- It enables the plane to fly faster: Oftentimes the direction in which the wind blows reduces the speed of the plane and the higher a plane can fly into the sky, the lesser the air becomes; and the lesser the air becomes, the lesser the air resistance in the sky and as a result of these the plan can fly faster. Therefore, this explains why pilots fly the plane higher above the clouds.
- Unwanted threat from birds: Oftentimes birds are a major threat to planes flying at lower altitudes. There are certain altitudes that are too high for birds to penetrate and this explains why planes fly on high altitudes.
- If the desired destination for a plane is very far, it will be economical for the plane to fly at higher altitudes, this will enable it to fly at minimum fuel consumption.
- When planes fly so high above the clouds, it makes them to be free from unwanted impediments such as wind, birds etc., hence, enabling the passengers to enjoy uninterrupted flight.
- For safety reason, pilots prefer to fly at high altitude of 6.62 miles, above the sea level. For instance, if any problem that can be fixed with time occurs in the plane, causing the plane to descend, with such height, the pilots may have some time to quickly fix the problem. But if the plane flies at lower altitude the pilots may not have enough time to fix the problem of the descending plane and it may lead to a plane crash.
Category: Air safety
The aviation industry is still playing a leading role in the movement of people and cargo in both long and short distance. International Civil Aviation Organization revealed that not less than 2.128 billion people travel by air transport every year. However, one may wonder why planes fly so high in the sky, here are the notable reasons, why pilots fly so high in the sky:
Out of other modes of transport, air transport remains the number one choice of many travellers who would like to move from one nation to another or travel across continents. Its unique quality in providing safe and very fast transport services to thousands of people daily, mostly the businessmen, by linking them to where there are business opportunities in different locations around the world makes it the most preferable transport mode for international travellers. For instance, in 2016, globally air transport accounted for 3.6 billion passengers which is 48 per cent of the world population. (Source: NCAA Profile Oct. 2014-Oct. 2016) The role of the aviation industry in the economy of any nation cannot be overemphasized; its enormous contributions to both domestic and international trade have led to the economic growth and development of many nations in the world. Besides, it is also a notable source of employment as the aviation industry includes all airlines, airports, air navigation and other important ground services that make air transport operations possible; they are all sources of notable employment for unemployed people. Furthermore, air transport plays an important role in the global economy by enhancing world productivity, and providing links to expand different markets for companies to operate. These important roles, among others, make air transport indispensable. Hence, the need to make air transport safer is the fundamental duty of aviation industries and the International Civil Aviation Organization. However, there are three distinctive factors why air transport is safer than other modes of transport. These factors are easily noticeable in the daily operations of all aviation industries in the world. They are: 1. Safety; 2. Security; and 3. Enforcement of Regulations and Procedures. Safety In the aviation industry safety policy is inevitable. It is the most important issue; the beginning and the end of its daily operations. In fact, meeting the flyer’s expectation is a top priority in the aviation industry. Safety in aviation refers to a state in which risks associated with air transport are reduced to zero or to the barest minimum. There is no gainsaying that all activities in the aviation industry are embedded in safety policy, no aviation industry will like to take the issue of safety for granted. For instance, on 18 July 2012, the African Ministerial Meeting on Aviation Safety held in Abuja, Nigeria, was focused on air transport safety, where the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) encouraged all aviation ministers in Africa to endorse and adopt the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan. This plan is meant to improve safety in aviation industries in all African countries. (Source: https://www.icao.int/Newsroom/Pages/strategic-action-plan-to-improve-aviation-safety-in-Africa.aspx) Therefore, there is no continent in any part of the world where air transport safety should be taken for granted. It is a top priority in the aviation industry and till now, no other transport mode does it better than the aviation industry. Furthermore, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has come up with programmes to maintain regular safety operations in air transport, two of such are Aviation Safety Implementation Assistance Partnership (ASIAP) which was established in February 2015 and Safety Fund (SAFE). The Aviation Safety Assistance Partnership (ASIAP) was created purposely to provide reasonable assistance to different nations in sharing safety information, giving attention to the most important needs; jointly work with other nations in assistance activities; support a resource mobilization strategy and agree on outcome indicators. In simple language, ASIAP aims to ensure the safety of operations in the aviation industry. Safety Fund (SAFE): Is another safety programme under ICAO for aviation industries. SAFE’s priority is to improve air transport safety around the world through gathered fund. There are nations mostly in the developing countries that have no financial capability to tackle serious safety inadequacies in their aviation industries. This justifies the reason SAFE was established so as to rescue aviation industries in such countries through donors and voluntary contributions from different nations. By and large, air transport safety is a top priority in the aviation industry, therefore, all airlines, aircraft manufacturers, ICAO, IATA and government regulators in different countries are all in collaboration to avoid any safety problem that may jeopardize an aircraft’s ability to fly safely. Security Adequate security is another notable factor that makes air transport safer than other modes of transport. In aviation, security is the set of measures and resources that are used to prevent any malicious act such as terrorism, robbery, among others, against the smooth operation of air transport. In other words, security in aviation refers to all acts of illicit obstruction against civil aviation. One of the functions of ICAO is to prevent or reduce all unwanted acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation. However, there is a form referred to as Official Report on Acts of Unlawful Interference for all ICAO member states in different languages and as at November 2017, ICAO had 192 members. (Source: Wikipedia) The form is meant to report any form of attack on air transport operations. This shows how important the issue of security is in the aviation industry. Due to the importance of the aviation industry to a nation’s economy, governments in different countries are also in collaboration with aviation industries to provide adequate security measures for the industry. For instance, the US government established Department of Homeland Security while the department also established Transport Security Authority (TSA) to manage security measures in the aviation industry. Security against liquids, aerosol and gel materials: Another area of security concern that makes air travel safer is the area where flyers are checked to make sure they are not carrying liquid explosive substances or illegal materials into theaircraft. The use of liquid explosives is now a notable aviation security concern, hence, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has come up with guidelines on security controls for Liquids, Aerosol and Gels (LAGs). Liquids are non-solid materials and aerosol is a substance usually kept under pressure in a container, which can be released or dispensed as a spray when a button is pressed while gel is also a substance that often looks like jelly. However, in 2006, a terrorist plot was discovered when the terrorist tried to smuggle an improvised explosive device into an aircraft by carrying dangerous substances that looks like ordinary LAGs i.e. liquid, aerosol and gel. This explains why ICAO in October 2008 provided guidance material to ensure that the security control guidelines for LAGs are implemented harmoniously in all aviation industries in the world. Indeed, security is a serious matter in air transport. Cyber-security: This is another issue of concern for all relevant stakeholders in the aviation industry. Vital information in the aviation industry needs to be highly protected from any unlawful interference, so as to make air transport safer. However, civil aviation cyber-security refers to measures taken to protect civil aviation information storage in electronic systems against any unauthorized access or attack by cyber-criminals. As a matter of fact, civil aviation relies so much on information and communications technology (ICT) systems for efficient safety and smooth air transport operations, hence, the need to protect confidential information against cyber threats calls for adequate security for the ICT systems in aviation. Furthermore, after the ugly incident of September 11 2001 in the US, all stakeholders in aviation industries have been able to reach an agreement to put strong security measures in place that apparently frustrated the unlawful acts from criminal actors that would have made another big noise in the world. Nevertheless, in 2013, an Industry High-level Group (IHLG) was created by stakeholders in the aviation industry which include International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); the Airports Council International (ACI); the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO); the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as well as the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Association (ICCAIA). It was created purposely as a tool to work for the benefit of all stakeholders on important matters or signify issues of common interest to aviation industries such as aviation cyber-security. The Industry High- level Group (IHLG) is expected to protect civil aviation from any form of cyber threats. Truly speaking, in all modes of transport, air transport is second to none in the area of safety and security. Enforcement of Regulations and Procedures The strong enforcement of regulations and procedures by airport authorities is one of the reasons why air transport is safer for flyers. The enforcement of improved regulations and smart procedures, to as well align with ICAO standards, is a notable way for an airline’s growth and sustainability. It is my personal opinion that, if airports are going to be well positioned to play a significant role in supporting the aviation sector in the area of safety and security, a strong enforcement of safety regulations and procedures must not be undermined. The inspection of aircraft worthiness; the pilots, engineers, cabin staff and crew’s fitness in compliance with relevant regulations and procedures mostly in respect of alcohol consumption, drug use, crew rest time, carrying out pre-flight inspection procedure by using the prescribed checklist; entering of defects in the aircraft technical logbook, maintenance with approved techniques, methods and practice, regularities in maintenance procedures and records, flying aircrafts before expiration of flight clearance and so on, must not be compromised. Otherwise, increase in the violation of civil aviation regulations and procedures by airlines, pilots, engineers and cabin crew that can jeopardize the safety and smooth operation of air transport will be inevitable. However, air transport authorities understand the high risk involved in the violation of air transport regulations and procedures. Hence, to ensure compliance, violators can be sanctioned and such sanctions could be strict warning, suspension, fines, outright cancellation of airworthiness certificates, withdrawal of license as well as grounding of aircrafts among others. For instance, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia sanctioned an individual pilot and airline for violating civil aviation regulations and procedures. The following are examples of recent enforcement decisions by CASA in Australia: On 12 July 2018, ‘Investigations conducted by CASA revealed that the pilot had knowingly operated an aircraft with major damage following a landing incident. This conduct was in contravention of multiple provisions of the Civil Aviation Act including 20A and 20AA(4). The pilot’s conduct was considered to be more serious in this instance because this was the second recent occasion in which he had been found deliberately flying an aircraft without satisfying applicable airworthiness requirements. Being satisfied that the pilot had failed to properly discharge his duties as a pilot and was not therefore, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a PPL, a delegate of CASA decided to cancel the pilot’s PPL pursuant to regulation 269 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.’ Note: PPL means Private Pilot License-Aeroplane. This means the license to operate private aircraft was cancelled. On 21 March 2018, ‘Investigations conducted by CASA in the wake of a fatal accident in 2017 revealed that the conduct of the accident flight by the pilot involved significant and dangerous non-compliance with the aviation legislation including conduct regarded as reckless and/or negligent, contrary to section 20A of the Civil Aviation Act and regulation 282(4) of the Civil Aviation Regulations. Being satisfied that the pilot had failed to properly discharge his duties as a pilot and was not, therefore, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a PPL or a CPL, a delegate of CASA decided to cancel the pilot’s PPL and CPL pursuant to regulation 269 of the Civil Aviation Regulations.’ Note: PPL means Private Pilot License-Aeroplane CPL means Commercial Pilot License-Aeroplane. It means the pilot’s 2 licenses to operate both private and commercial aircrafts were cancelled. On 30 June 2017, ‘An investigation into the circumstances surrounding a fatal crash of an R44 helicopter near Cape Tribulation in North Queensland in April 2016 revealed that the pilot had contravened a number of provisions of the aviation legislation. This included flying after dark without an appropriate rating, flying without a valid medical certificate and engaging in reckless operation of an aircraft. The pilot’s PPL-H was cancelled under the provisions of sub regulation 269(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988.’ Note: PPL-H means Private Pilot License-Helicopter. It means its license to operate private helicopter was cancelled. Source: https://www.casa.gov.au/enforcement-action/standard-page/decisions- suspensions-and-cancellations Furthermore, my observation reveals that, failure of airport authorities to enforce regulations and procedures that will ensure high rate of compliance of all parties concerned in air transport industries may also increase the flyers’ right abuse. It is worthy to note that many flyers have suffered their worst right abuse in the hands of airline operators probably due to the lack of regulation of air transport industries on the issue of consumer protection or poor enforcement of such regulations, for instance, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. These two airlines cheated their passengers worldwide between 2004 and 2006 with hidden charges. When it was discovered by US regulatory authorities, the airlines refunded all its cheated passengers in the US and Europe but refused to refund the over 300,000 Nigerian passengers who suffered the same hidden charges on the grounds that Nigeria had no consumer protection law that they violated. In fact, they argued that even Aviation Act 2006 was not in place. (Source: NCAA Regulatory Profile) Having gone through the above paragraphs, I hope you will also agree with me that air transport is safer than other modes of transport.
The loss of a loved one in a plane crash is always painful but the failure to know the reason for the crash to prevent re-occurrence may be more painful and highly worrisome. This might explain the personal reason why Dr. David Warren had to invent the flight-data recorder popularly known as the “Black Box”. Dr David Warren was 9 years old when his father died in 1934 in one of Australian air crashes. As an individual, I cannot imagine how painful it would be for anyone to lose his biological father at such a tender age of David Warren in a plane crash that would have probably been avoidable. David Ronald de Mey Warren was born on the 20 th of March, 1925. He was an Australian scientist who invented and developed the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR), with its media name known to the public as the ‘Black Box’. The (CVR) is made to record any radio transmissions and sound in the cockpit e.g. pilot voice and engine noises, stall warnings, landing gear extension and retraction, among others. The sound recorder can also help to determine other factors like engine rmp, system failures, speed, the time of specific incidents, conversation with Air Traffic Control, automated radio weather briefings and conversation between the pilots and cabin crew are the features of CVR while the (FDR) is made to record parameters e.g. altitude, airspeed and heading. More so, other FDRs have capacities to store over one thousand related in-flight features that can provide the investigators a clue to the cause of accident. David Warren humble beginning He was born on Groote Eylandt, an island off the coast of the Northern Territory. He went to Launceston Grammar School in Tasmania and Trinity Grammar School in Sydney. He graduated from University of Sydney, where he obtained his first degree in Science with Honours; he also got his PhD in fuel and energy from Imperial College London, a Diploma of Imperial College and a Diploma in Education from the University of Melbourne. David Warren career with dates *1944-1946:- Teacher of Mathematics and Chemistry, Geelong Grammar School, Victoria. 1947-1948:- Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Sydney. *1948-1951:- Scientific Officer, Woomera Rocket Range and Imperial College, London. 1952-1983:- Principal Research Scientist, Aeronautical Research Laboratories, Melbourne, (now part of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation). 1981-1982:- Scientific Adviser (Energy) to the Victorian State Parliament. However, when David Warren was still working in Defence Science and Technology Organisation’s Aeronautic Research Laboratories in Melbourne, he rose to the post of Principal Research Scientist. However, as a Principal Research Scientist in Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL), a reputable organization, he was called upon to investigate the plane crash of the first commercial jet-powered airliner in the world, the Comet. Dr Warren: A Thoughtful Friend of Humanity While still investigating, he had an idea, he had a deep thought within himself, that it would be good and far better, if there would be an object or device that would record all that would happen in a plane immediately before the crash. He, however, supported his idea first with a miniature recorder he had seen in a trade fair. He further thought that if such a recorder could be installed in a plane to record details and be able to get it back from the wreckage. It would go a long way to determine the cause of a plane crash and to prevent it from re-occurrence. His thought showed concern for the needs and feelings for all people. What a good thought for humanity! A Dogged Persistence in Pursuing a Vision and a Mission for Humanity He had a vision and a mission; his vision is to invent a device that would make air transport safe for all and his mission is to do everything possible to bring his vision to reality. It is interesting to know that Dr David’s vision was not welcome in his home country in the first place. So, he made it known by writing to air transport authorities in other countries in the world, yet no country showed interest. However, in a bid to make his vision acceptable, he took time off to build a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder with capacity to store up to 4 hours before any crash. All of these efforts were parts of his mission to make his vision successful. So, the first black box was made. Hence, the saying, ‘seeing is believing’. A successful Vision However, Dr David’s efforts eventually paid off in 1958 when the former British air Vice-Marshal, Sir Robert Hardingham visited Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL). During his lunch hour, Dr Warren was asked to showcase his project; it was then he was able to prove the importance of the black box. Sir Robert saw it as a good project; therefore, he was invited to England to exhibit his project and it was a successful exhibition as the Ministry of Aviation announced that the installation of the black box would soon be made mandatory in England. The exhibition was also made in Canada and America through Australian Embassy. Dr Warren’s project used magnetic recording media which accepted easy erasing and re-recording and which made it useful for commercial airliners. Despite this qualities, Warren’s project lacked Australian support at first, yet Dr Warren was never discouraged until the project was accepted in other countries, wherefore, in his home country better plans for the project were made for better development and production. This project, however, without doubt, has proved immensely useful for plane crash investigations. There were incidents where CVR provided important information to the accident cause. For instance, as fate would have it for Dr Warren, in 1960, after the crash of a Fokker Friendship at Mackay (Queensland), it was strongly recommended that the black box flight recorders be installed in all aircraft. Why? It is because data recorded through the black-box were good evidence to be used in plane crash investigations and more importantly, the box can provide data or information that may be difficult if not impossible to obtain by other means. As a result of this, Australia was the first country to make the black box mandatory. Hence the saying, ‘persistence may be a bitter plant at first but it has a sweet fruit’. The Qualities of a Black Box With the modern technology, the black box is the most survivable object of a plane crash. The box is made and protected with an Under-water Locator Beacon (ULB); the ULB is to provide protection for the black box if it falls in water or river, and if this happens, the device known as “Pinger” is set off or turn on, and from the depth of 14,000 feet, it sends auditory wave on 37.5 KHz to a unique receiver. However, once the black box is found from a crash, a special unique computer and audio equipment can be used to get the information stored in the recorder and to inter-print it into a comprehensive manner that will help the transport investigator to determine the cause of the crash and to prevent the re-occurrence. Honor to Who Honor is Due Dr Warren’s passion for humanity has been honored by several organizations for his dogged commitment to air safety for all. However, the following are the honors and awards credited to Dr Warren: *FAIE-Fellow of the Australian Institute of Energy *The Australian Institute of Energy Medal (1999) *Hartnett Medal of the Royal Society of the Arts (2000) *Centenary Medal (2001) *Lawrence Hargrave Award of the Royal Aeronautical Society (2001) *Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) (2002) *ICAO Edward Warner Award (2016) Recognition *In November 2008, Qantas named one of their Planes A380s after Warren in honor of his commitment to aviation industry. *Dr Warren’s casket had an inscription that read “Flight Recorder Inventor, Do Not Open.” However, he died on July 19, 2010, when he was 85 years old. *The ACT Government named a road after his name, in the suburb of Hume, in June 2012. *In November 16, 2013, his name was instated into the Australian Aviation Hall of Fame *The Defence Science and Technology Organisation, on 25 th of March 2014, named their Canberra Headquarters after his name. Beyond Air Transport Having considered the great importance of the black box in air transport safety, the Federal Railway Administrations (FRA) US has also made it mandatory for the US; Canadian and Mexican trains operating above 30 miles per hour on the US rail net work must install event recorders. This is (FRA) ‘final rule 49 CFR part 229’ that was revised on June 30, 2005. The Black box in rail transport is also an object that records data about the train operations. The Modern Train Event Recorder is used to record so many things in train operations such as time, distance, speed, horn signal, brake pipe pressure, throttle position, emergency brake system, independent brake cylinder pressure and speedometers. U.S. Specification for Modern Train Event Recorders The Modern Train Event Recorder is expected to follow the International or National Standards like IEEE Std.1482-1999; FRA Final Rule 49 CFR Part 229; IEC 62625-1; among others,. However, here are the specifications in terms of hardness to test the crash worthiness: *It must be able to resist fire temperature of 750 at least for one hour e.g. temperature of burning fuel. *It should be able to accommodate impact shock of 55g. *Static crush of 110 KN for five minutes: this is to test when there is locomotive derailment with blunt object impact *It must be able to withstand fluid immersion at least for two days in diesel, water, salt water, and lube oil. *Hydrostatic pressure equivalent to immersion to a depth of 15 m in water for two days. *It must be able to store the last 48 hours of safety-critical train data. UK and Ireland Specifications of the Modern Train Event Recorder The Modern Train Event Recorder is expected to follow GM/RT 2472 standard; wherefore, all trains operating in UK and Ireland are to install the black box that has the following specifications: *It must be able to resist fire of 700 C for 5 minutes *It must be able to accommodate impact shock of 100g, 3 times on each of its 6 sides. *Static crush of 20 KN for 1 minute, to all edges and faces. *It must be able to withstand fluid immersion in water, AFFF or R134A for 1 hour Black Box in Road Transport Dr Warren invention is not only relevant to air transport, but to other modes of transport. It is important to note that the Modern Event Data Recorders are now installed in cars these days; new cars now come with installed black boxes. Speed has been identified as one of the leading factors of road accidents and one of the functions of the black box is to record speed at a particular time before any road accident or collision. Undeniably, the black box remains relevant not only in air transport but also in road transport. Black Box Components Without any element of doubt, at this point, you will also agree that the importance of the black box in modes of transport cannot be over-emphasized. The plane, the train and the motor car are all equipped with the black box for safety purpose. Wherefore, one may be wondering to know the component parts of this important box. However, the major components of this inevitable box in transport operations are stated below: *Aluminum Housing *High-temperature Insulation *Stainless-steel Shell *A Steel Plate *Magnetic tape Black Box: A positive revenge for father’s death and a strong desire for safety As a writer of this article, I will not like to conclude this article without providing a broad overview of Dr. Warren’s history in line with the above sub-title. As an individual, I see Dr Warren’s history and project as positive revenge for his father’s death and strong desire for safety for all. Indeed, David Warren was a friend of humanity. Like I noted earlier, David Warren lost his dad in 1934, in one of the Australian air crashes, when he was just a 9 year – old. Young David Warren became a fatherless child and probably grown up with a pain for losing his dad in a plane crash. By that time, he might not know the cause of the plane crash that killed his father; all he knew was that his father also died in a plane crash. Plane crashes, without having the clear pictures of what the causes were, might be the most worrisome issue in the heart of a researcher like David Warren. As fate would have it, Dr. Warren got a job in 1952 in Aeronautical Research Laboratories (ARL), Melbourne: a science research organization that deals with the operations of aircrafts. It was there he rose to the post of Principal Research Scientist and as a researcher in such an organization, he carefully studied to find new knowledge for transport investigators to easily determine the cause of a plane crash and to have the clue to preventing a re-occurrence. Actually his father died in a plane crash many years ago when he was nobody; so when he became a researcher in ARL, he took the matters into his own hands and revenged the death of his father for the safety of humanity. He discovered the black box for the benefit of humanity. He had successfully defeated the plane crash that hurt him many years ago for the benefit of all. His passion for safety for all is a famous land-mark to reckon with in the history of humanity. Even though he was not paid for his selfless service to humanity, what he had done for the human race cannot be easily forgotten. Even though he is no more but his handiwork still speaks for him till today. He was a man of vision and mission. Like I noted earlier, his vision was to make the air transport safe for all and his mission was to do all he could to actualize his vision. He introduced his vision in his country, he was turned down. He later took a bold step to write to other countries about his vision, yet he was also turned down. Nonetheless, he was not discouraged; he took time off to build the black box. These are parts of his mission to actualize his vision and indeed, his vision was accomplished. Despite the discouragement, he was still focused. A man with vision is a man with a focus. This is the attitude of the persistent people and they never lose their focus. David Warren’s vision for safety came to pass. Experts have judged the air transport as the safest mode of transport in the world. Indeed, he actualized his vision for all. I humbly and really celebrate a man who was a hero to all; I celebrate a man whose work touches lives;I celebrate a man who loved unconditionally; I celebrate a man who believed in sharing knowledge and vision for humanity sake; I celebrate a man who believed in caring for humanity; I celebrate a man who desired safety for all and also put a smile on people’s faces. Though he is no more, but his legacy lives on. My tribute to a hero: Dr. David Ronald de Mey Warren.