APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE TRANSPORT SUB-COMMITTEE
OF THE TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE REGIONS COMMITTEE
Memorandum By Parliamentary Advisory Council
for Transport Safety (AT 01)
By way of background, PACTS is an associate
all-party group and registered charity. It brings together technical
expertise from the public, private, academic and professional
sectors to promote research based solutions to identified transport
safety problems. Its objective is to promote transport safety
legislation to protect human life. PACTS' Aviation Safety Working
Party meets two or three times a year, and membership of the group
comprises operators, safety regulators, researchers, professional
bodies representing those involved in aviation, and individual
members of PACTS.
For some while concern has been expressed that
the aviation industry was heading for a severe shortage of aviation
personnel. In the "Future of Aviation" green paper,
the forecast average growth rate from 1998 to 2020 was put at
4.25 per cent per year under mid-point forecasts, with slightly
more rapid growth in the earlier years. This was set against a
retirement bulge for staff in the aviation industry, expected
to occur between 2009 and 2012. In our response to the Green Paper
we expressed real concern regarding the shortage of safety-critical
staff in the industry over the next decade. The difficulties of
employment recruitment and retention apply to air traffic controllers,
ground operations and maintenance engineers alike.
The recent down-turn in the industry does not
remove this concern. The cyclical nature of the aviation industry
is well known, and this creates particular difficulties in relation
to the retention and recruitment of employees. The industry is
rightly criticised for its short-term outlook and the manner in
which it over-reacts to down-turns in the cycle, by immediately
seeking significant redundancies and cutting-back on training
initiatives. This approach leads to long-term problems, since
when the industry picks up once again, the provision of training
and skills continually lags behind the drag curve. It is estimated
that during the current down-turn, industry will have reduced
training to such an extent that the "skills pool" will
be 18 months behind the drag curve. Continued investment, throughout
down-turns, for the education and training of safety-critical
elements of the industry is vital.
When we consider the time required for training
the various personnel, the severity of the problem becomes clear.
Long-term planning for the workforce must take into account the
fact that it takes a minimum of three years to train air traffic
controllers, and even longer to fully train aircraft maintenance
engineers. This is more time than it takes to train pilots, and
there is a significant drop-out rate among ATCO trainees. Across
Europe the shortage of air traffic controllers is currently estimated
at 800; the problem is a world-wide one. The aviation system is
only as strong as its weakest linkair traffic control and
aircraft maintenance engineering must be strengthened.
The recent Labour Market Study (2001) made several
recommendations for the training of aviation personnel. The Report
identified the importance of adopting a strategic workforce plan,
including the monitoring of current provisions of manpower and
training as well as anticipated future levels. Planning and evaluation
of this sort could help secure resources for training during periods
One development to come out of the study is
the Skills Alliance Initiative, which hopes to serve as a focal
point for aircraft maintenance engineering. The Aero Skills Alliance
aims to make better provision for vocational education and training
of persons employed or intending to be employed as aircraft maintenance
engineers in the aviation industry, and will represent the interests
of civil aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul organisations
and related defence organisations. This initiative has received
support from the industry through various affinity groups. It
should also be supported by the Government.
Even with improved training opportunities, however,
the attitude of industry leaders towards periods of contraction
must be changed. If employees and potential employees experience
or observe mass redundancy in the sector, they are likely to conclude
that jobs in the aviation industry are not secure. Consequently
people will be unlikely to dedicate years of their life training
for a profession where they consider the pay and status, along
with the job security, to be low. Currently, a significant number
of undergraduates are "lost" to the profession before
they have even begun, moving into industry sectors other than
aviation upon qualification. 20 per cent of engineering graduates
never enter industry in an engineering role. Workers who are made
redundant rarely return to the sector once the industry picks
up again, and so experienced members of staff are lost to the
industry for good.
In times of industry contraction, if the aero-space
manufacturing industry needs to be down-sized, it should be done
more intelligently. The decision makers in companies are not always
experienced in terms of aviation safety requirements and as a
result redundancies and cut-backs in training budgets are done
on a purely financial basis, rather than a skills basis. It is
vital to maintain investment in moments of downturn, because expansion
is only round the corner, and safety critical staff must be available.
PACTS is concerned by proposals to introduce
bullet-proof doors within passenger aircraft prior to appropriate
research being undertaken to establish what safety and security
benefit would result. Such a proposal should be supported by appropriate
research in order that people are not lulled into a false sense
of security when travelling by aeroplane. Passengers should be
provided with accurate information about safety and security risks,
and not be encouraged to return to air travel on the basis of
such initiatives unless their benefit has been proven.
12 November 2001
Memorandum By Captain
Neil Shaw (AT 02)
SUGGESTED CHANGES TO THE "SHARP-END"
OF THE AIR TRANSPORT INDUSTRY ARISING FROM EVENTS OF 11.09.01:
01 Strengthened cockpit/flight-deck doors:
(a) Bullet proofingThis defeatist
proposal means that the industry is willing to accept a system
which allows fire arms in the cabin.
The hijackers of 11 September demonstrated their
willingness to die for their cause and thus would have little
or no compunction to have an airborne shoot-out with a "Sky
Marshal", so possibly killing the passengers before the aircraft
skin is punctured/damaged severely and destruction occurs by "bomb-less"
explosion. "Armed" hijackers could thus cause catastrophe
without even affecting the pilots.
(b) Dead boltingMy first drawback
is basic anatomical needs. eg food, liquid, toilet facilities.
Perhaps OK if the flight is less than 20 minutes but even then
bodily functions can require sudden attention. The 747-400 is
the only aircraft I have flown with a toilet inside the flight
deck. On all others the flight-deck door had to be opened to reach
the toilet. The implications of not being able to return would
be immense. One purpose of supplying sustenance to flight crew
on longer flights is to ensure that they are alive, well or even
My second drawback relates to pilot incapacitation.
If there is no way cabin crew can enter the flight-deck then there
is no way that pilot incapacitation can be addressed. After a
long process and many incidents, this eventuality is recognised
by all major air registration authorities as needing emergency
drill and regular meaningful practice.
My third drawback reflects inaccessibility to
the flight deck. No commercial pilot, whose job is to cherish
and save life, would be able to shelter behind a locked door while
a hijacker systematically murders the other victims outside that
door especially if some are members of his/her own family. Once
the hijackers then cause the flight-deck door to be opened allowing
them to enter, they are provided with a custom built secure cockpit
to perpetrate their crime. The dead bolted strengthened door would
then be to their great advantage.
02 City "No-fly" zones and shooting
down of "rogue" aircraft:
(a) The geographical location of many major
airports make this suggestion totally impractical, although probably
desirable for future builds away from any conurbation. (Maplin
Sands was once desired for the new major London Airport....but
(b) It takes several seconds, if not minutes,
to determine whether an aircraft, either over flying or on intermediate
approach is off track, either accidentally or deliberately, by
which time the chances of intercepting a "rogue" aircraft
before it strikes its urban target is non-existent. Indeed, the
Empire State building ["Empire"] was actually a major
holding/stacking point for aircraft landing at New York's KJFK
and the "Needle" was/is a major visual approach fix/sighting
for landing at Washington National!
(c) There also seems to be some ignorance
about what would happen to the tons of airborne and high speed
wreckage if a rogue aircraft were to be shot down before it reached
its intended target. Computer games and movies have attributed
to a lay misconception that wreckage is vaporised when an aircraft
is destroyed. "Collateral" damage to an unplanned "target"
would be the real result.
(d) Also, who, in that split second, is going
to be available to authorise (or willing to accept the authority)
to shoot down a fully laden 747-400 flying low over a major city.
(On easterly takeoff [towards the city] from Heathrow to Singapore
for example, a 747-400 contains some 400 people, 140 tonnes of
fuel and several hundred tons of metal.)
(e) As I have explained to many acquaintances,
it might take me a fair time to teach someone to fly planes, but
I can teach anyone to crash them in ten minutes. Once a plane
is started and airborne it is by definition a guided missile.
If the guide/pilot is intent on crashing the plane, unsafe application
is relatively easy especially on modern fly-by-wire aircraft where
manual flying skill is far less required than it was. The difficulty
in modern aviation is mental visualisation and conducting the
03 Plastic Cutlery:
(a) Plastic knives can still stab and cut
flesh. Apart from that there are weapons available from broken
glasses, trays, bottles, umbrellas, stiletto heels etc (all readily
available on aircraft) as well as the danger of non-metallic weapons
(including knives and guns) being able to pass through present
security screens without detection. Indeed I have seen bamboo
knives and plastic guns using plastic ammunition on sale at airports!
Airlines themselves openly carry truncheons, fire axes, plastic
restraint equipment etc.
(b) Passenger planes carry passengers and
cabin staff. They are all vulnerable to bodily harm even with
the knee jerk replacement of metal cutlery by plastic. It is not
beyond criminals to know the arts of unarmed combat but if we
are truly serious about this then all glass and combustible material
(like alcohol) should be removed as a starter.
(a) The aircraft Captain would no longer
be in charge of the aeroplane (as UK law sensibly dictates) unless
the Sky-Marshal is going to ask his assailants to delay their
attack while he obtains the Captain's permission to fire off a
few bullets and potentially damage the systems and integrity of
the aircraft, as well as possibly kill the odd passenger. At altitude,
subsonic, moderately pressurised aircraft may survive a holed
fuselage but a supersonic, highly pressurised aircraft would most
(b) It provides another link in the chain
(possibly via family on the ground) to be interfered with and
an impotent Sky-Marshal could offer a greater danger to air safety
than a zealous one. (A less important member of the crew is not
as vulnerable and an airline pilot is hopefully aware that his/her
job is to save lives.)
(c) How many Sky-Marshals would be required
on an aircraft? One, even two, could easily be overpowered by
several, even unarmed, hijackers who would then acquire the aircraft's
(d) "The Air Marshal would only have
stun guns". Hijackers would soon discover a further weakness
in the sop, but the same principle would still apply as in (C).
(e) Are psychological assessments to be made
on every Sky-Marshal before every flight? (His potential to inflict
damage in a confined and highly vulnerable space in the air would
be far greater than that of any gun-carrier based on the ground.)
05 Baggage reconciliation/Passenger identification:
Very important aspects to improve by virtue of
the modern technology of bar codes, Smart cards and basic physical
identification. (As demonstrated by previous notices to pilots,
some airlines were/are against such measures because of time and
(b) Too much faith in electronic systems.
Manual back-up must be available and practised regularly.
06 Radio Loadsheets:
This change remains contrary to a safe operation.
As with many esoteric practices it introduces a further element
for error at the best of times (as indicated by the "Flight
Despatch" system widespread in the USAcause of a major
crash at KSFO) but is clearly open to criminal interference without
the need to go near the aeroplane but simply by intruding into
the isolated ground office of "Load Control" (LC).
[In the older system the despatcher (or Redcap)
presents the final correct loadsheet to the Captain for his signature.
Eye contact is an essential safety factor to determine whether
there are any unexpected additions or subtractions to a provisional
loadsheet provided much earlier. In the newish "Radio Loadsheet"
system a call for the final figures is initiated from the aircraft
to LC (when the aircraft has often left the boarding gate, sometimes
airborne already, and subject to the pilots' remembering) to record
if there actually are any changes to the guestimated provisional.
Obviously, there is no longer any personal contact with the despatcher
responsible or perceived urgency to receive the true final figures
and if LC is being coerced by criminals, pressure to pass false
information has become all too easy.] Not only concerned pilots
but many established despatchers themselves identified the obvious
shortfalls in this illogical system; but purely for commercial
efficiency the CAA allowed UK airlines to introduce it.
(The RAF continued employing "Load Masters"
who travel on the plane.)
07 Late Closure:
Increased check-in time seems logical but Closure-time
is often overlooked for commercial reasons. Closure-time (ie the
latest time for a passenger to be accepted) should be increased
appropriately (even for first class) to avoid rushed lapses by
"behind the scenes" staff.
08 Smaller/Charter airlines etc:
Often it is claimed that smaller/low cost/charter
airlines or small provincial airports should receive dispensation
from incurring the expense of anti-terrorist measures. Of course
this is an illogical and spurious cop-out. If bigger outfits seem
too protected then the terrorists will just find easier ways in
the industry to achieve their ends. I am sure that the World Trade
Centre would have collapsed even if hit by a chartered aircraft
having taken off from a small provincial airport. The fact it
was struck by scheduled aircraft had little bearing on the matter.
Indeed, chartered aircraft could pose the greatest risk!
The following two items are closely related
and could be treated as one. To me they represent sensible complements
09 Airport Security:
All passengers and passenger bags need to check-in.
Thus a simple solution is to isolate any passenger away from any
non-passenger in a sterile area as soon as possible in the process.
There should therefore be no other person in the Check-in area
other than passengers and identified bona fide staff. (Indeed,
Heathrow Central Area is ideal to be designated out of bounds
to anyone other than travellers and staff.)
No article should then be allowed into the "Security-search"
area unless it has been weighed (along with the baggage) and tagged
with the [same] bar code as the passenger's hold baggage at Check-in.
This code can then be read by a bar-code reader (like supermarkets)
at the gate and thus no loose article (however small and seemingly
harmless) can be accepted on the aircraft without being authorised/tagged
by the Check-in staff. As it is, carry-on baggage often increases
suspiciously in size and quantity after check-in and security,
immigration and gate staff are often falsely assured that the
Check-in staff approved its carriage. For an easy life, most (not
all) gate staff accept it and then so do cabin staff with a result
that many sharp objects (eg umbrellas) and unidentifiable packages/bags
are sneaked onto an aircraft.
Staff/Crew ID cards need to be checked more
religiously by security staff who in turn need to be scrutinised
and monitored. I know of one crew member who clearly proves the
farcical nature of the present pretence by having replaced his
photo with that of his dog. To my knowledge he has displayed the
ID card on his uniform for the last 15 plus years without once
being stopped. Most aircrew are just waved through even though
many have just met each other for the first time an hour before
the flight. In fact, because of constraints of time and commercial/political
changes to the rules (authorised by the CAA) I frequently never
met some of my own crew ..... ever! (And I was diligent.) In the
UK I was never stopped even though my identify card was out of
date and rank at one time for several months. Security services
make great play on checking and X-raying (Long Haul) crew bags
but I emphasise it is individuals that cause trouble not the personal
baggage of genuine flying staff.
Pre-board arguments are basically an extension
of the similar Check-in ones.
However with both the above, too much faith
must not be placed in electronic systems alone. Manual back-up
must be available, taught and practised regularly and these major
requirements must not be allowed to take second place to commercial
demands as so often has happened in the past when the heat dies
down. Sadly, many subtle "commercial" relaxations are
then rubber stamped by the CAA and so accepted by staff for want
of an easy life. Actual experience proves the fallibility of promised
My reservations are based on either my own personal
experience as a commercial pilot or by noting other incidents
in published accident reports and safety journals.
I do not contend that my opinions are conclusive.
I accept there may be many other pros and cons but I hope to have