Aircraft Safety and Security

I have been working to add additional layers of Aircraft Safety and Security to the commercial airline market since the Kegworth Air Disaster in 1985 and the Manchester fire in 1989 – this blog will chart my thoughts on the current state of the airline industry, their attitudes to safety and security issues, and will highlight new technologies as they try to solve these ongoing and developing problems.

 Kegworth Air Disaster

What can we do to reduce the risk of a serious Air Rage incident at 30,000 feet?

Surprisingly, in spite of the events of September 2001, Air Rage incidents have continued to climb over the past years, and the factors involved remain unaltered and unaddressed (for a listing of Air Rage incidents over the last few years, have a look at!interests/ch6q)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) saw a 29% rise in incidents on board flights between 2009 and 2010. Between 2007 and 2009, the International Air Transport Association reported a 687 per cent increase in the number of air rage incidents internationally.

“Passengers are far less patient today than ever before. This makes them quicker to snap,” said Heather Poole, author of “Cruising Attitude.”

“Before September 11, if we asked passengers to remain seated to let those with tight connections to get off first, people would stay seated. Now no one cares. People practically push each other over to get off and on the plane. It’s sad to see.”

Alejandro Piera with the International Civil Aviation Organization the said there were 127 serious incidents of unruly passengers in the U.S., 488 in Australia and 44 in the U.K.

So Air Rage might be one of those things that is just going to remain a constant “part of our DNA” and possibly increase as the airlines strive to make the air travel experience commonplace, and therefore encourage loutish behaviour.  If that is the case, then what are we in the industry to do about it?

Road Rage is pretty well established, and incidents at bars and so on where alcohol is present and available (as on most aircraft still) are well documented, but the consequences of an incident at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic can be serious, and could be catastrophic.  It is only through the professionalism of the flight crews and cabin crews that an accident has not yet happened.

The cabin crews themselves are now under increasing strain, and their primary role in ensuring the safety of the flight has been replaced by the role of waiter / waitress.  The airlines have a duty of care towards their staff, and the current policy of ensuring the safety of the flight by locking the flight deck door does not seem to me to be part of the statutory duty of care, essential though it is in these days of terrorism.

At the very least, the pilot in charge of the flight needs to have sufficient information about what is happening in the passenger cabin to make the correct choices to ensure the safety of his aircraft.

One of the consequences of the events of 9/11 2001 was the adoption by most countries (interestingly excluding the US) of video camera systems around the flight deck door, coupled to monitors on the flight deck such that the pilot and co-pilot can make decisions before allowing access to the cockpit.  Surely the time is now right to extend the coverage of these cameras into the whole passenger cabin.

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