Safety culture 2

Aircraft are – although surprisingly seldom considering their technical intricacy – affected by technical malfunctions, called snags, which are entered in the aircraft logbook. They are sometimes referred to as A,B and C faults. Some (A) require immediate remedy, if they are serious enough, like a cracked windshield or a deflated tyre. The authorities allows the airlines 3-10 days to fix other (B and C) snags in order for them to be able to allocate maintenance recourses sensibly.

The latest fatal accident hit Lion Air hard and brought attention to maintenance issues. In all fairness, Lion Airs creativity in adhering to these regulations are shared by a number of low-cost airlines, basically because they have to, in order to stay low-cost. A faulty radar, that for some strange reason was categorized C in stead of A, was on a Lion Air aircraft, after 10 days, moved to another aircraft, for another 10 day respite. A cash starved 747 operator moved, after 10 days, a faulty reverser from engine number 1 (the outer engine on the left/port wing) to the number 2 engine for another 10 days, and so on for the two remaining engines on the right/starboard wing, and could thus wait 40 days without spending money on repair. The authorities would have been a little bit thrilled, had they learned about such creativity.

In all fairness – again – prestigious airlines might be affected by similar urge to save money, especially when run by managements with limited understanding of fundamental safety requirements, but fueled with ambition to maximize profits. They sometimes promote one clever person from the pilots corps to flight operations manager, but he/she does seldom want to jeopardize their prestigious position by telling management they run things badly.

One such airline, run by a cost-conscious rather than technically oriented management lost two aircraft a few years apart, fortunately without loss of life. In the first case an auto-throttle system, left un-repaired for three days, was a contributing factor to the accident. In the other case mechanics, put under a rationality squeeze, had six month prior to the accident claimed that something was bound to happen, simply because they didn’t have enough time to do what they had to do. Any and all savings was of course wiped out by the two hull losses, although properly ensured. So will all savings be, once they contribute to an accident, which they will, if exaggerated unwittingly.

Any captain can of course put his/her foot down and demand immediate repair, should conditions so require in his/her opinion – if normally employed and backed by a pilots union. A luxury not normally available in a low-cost airline.



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