SUBJECT - CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE WITHIN THE AVIATION
The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff at night, following a
simulated engine failure. The check-and-training pilot had
simulated the failure of the engine by moving the power lever to
the flight-idle position.
During the investigation, the procedure for simulating the failure
of an engine was discussed with operators and pilots of Fairchild
Metro (Metro) aircraft. In addition, Civil Aviation Safety
Authority (CASA) flying operations inspectors were consulted. It
became apparent that there was a poor and inconsistent
understanding of the effects of flight-idle torque on aircraft
performance and of the techniques for establishing a power setting
equivalent to that required to simulate zero thrust. This resulted
in a variety of methods being used across the industry for
simulating engine failures in Metro aircraft.
There are currently no "centres of excellence", either within or
overseen by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, where operators
can source reliable and consistent operational information for
various aircraft types.
For many operators of turbo-propellor (turbo-prop) aircraft, the
Metro is their first experience of turbo-prop operations. It is
also the initial turbo-prop type flown by many pilots. As a result
these operators and pilots have limited knowledge when making
operational decisions, such as the methods to use when simulating
an engine failure during training exercises. The unfortunate
outcome of the occurrence described in this recommendation clearly
indicates that operators and pilots need to have reliable and
consistent knowledge of the operation of their aircraft.
Information provided in aircaft manufacturers' operating handbooks
is not consistent. Some handbooks make specific reference to the
power setting to be used when simulating the failure of an engine
using the power lever. Other handbooks include warnings to flight
crew not to use flight-idle as the simulated engine power setting
because the aerodynamic performance loss differs from that on which
the aircraft was certificated.
In Australia, CASA flying operations inspectors usually complete
type specific aircraft training with the operator they are assigned
to carry out scheduled and ad-hoc surveillance on. This
surveillance is conducted using the guidelines in CASA's Aviation
Safety Surveillance Program. In some cases, the inspector may have
no experience on the aircraft type. This could perpetuate any
deficiencies in aircraft knowledge, operating techniques or
procedures. The flying operations inspector with surveillance
responsibilities may not be in a position to offer the best advice
to either operators or to CASA.
There are a number of operators within Australia that have been
using the Metro aircraft for a considerable period of time and have
accumulated a considerable amount of operating knowledge. However,
there is no current method of consolidating this knowledge and then
disseminating it to the industry. This underutilised resource for
the Metro aircraft type represents a wider problem applicable to
many of the major aircraft types flown within Australia,
particularly within the regional airlines.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has
recognised the need for consistent information to be available to
operators and has introduced the concept of "centres of
excellence". These centres address such issues as aircraft
certification, maintenance and new technologies, as well as
aircraft operations. Within each centre, there are a number of
"national resource specialists". These specialists are drawn from
industry and are considered to be experts in their fields. They are
used to provide "best-practice" information to the FAA as well as
to the industry.
The definition of a "centre of excellence" is contained in the
"Challenge 2000" final report, produced by the FAA. Within this
report, "centre" is defined, among other things, as the "repository
of expertise...broadly recognised as authority in field or
subject... operationalized for organisation to draw on this
expertise at will".
Information obtained during the regional airlines safety study
conducted by the Bureau again highlighted a need for this type of
"centre" to be established. The study revealed that informal
arrangements exist in some local areas among operators of similar
types; however, there is neither a national group nor formal
arrangements to cover all operators. The operators of Metro
aircraft, for example, meet with their New Zealand counterparts to
discuss issues pertaining to their operations. Some sections of the
industry suggested to the Bureau that this type of group would
provide benefits to both the industry and CASA.
A group consisting of both operators and flying operations
inspectors could become a focal point for the dissemination of
Whilst this recommendation focuses on the Metro aircraft, the
principles involved could be applied to any aircraft types.