Case Study 2: Avianca Flight 52
The plane ran out of fuel causing it to crash and killing many people, and those that survived got severe injuries that needed years to heal. Poor communication with the flight crew members was blamed for the crash because they failed to declare properly that there was fuel emergency, which made the air traffic control to take the matter too lightly. Issues that further contributed to the tragedy included inadequate management of the fuel load on the part of the crew, which made the amount of fuel fall to critical levels. Bad weather and inadequate management of the plane were also cited by investigators as factors that prevented the plane from landing, making it attempt a go-round that finished the remaining fuel; thereby, resulting in a crash.
The view that culture played a role in the accident denotes that the co-pilot’s upbringing groomed them to be not as assertive as they should have been. Evidence gathered from the crash revealed an aspect of language indifference between the pilots who were Columbian and the air traffic control. The ways people speak or project their voices determine whether the person they are speaking to listens and takes them seriously or not. In this accident, there was a feeling that the Columbian crew talked in a way that seemed like they were addressing their superiors because culturally it is not a matter of being assertive but being respectful. This accident prompted the National Transportation and Safety Body (NTSB) to come up with recommendations that will be used by all the flight crew using the US airspace. This is one of the accidents in history that are considered to have been preventable if the people involved were diligent enough. Inadequate fuel could affect any flight, but the timing and the way the pilots respond are what makes the huge difference between safety and tragedy. When the fuel levels fell to critical lows, the crew members failed to make out the nature of emergency of the situation.
The airplane’s engine stopped because of fuel depletion during the second endeavor by the pilots to land it at the JKF airport. Investigations carried out on the plane revealed that there was no malfunction of the engine or fuel system parts, which may well have been assumed to have prematurely exhausted the fuel. It was ascertained that the weather conditions worsened at the destination and alternate landing zone as the plane was on the way because the weather patterns recorded at both stations did not match the initially prescribed patterns. The crew also failed to request updated weather patterns from the relevant sources at the destination or the alternative airport. Additionally, they did not communicate adequately about the dangerous fuel situation to the ATC controllers who handled the flight when it was getting worse with time.
However, the flight crew was experienced in conducting flights from Columbia to the US and had also received adequate flight and ground training with appropriate flight and medical certification required to undertake such flights. After takeoff from Columbia, there was no flight following or any form of interaction from the airline dispatcher, but the first officer who made contact with the US controllers were sufficiently proficient in English and was supposed to have been taken seriously by the ATC personnel.
- In conjunction with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the NTSB will develop a standardized glossary of words, phrases, and definitions that are clear and comprehensible to both pilots and ATC personnel when conveying messages concerning minimum and emergency fuel situations.
- New guidelines were included in the air transport manuals that included minimum fuel values for different phases of flights at which emergency landing should not be postponed and when to request ATC emergency landing.
- Review of policies, procedures, training, and oversight activity to make sure that sufficient emphasis is put on a dual responsibility that the flight crew and the ATC personnel have in keeping each other informed about situations that are different from the ones they have mutually agreed upon.
- All pilots using the US airspace must be thoroughly knowledgeable of the flight operation and ATC rules and procedures, as well as standard phraseology.
- Equipment that provide broadcast recorder should be installed in the ATC centers, where they can be monitored easily and give pilots early signals of potential delays should there be any.
- The Avianca airline was required to incorporate a cockpit resource management and other essential training concepts in the flight crew training courses.
These recommendations are appropriate as they will assist the flight crew in avoiding preventable accidents. The recommendations touch on pilot training, communication, vigilance, and shared responsibility, which are crucial for flight safety. Putting more emphasis on these areas reminds flight crew members of what is expected of them at all times from the beginning, during, and the end of the flight. It can be concluded that it was the crew members that were at fault given that they failed to sufficiently manage the fuel load of the airplane.