Pilot : According to the International Consultative and Analytical Agency “Safety of Flights”, over 50 aviation accidents and disasters occurred in our country last year, in which 113 people died. Is it a lot or a little? Which countries can compare these figures with the aviation losses indicators? What needs to be done to make Russian aviation safe for us passengers? Oleg Smirnov, Honored Pilot of the USSR, member of the Public Council for Civil Aviation of Rostransnadzor, spoke about this in an interview with MK.
“Last year, especially in August-September, there was just an outbreak of flight accidents,” the expert notes. – A situation was created when a dozen air crashes occurred in two weeks. Moreover, in all types of our aviation: military, state, experimental, passenger … But most of the disasters and flight accidents happened with civil aviation ships.
– Why do you think?
– Let’s talk about this using the example of one, in my opinion, ugly incident that occurred relatively recently, on December 2, due to icing of an Airbus-320-271N aircraft that took off from Magadan to Novosibirsk. What happened then is a disgrace to our aviation!
– A shame? Nobody died. Did the pilots there seem to have coped with the situation? The media even wrote that heroically …
– Nothing like this! That case is a template by which one can judge the state of our aviation, and by which the state body, accordingly, can take measures to correct the situation in the field of flight safety.
– Why? Aircraft icing has also happened before. What happened there that was so important?
– Modern aircraft Airbus-320-271N is actually a flying computer. And suddenly, after takeoff, he loses speed, the corkscrew breaks twice, and only five seconds remain before the 220 people on board are not in the ground. How lucky these people are! I pray and thank God for them.
– Perhaps we should also thank the crew?
– Not. The plane pulled itself out of a spin.
– Like this?
– The main reason for the incident is a violation of the rules for handling aircraft with anti-icing liquid. To process such a huge aircraft with it, you need 230 liters of this mixture. And there was spent only 90!
– Yes. For the safety of people. This anti-icing fluid itself is quite an expensive thing. In addition, it must be of a certain consistency – in order to remain on a smooth wing. Should actually stick to it. Therefore, such a concept as “viscosity” is applied to it. The parameters of this indicator are indicated in all regulatory documents. But in this case, the viscosity of the liquid was much lower than recommended. In this case, it is simply blown away by an air stream during taxiing on takeoff, and under appropriate climatic conditions, icing of the machine begins.
But that’s not all. For some reason, when processing the aircraft with liquid, it was decided to pour only the wings and stabilizer, but not touch the fuselage. As a result, it turned out like this: while the plane was moving along taxiing, the cabin warmed up, snow began to melt on it – that day there was a very heavy snowfall – streams of water flowed down under the fuselage. And there are pipes for receiving air pressure. They receive the air flow, giving speed readings on the pilot’s instrument. Then the autopilot receives the same data, which, depending on them, regulates the actions of the aircraft.
– Did the autopilot receive incorrect airspeed data?
– Exactly. After takeoff, due to the fact that the air flow began to distort, incorrect readings went. The autopilot took off and turned off, determining that the plane was stationary – based on the data received, it did everything right.
At the same time, the control of the ores – the engine control levers – continued to be carried out in automatic mode. The ores turned off the engine operation mode – the speed went out. The plane fell into a tailspin, began to fall, the passengers – in a panic.
– And the crew?
– I listened to the radio communication – it immediately appeared on the Web. It turned out that the pilots were also in a panic, not understanding what was happening.
Then the Airbus-320-271N almost fell for the second time in exactly the same way. Only thanks to the good aerodynamics of the wing – a deep bow to the designers for this – the plane came out of the spin on its own. The crew finally came to their senses. By that time, the ice in front of the pressure receiving tube had also begun to melt. The pressure was restored, followed by adequate instrument readings. After that, the crew took the necessary measures and went to land in Irkutsk. But before the collision with the ground after the second fall, there were only 5 seconds left …
– Could the crew switch to manual control in that critical situation – turn off the autopilot and take control?
– The crew, realizing the threat, had to turn off the autopilot themselves, take the plane under control in manual mode. But the pilots did not. The crew for such situations, in accordance with all our documents, must be prepared and trained. There are special exercises on simulators that prepare pilots in case of such a mess with instrument indications. But in this case, the crew did not even understand what happened, did not take any necessary actions. But in order not to enter this deadly trap, the pilots needed three seconds, during which it was necessary to press only three buttons. But they didn’t press those buttons.
– The legend of hero-pilots has collapsed…
– Yes that you, what there heroes! And finally, the last, very important fact, which was established by the commission of inquiry into this incident. In 2016, there was a decision of the Ministry of Transport to supplement the Air Code with federal aviation regulations (FAR) for de-icing treatment of aircraft. Six years have passed since then, but these FAPs have not appeared.
– Who is to blame for this?
– I think that the Ministry of Transport. This applies solely to his powers. And I think that now the Minister of Transport will burst into an order that will find out why, in six years, a generally elementary document has not been issued. I think the person responsible for this should be fired. Moreover, without the right to work as a state official in the future, since, in my opinion, such inaction can be called an administrative violation.
– Everything that you told on the example of only one aviation incident paints a very unsightly picture. It turns out that all violations due to which a terrible tragedy almost happened are connected exclusively with the “human factor”. Moreover, both on earth and in the sky.
– Absolutely correct statement of the question: exactly what is “on the ground and in the sky.” Everyone is accustomed to apply the concept of “human factor” exclusively in relation to the pilots. And if ministry officials on the ground create the conditions for an aviation incident, why can’t this be considered a “human factor”? Isn’t a minister or some other official a person? Or those people who saved on the ground, preparing the plane for flight, did not violate anything? And those that did not teach the pilots how to act in a similar situation? Why, then, is it only the pilots who are blamed for the “human factor”? Absolute stupidity and injustice.
– Agree. But then the question arises: are there too many amateurs in our aviation? How to protect it from random people? What needs to be done for this at the legislative or executive level? What decisions should be made so that people who do not understand aviation specifics never find themselves near aircraft? After all, today money and profit often decide everything in aviation.
– The question that you put is the main one today. And not just for aviation. Many problems stem from the fact that economists, lawyers and other managers are engaged in technical activities that are unusual for them.
For example, do you know what education our chief aircraft builder has? He is a sociologist. But sociology has never deeply and professionally studied physics, chemistry, or such a discipline as the strength of materials. Sociologists study none of this. But at the same time, for some reason, it is considered possible to entrust the construction of aircraft to a sociologist, putting him in charge of the aviation industry.
This is the picture in many industries. And now it has also come to us in aviation. Often the leaders of airlines and airports are people who are absolutely far from aviation. And now another very dangerous bacillus has penetrated aviation. It didn’t exist before. I say this with knowledge of the matter – I have been in aviation for many decades
– What bacillus, what do you mean?
– Bacillus of corruption. In order, under the patronage of a poorly trained pilot, to be allowed into the holy left chair of the commander of the ship – this was impossible to imagine in the days of the USSR. The state system created then in aviation simply did not allow this. And it was impossible to bypass it.
– And now?
– Here’s an example for you: in the same airline, whose case with the plane we are discussing now, this turns out to be possible. A flight director was recently arrested there, just for corruption.
– For what?
– For bribes, he hired people who were not distinguished by high professionalism, and made them commanders. After that, the airline experienced more than one flight accident. The incident that we discussed is not the first such incident. These things must be dealt with mercilessly.
– Beautiful words. But how exactly to fight?
– This should happen at all levels. Did no one in the airline know about the same flight director who took bribes for appointment to a higher position? They knew, of course, if they approached him about this.
Go ahead. The Federal Air Transport Agency arrested several people for corruption. Now let’s go higher. The other day there was a message that the Deputy Minister of Transport was arrested for corruption. Where else to go? And if this happens at all levels, then this is already a system? She needs to be broken. For aviation, this is a terrible signal. To ignore it means to produce further catastrophes.
– Well, you yourself say: corrupt officials are imprisoned. It turns out that they are fighting somehow. But, on the other hand, how to deal with this directly in the aviation structures, if so many departments have spawned there, each of which is not really responsible for anything? A little bit there, a little bit here. And with seven nannies, as you know, the child is always without an eye.
– We have just come to the last point and the main reason for all these incidents. Why did we “distinguish ourselves” so much in 2021 in terms of the number of aviation emergencies? Due to the imperfection of the state system of regulation of civil aviation. Russia is the only one of the 193 member states of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization. – “MK”), which does not have an authorized body for the regulation of civil aviation.
You correctly say that all functions and responsibilities are divided into parts between the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Air Transport Agency, Rostransnadzor, where no one is personally responsible for what is happening in the industry. That’s why everything is happening.
Here, for example, we often criticize the Federal Air Transport Agency. What is Rosaviatsia? It’s just an agency. For comparison: what is a similar FAA (Federation Aviation Administration) in the United States of America, where last year, by the way, there was not a single accident, although the volume of aviation work there is 8 times higher than in our country? The FAA is the administration! That is the governance structure. And our Rosaviatsia is an agency that deals exclusively with services. Are you talking about the owner…
Further. The head of the FAA has the right, if necessary, to make direct contact with the president of the country or Congress. Try our head of the Federal Air Transport Agency Alexander Neradko to go directly to the government! He has no right to do so. His Minister of Transport will immediately remove him from his post for this. That is, in the United States, the status of this position is incomparably higher. And rightly so, because we are talking about security, about human lives.
– And what is the role of Rostransnadzor in this system?
– I am a member of the public council under Rostransnadzor, this is close to me, so I worry about a lot. I can say that this is a very good, powerful organization that, given its competence and functions, does its best under the given conditions. But look what features it has. Take, for example, the same case in Magadan. Here, I believe, the main culprit is the Ministry of Transport, which did not organize the creation of federal aviation regulations. It would seem that this fact should be checked and the perpetrators punished. But no. It turns out there is no one to check! Rostransnadzor has no right to check the Ministry of Transport. He has no such authority. And he, too, should not check the Federal Air Transport Agency.
– Who can he check?
– Enterprises – airlines, airports and the like.
– In short, sparrow shooting. Maybe it’s time for a major change? What do you think should be done?
– What all the states of the world have done. Especially such as, say, Australia or Finland. Australia, by the way, has not had a single disaster in the entire 80-year history of its aviation industry. Finland, too, has not had a single aviation accident for half a century.
– Because they have a coherent system of state regulation of civil aviation. They have an aviation master in the country. And we do not have a master in civil aviation.
In addition, they have a very coherent system of supervision and control. Take, for example, the United States as the largest aviation power. There is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent organization that investigates flight accidents and controls and oversees airlines and airports. Who do you think she belongs to? The President of the USA. Try not to follow her instructions and recommendations.
And we have a Magadan situation with Airbus, which had 5 seconds left before the disaster, I’m sure, they will be put on the brakes. “Blur”. Everyone does not want to write on himself that it is he who is to blame. Guilty, after all, just those who write …
– And where is the exit? It concerns us all. We are all air passengers .
– Most of the world’s countries have adopted the 19th Annex to the ICAO Chicago Convention. Russia, as a member of the ICAO Council, also voted for this document. But at the same time, our country – one of the few – has not yet hosted this 19th annex.
– What does ICAO Annex 19 say?
– In short, it says about the necessary actions of the state to maintain a high level of flight safety. The items that need to be implemented for this are listed. The main one is the creation of a state flight safety system. We don’t have it. Not created.
For example, it says there – and this is also a very important point – that a high official should be appointed as the curator of the flight safety management system at the state level: the president, the prime minister, or the deputy prime minister. We don’t have anything like that either.
Or, for example, another point: the need to have a structure that should deal with the daily collection of data on aviation incidents occurring around the world. Based on the constant analysis of such information, it is necessary to identify similar risks in oneself, developing an action plan to avoid them.
– We, as I understand it, do not have anything like that either? Well, how can we still fly with such an organization?
– We fly and fight. In terms of the number of deaths in air crashes in 2021, we overtook African countries. And if we do nothing at the state level to implement at least those points from the 19th ICAO Annex that I mentioned, then the number of air crashes in our country will only increase every year.