SUBJECT - AIRCRAFT TURNAROUND TIMES
INTRODUCTION - REGIONAL AIRLINES SAFETY STUDY
Between October 1995 and July 1997, the Bureau of Air Safety
Investigation undertook a study of the safety of Australian
regional airlines. The objectives of this study were to:
(a) identify safety deficiencies affecting regional airline
operations in Australia; and
(b) identify means of reducing the impact on safety of these
For the purpose of the survey, regional airlines were grouped
according to the number of passenger seats fitted to the largest
aircraft operated by that airline in January 1997. The groups are
defined as follows:
(a) Group 1: 1-9 seats;
(b) Group 2: 10-19 seats; and
(c) Group 3: more than 20 seats.
The study involved analysing data obtained from:
(a) responses to a survey of Australian regional airline
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and
(c) air safety occurrence reports involving regional airlines over
a 10-year period (1986-1995) from the BASI database.
This Safety Advisory Notice addresses one of the safety
deficiencies identified as a result of this study.
The time scheduled for some turnarounds may not be sufficient for
flight crews to complete efficiently and safely all required duties
Pilots and flight attendants were asked if they considered that
they had sufficient time during turnarounds to complete all their
required duties. Forty four per cent of pilots replied that they
always had sufficient time and 33% frequently had sufficient time.
However, 23% of respondents reported that they had sufficient time
only "sometimes", "rarely" or "never". These proportions were the
same for pilots from all three airline groups. Forty two per cent
of flight attendants agreed with the statement that they had
sufficient time during turnarounds, while 43% disagreed. In
addition, a frequent comment made in response to general questions
posed in another part of the survey was that turnaround times were
"Pressure to complete checks on turnarounds quickly (rushed) is
very high. Little fat in schedules unduly increases workload and
can lead to rushed turnarounds with the possibility of missed items
-Pilot, respondent 579
"Flight attendants are responsible for moving disabled passengers
from exit seat rows, taking excess baggage from passengers,
ensuring seatbelts fastened, making announcements, doing headcounts
and giving safety briefings to elderly/disabled passengers. There's
just too much for them to do that a lot of flight attendants just
give up and become more and more lax. There is just not enough time
to do everything properly."
- Flight attendant, respondent 123
A turnaround refers to that part of a scheduled flight between an
aircraft's arrival at an airport and its subsequent departure to
another destination. Many tasks must be performed in the turnaround
period between flights.
The following two paragraphs contain an extract of flight crew
comments from the BASI report - "An Evaluation of the BASI-INDICATE
Safety Program". These comments support those made by flight crews
in the regional airlines safety study and suggest that flight crews
are required to accomplish more tasks than just those essential to
the safe operation of the aircraft.
"Overloading of flight crews with duties which are not expected to
be performed at other bases during turnarounds. In 15-minute
turnarounds crews are expected to unload passengers, unload
baggage, clean aircraft, supervise correct refuelling, do trim
sheet, reload passengers and baggage. This also includes elderly
and handicapped persons and the supervision of minors. To expect
the highest performance in the case of an engine failure after
takeoff is questionable. Checks are rushed with aircraft often
lined up on runways waiting for them to be finished. Adequate
lookouts outside aircraft are rarely performed by both crew.
" There are short turnarounds with very high workloads. This
mainly involves baggage handling where the captain and first
officer are required to off load and load large amounts of baggage
in a very short time frame (quite regularly 500-900 kg of baggage
per sector). The captain and first officer are then expected to be
fully alert for takeoff and any associated emergencies. This is
becoming more of a problem with the increasing amount of crew
members being unable to handle baggage due to back problems, the
full burden then being placed on the other crew member. Having been
in this position on many occasions I can readily vouch that after
four to six sectors (particularly on hot days) my ability to deal
with emergency situations and even the normal operation of the
aircraft has been severely impaired."
Determination of turnaround times
Inquiries suggested that the time operators allow for turnarounds
generally reflect the absolute minimum time to accomplish the
Airline operators determine the turnaround times for an airport
when establishing a timetable for a route structure. As part of the
approval procedure for the inclusion of an airport into a company's
Air Operators Certificate, the turnaround time is reviewed by the
Flying Operations Inspector (FOI) assigned to that operator. FOIs
assess the allowed turnaround time against the time taken for crews
to reasonably accomplish the tasks allocated to them and to meet
all the statutory obligations in relation to air safety.
FOIs' assessments are based on their particular knowledge of
operators' procedures, and any local conditions. Considerations
such as the likely need for an instrument approach at that
location, the need to uplift fuel and the manner of refuelling
(i.e. hand pumped from drums by the pilot or delivery
"into-aircraft" by a refueller), and the compilation of loading
data are also taken into account.
The Air Operators Certification Manual does not specify any
criteria for the determination of turnaround times and refers only
to the "adjustment of the schedules to accommodate delays due to
Air Traffic Control, weather or aircraft unserviceabilities". Other
actions associated with a turnaround, such as baggage loading,
passenger handling, aircraft refuelling and documentation, are
assessed against checklist items in the Air Operators Certification
Manual, but not specifically in relation to a turnaround.
A further assessment is made during scheduled route inspections
when FOIs observe turnarounds in practice and note any conditions
that could justify a change to the allowed turnaround times.
Pressure to rush turnarounds
Comments made in the survey by flight crews suggested that times
for turnarounds were adequate only under ideal conditions:
"Many crews feel that turnaround times between flights are too
short, and that although most tasks are accomplished, they are
rushed or brushed over, or operational tasks are given second
priority to passenger/cosmetic concerns such as cabin tidiness.
Company response is "don't go until you're ready" but scheduling is
often such that this would result in every flight departing late,
and there is still the subtle pressure to achieve on-time
Commercial pressure to obtain maximum utilisation of aircraft and
limitations on crew duty times, are likely to influence schedules
and may take precedence over the time required for crews to
adequately and safely perform their duties during turnarounds.
Flight crews who are unfamiliar with port procedures, particularly
those under training, are likely to experience the most difficulty
performing turnaround duties within the allotted time. Incomplete
checks, incorrect calculations of aircraft loading, and poor
handling of aircraft during arrival and departure, may be
manifestations of such pressure and have the potential to directly
affect the safety of flights.
In a schedule without any allowance for contingencies, a late
departure may result in a "domino" effect on other intermediate
stops and create pressure to rush the turnarounds in an attempt to
regain the schedule.