At the end of a year we see a lot of annual reviews and statistics appearing in newspapers and on the Internet, all looking back on the past 365 days. Most of them are not that breath-taking or surprising, but some do catch our attention. For me as a pilot, one of these was sticking out: the review of aviation safety in 2017 saying that this was the safest year in aviation ever!
Statistically speaking, a passenger could go on more than 7 million flights without having a fatal aircraft accident. An incredible number! While the total number of flights keeps going up from year to year, the industry manages to increase the levels of safety beyond expectations.
As usual, success has many faces: each and every stakeholder in this industry speaks up in the media, about her or his share in this great success. Some use this great opportunity even to transport their – sometimes bizarre – messages about the future of the industry and how to improve safety even further. And – of course – a few politicians are not ashamed to claim that this success was only made possible by their wise decision-making. No, sorry – this is not the case. Many others deserve to be mentioned, starting from EASA at the top to all aviation professionals giving their best every day on the ground and in the air!
A few politicians are not ashamed to claim that this success was only made possible by their wise decision-making. No, sorry – this is not the case.
At the same time, the New Year starts with a well-developed storm rolling in from the Atlantic, hitting Central & Northern Europe heavily. Like many of my colleagues, I was on flying duty in the first days of this year. Did we experience any operational difficulties? Yes, at my home base Frankfurt airport, the computer system failed – once again. This is what caused some large delays. Not the storm. Pilots all over Europe did what they were trained for: bringing their passengers to their destinations safely! No autopilot is able to cope with such weather conditions, with gust up to 90 km/h and heavy crosswinds. Flying has to be done manually and we are proud of our ability to do so.
So, while many pilots were doing their job under these – sometimes extreme – circumstances, there is always one ‘clown’ in the industry to speak about pilotless aircraft and how it’s high time we get rid of air-traffic controllers and pilots. It is not the first time I read in a newspaper that my A 320 can actually take off fully automatically – all I have to do is “bring it in the right position”. Well, I might have to read the manual again …
Meanwhile, the fully automatic computer system in Frankfurt fails – again!
by Capt. Dirk Polloczek, ECA President