this light, the establishment of an independent system that screens the competency of the regulatory body is recommended since it guarantees the smooth implementation of a national commercial air transport safety plan.
Furthermore, ICAO encourages states to establish measures that get rid of the barriers to reporting of errors as well as incidents (ICAO 2017). Thus, the states need to support a “just culture” through the establishment of legislations that promote open reporting systems (Balcerzak 2017). Such practices also enhance the protection of data acquired only for the promotion of aviation safety. This strategic choice is crucial because it encourages commercial service providers in the aviation sector in Ireland to report all accidents and incidents that denote the national aviation safety position.
The International Air transport Association (IATA) provides guidelines for cabin crewmembers to observe to facilitate the realisation of safety goals in the aviation area (Ornato & Peberdy 2014). Importantly, the guidelines underscore the need for cabin crewmembers to engage in effective report writing. The approach is identified as a crucial towards tracking the deficiencies undermining the safety of the commercial aviation sector in different countries.
The IATA also encourages the state aviation agencies to promote the increased application of portable electronic devices (PEDs) in the aircraft, as well as the prevention of fires from lithium batteries (Patankar & Taylor 2017). The guidelines ensure that the cabin crew is at the frontline in raising the awareness of travellers regarding the essence of mitigating safety risks at all costs. Therefore, the maintenance of expanded checklists that cover the instances of fire from lithium batteries and PEDs is crucial towards improving aviation safety in different countries. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also recommends the 32 member states to engage in the monitoring of potential risks that can trigger accidents and cases that undermine the safety of European aviation service providers.
Countries such as the USA, Canada, and the UK have also put in place national aviation safety plans that provide the industry players with the necessary guidelines, best practices, and recommendations to foster the sustainable development of the sector. In the United States, the policy and requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration underscore the need for industry players to observe the safety management system (SMS) keenly. The safety management system in the U.S. aviation sector requires commercial air transport stakeholders to follow the guidelines and recommendations provided by ICAO (Federal Aviation Administration 2017). Besides, the SMS stipulates the best practices in the safety management manual.
The Adherence of the Irish Safety Plan to the Guidelines Provided by International Aviation Organisations
Indeed, the Irish safety plan adheres to the various guidelines provided by the regional and global aviation agencies (Oster, Strong & Zorn 2013). Notably, the strategic plan is linked to the global safety plans outlined by intentional aviation players such as IATA, ICAO, and EASA. Since the international organisations recommend states to establish their strategic plans on the issues identified in annual aviation safety performance reports, Ireland is also expected to do so in a bid to realise greater sustainability in the industry. As such, the Irish Safety Plan 2017-2020 considers the “Safety Performance Review 2016” in the identification of strategic choices and actions.
The strategic actions of the Ireland Aviation Safety Plan 2017-2020 also denote the integration of the safety guidelines offered by the international aviation bodies (Oster, Strong & Zorn 2013). The actions regarding safety policy, safety assurance, safety risk management, and safety promotion, as included in the plan, call for the review of recommendations and guidelines presented by ICAO and EASA among other aviation agencies. Therefore, the plan makes the global aviation safety guidelines a crucial part of its actions to realise a collaborative approach to fostering the sustainability of the industry.
The Ireland Aviation Safety Plan 2017-2020 denotes the current safety position of the industry, including actions that are required to improve the situation, especially among players in the commercial air transport wing. Importantly, the plan incorporates the deficiencies identified in the “Safety Performance Review 2016” to establish actions geared towards commercial air transport improvement in Ireland. However, the actions do not satisfactorily address the system failure risk factor. The strategic choices of the plan also align with those recommended by international aviation agencies, including ICAO and EASA.
Balcerzak, T 2017, ‘A “just culture”? Conflicts of interest in the investigation of aviation accidents’, Scientific Journal of Silesian University of Technology, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 5-17
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Oster, C, Strong, J & Zorn, C 2013, ‘Analysing aviation safety: problems, challenges, opportunities’, Research in Transportation Economics, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 148-164.
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