Jump to Content

Safety Advisory Notice issued to: Operators of regional airlines

Recommendation details
Output No: SAN19980171
Date issued: 22 September 1998
Safety action status: Closed
Background:

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 deficiencies.

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 employees;
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and managers; 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.


SAFETY DEFICIENCY

The time scheduled for some turnarounds may not be sufficient for flight crews to complete efficiently and safely all required duties and inspections.


FACTUAL INFORMATION

Survey results

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 too short.

"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 (in checklists)."
-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


Background

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 procedure.

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 departures".
-Pilot,Respondent 594


ANALYSIS

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.

Output text

Operators of regional airlines should note the safety deficiency identified in this document and take appropriate action.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Regional Airlines
Action status: Not Required
Response text:
 
Share this page Comment
Last update 01 April 2011