Daily Management Review

Warning Of Safety Issued To Airlines As Planes Return From Pandemic Grounding


Airlines all of the world are being warned about taking extra care while reactivating planes left in extended storage during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to regulators, insurers and experts, airlines could face issues with possible rustiness of pilots who have not flown for a long time, errors in maintenance and even insect nests that may have blocked key sensors of aircrafts.
With the near stoppage of air travel globally because of the coronavirus lockdowns, an unprecedented number of aircraft all across the world had to be left grounded. At one point in time, the number of grounded planes reached about two thirds of the total number commercial planes in the world. That has resulted in an increase in the number of reported problems with planes with airlines slowly returning their fleets into service.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there has been a sharp rise in the number of “unstabilised” or poorly handled approaches this year. hard landings, runway overshoots or even crashes can result from such mishaps.
Gary Moran, head of Asia aviation at insurance broker Aon, said that airlines are being asked by insurers about whether they are doing extra pilot training to focus on landings after the warning and data from the IATA.
“They want to know about the circumstances of the training,” he said.
Significant skills are required for approaches and landings of planes for which crew are given specific training and regular experience.
The genesis of the largest category of fatal accidents have been found to be hidden in the approach of a plane to an airport, according to aircraft maker Airbus, while the majority of non-fatal accidents take place during landing planes.
After an unstabilised approach, a Pakistan International Airlines jet crashed in May with the death of 97 people.  An Air India Express crash on landing in August resulted in the death of 18 people after the plane encountered an unstabilised approach.
Training is not the only concern.
An “alarming trend” in the number of reports of unreliable airspeed and altitude readings during the first flight after a plane leaves storage has been reported by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Pilots have had to abandon take offs or the aircraft had to return to base ion some of the cases.
Undetected insect nests inside the aircraft’s pitot tubes, pressure-sensitive sensors which supply crucial data to an avionics computer was identified as the sources of the problems in most cases.
After the captain found the airspeed was reading zero, a jet of Wizz Air Holdings jet had to halt a take-off in June.
As planes return to service after an unprecedented grounding, awareness of potential defects that might not have been identified properly needs to be high among flight crews, said Kate Seaton, a Singapore-based aerospace partner at law firm HFW.
“We are in new territory — the industry must take steps to mitigate the risks but need to be prepared for the unexpected,” she said.