Aviation safety issues and actions

Operator’s risk controls for in-flight fuel management

Issue number: AO-2014-190-SI-02
Who it affects: Operator’s Westwind flight crew
Issue owner: Pel-Air Aviation
Transport function: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2009-072
Issue release date: 23 November 2017
Current issue status: Adequately addressed
Issue status justification:

The ATSB acknowledges that the operator undertook substantial safety action to address its risk controls regarding in-flight fuel management on its Westwind fleet. Although not every item in the safety issue was specifically addressed, the overall level of action substantially reduced the risk of operations to remote islands and isolated aerodromes.

Safety issue description

The operator’s risk controls did not provide assurance that the operator’s Westwind pilots would conduct adequate in-flight fuel management and related activities during flights to remote islands or isolated aerodromes. Limitations included:

  • no formal guidance material about how to calculate a point of no return (PNR) for an off-track alternate aerodrome
  • no formal guidance material regarding what types of weather information to obtain during a flight and when to obtain the information
  • no procedures for a captain’s calculation of the PNR to be checked by another pilot
  • little if any assessment during proficiency checks of a pilot’s ability to calculate a PNR and conduct in-flight fuel management on long distance flights
  • no fitment of a satellite-phone in most of the operator’s Westwind aircraft.

Proactive Action

Action number: AO-2014-190-NSA-024
Action organisation: Pel-Air Aviation
Date: 23 November 2017
Action status: Closed

On 7 December 2009, the operator issued a new Westwind 1124/1124A fuel policy and interim flight planning procedures. Following consultation with CASA, a revised policy and interim procedures was issued on 21 December 2009. The policy and procedures included:

  • (for all flights exceeding 3 hours) a requirement for a how-goes-it chart to be completed to compare planned versus actual fuel burns
  • (for all flights exceeding 3 hours) a requirement for weather updates to be obtained for the destination and en route alternate aerodromes no later than 90 minutes after departure, at each CP or PNR position and prior to top of descent (with acceptable weather updates in order of preference being a TTF, TAF and METAR)
  • revised procedures for in-flight replanning.

Additional safety actions related to in-flight fuel management included:

  • formal guidance and ground-based training for all flight crew on using a how-goes-it chart
  • a requirement for flight crews to recalculate the fuel available if planned cruising levels were not provided (and to ensure these calculations were cross-checked)
  • a requirement for new captains to complete 10 international flight sectors before being recommended for a check to line.

The operator also introduced portable satellite phones for its air ambulance operations, although these would have been usable from within an aircraft in only some situations.

Last update 26 July 2018