Airline Industry Safety and Operational Issues

Airline Industry Safety and Operational Issues

Airline industry in the world is multi-billion business. Various leasing companies, insurance companies and international organizations are making huge profits while providing their services. However, in Pakistan the airline industry is in huge loss since decades and many fatal accidents occurred in the recent past. The question arises while the world is making huge practices and making their airlines safer than why in Pakistan safety accidents and near misses occurred so frequently and airline industry is in huge loss. So, let us look at the whole story.

Nate Silver is a famous American data scientist and writer. Mr. Silver extracted data of accidents, near misses and fatalities from the Aviation Safety Network’s database. He obtained the safety data from 1985 to 2014 and compared safety record over two periods, i.e., 1985 to 1999 and 2000 to 2014. And guess which airline stood out to be consistently high risk prone over the two periods: Pakistan International Airlines.


One more interesting point he had made that countries which have good GDP per capita for the airlines are quite strong in terms of safety as they can afford to buy more expensive safety equipment and technology, provide rigorous trainings to their pilots and hence making their aviation industry more safer than the developing countries. So, country GDP plays an important role in avoiding the aircraft crash and near misses. Unfortunately, in Pakistan we have very poor GDP and airlines industry is in huge loss so that’s one of the major reasons of aircraft crashes. But the question arises what the role of international organization ICAO, IATA, EASA and insurance companies in making this industry safer particularly in developing countries.

Role of IATA and EASA

According to EASA about the flight PK8303 crash, its initial finding reports showing successive breaches of multilayers safety defenses in the safety management system, EASA is concerned that the safety management system in PIA is not achieving its primary objective.


Presented above is the Swiss Cheese Model that has provided various layers of safety defense. According to EASA breach of many layers of safety defense occurred in PK8303 crash so the question is why IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) had not looked all these findings in their previous audits while their main purpose is an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. The program is designed to assess the operational management and control systems of airlines.IOSA uses internationally recognized quality audit principles and is designed to conduct audits in a standardized and consistent manner. So, either the standards need to be reviewed or their audit methods are not appropriate that had given the opportunity to airline for the breach of multi-layer safety defense.

Like for example, Airport building standards should be revisited (how much adequate distance/clearance or height is allowed around the airport etc) to have more safety during landing and takeoff of the airplane. As we have seen in the pk8303 crash the plane could have been saved if it had been belly landed within the airport boundary after both engines got failed. But unfortunately, the space was not adequate, so it had been fallen on the buildings.

Role of leasing and Insurance Companies

Aircraft leasing is a technique where the airline companies procure the aircraft on lease from leasing airline companies and other aircraft operators. Over the last few years, several airlines companies have switched to aircraft leasing for their operations to reduce the financial burden and to increase the number of aircraft. Insurance is a big business in aircraft industry Insurance Companies particularly check all aspects of business process, functions, safety requirements, organization structure, ERP etc and then provide their policy after ensuring all safety needs and requirements.  It appears that insurance in aviation is pure commercial business, Insurance companies are making huge profit while they provide peanuts amount to the airline and people. The purpose of insurance should be to facilitate airline and people in case of accidents and property loss and at the same time they must ensure that Safety Management System requirements are being fulfilled by the airline.

Role of AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Boards)

The role of AAIB is to provide rigorous inquiry covering all aspects of accidents and to provide safety recommendations against the cause of accident. It should be completely independent federal agency, outside the CAA, but unfortunately till now it has been under CAA despite the facts that Peshawar High court in year 2012 ordered to make AAIB completely independent and autonomous investigation board. In US the President appoints the members of the board, with confirmation by the Senate. Terms of service are five years. The Board Chairman and Vice Chairman are appointed from among the members and serve terms of two years each. The teams typically consist of one member of the board and specialists in air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, aircraft operations, and someone trained in witness interrogation.

Structure of Pakistan CAA

In US FAA manages different functions of civil aviation and has been divided into four lines of Business namely Airports management, Air Traffic Organization, Commercial Space Transportation and Air Safety. So, CAA in Pakistan should immediately be divided into 3 independently managed companies:

           1. CAA Regulatory Company

           2. Airports Management Company

           3. Air Traffic Service company.

The Government’s Safety Role

In US The federal government plays an important role in assuring the safety of air travel. It has done so since the enactment of the Air Commerce Act of 1926, and it continues to play a leading role in aviation safety today. Although the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ended all domestic economic regulation of the airlines, it did not end government regulation of safety. All safety requirements and programs in place at that time are still in force, and many new regulations have been added.

So, in comparison with US Aviation Industry, Pakistan Aviation industry is far less behind. Government need to do overhauling of entire aviation industry. Experts should be hired that not only formulate policies, SOPs, safety programs but also help govt in doing regulations, certifications, helps CAA to function independently by appointing Board of Directors. Additionally, international organization must ensure that the processes in Aviation industry (Audits, Insurance and leasing) should need to be properly performed so that developing countries airline can grow and implement better Safety Management System and hence precious human lives will be saved.

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Writer Name: Muhammad Danish Aman

Email: [email protected]

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