List of NTSB 'Most Wanted' Safety Improvements Languish

The status accorded the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to its "Most Wanted" list of recommendations ranges from "unacceptable response" to "progressing too slowly." None of the board's aviation-related recommendations received a green...


NTSB Member Deborah Hersman pointed out that the FAA is recording three operational errors each day, and one severe operational error every nine days. "I think one severe high-risk event every nine days warrants a higher priority, and to provide direct warning to pilots," she said.

Rowlett noted that the Mitre Corp. is conducting experiments and simulations for the FAA of a lighting system on the runway centerline to provide this kind of direct warning to pilots.

Recommendation: implement a safety system for ground movement that will ensure safe movement of airplanes on the ground and provide a direct warning to the flight crew. Status: "Open - Unacceptable Response." The recommendation has a red color-coded timeliness classification, signifying an unacceptable response.

Reduce dangers to aircraft flying in icing conditions. The NTSB maintains that the FAA has not adopted a systematic and proactive approach to the certification and operational issues of transport-category airplane icing. As NTSB icing expert Dan Bower said, "The certification standards need to be upgraded." He noted the laggard response to the NTSB recommendation dating back to 1996 to account for supercooled liquid droplets (SLD) in certification.

The FAA has recently proposed new certification standards for icing, but they do not include SLD. "The response to the [NTSB] recommendation is taking nine years," he pointed out.

On top of which, the notice of proposed rulemaking published Nov. 4 is only a proposal (see ASW, Nov. 14). Hersman asked, "Is there any confidence that the rule will get finalized?"

"I'm hopeful," Bower replied. He pointed out that the industry may not yet fully appreciate the danger of even a small amount of ice on upper wing surfaces. He cited the icing-related crash on takeoff Nov. 29, 2004, at Montrose, Colo., of a Bombardier Challenger CL-600 jet. Upper wing ice contamination is being investigated. Bower quoted from a Colorado news report, "A pilot, and president of a worldwide charter aircraft referral service, said the Challenger's engines were powerful enough to take off even with icy wings." The article had this individual saying, "The extra weight of ice and snow shouldn't have made a difference; it should have been able to bully its way through."

But as Bower pointed out, "Research results have shown that fine particles of frost or ice, the size of a grain of table salt and distributed as sparsely as one per square centimeter over an airplane wing's upper surface can destroy enough lift to prevent that airplane from taking off." And of course, in some aircraft types, a loss of smooth laminar flow over the wings will have a direct effect upon tailplane airflows and its effectiveness for generating rotation (nosewheel off on takeoff).

In addition to not covering SLD, Hersman noted that the new rule, if adopted, applies to new-production airplanes only. That is a far cry from "reducing the dangers to aircraft flying in icing conditions," which by definition applies to the existing fleet as well.

Recommendation: complete research on aircraft structural icing and continue to revise icing certification criteria, testing requirements, and restrictions on operations in icing conditions. Status: "Open - Unacceptable Response." The recommendation has a red color-coded timeliness classification, signifying an unacceptable response.

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