Picture this. On decent to a remote airport the flight crew delivers the customary briefing and for some inexplicable reason you have an uneasy feeling. As the aircraft is about to land something terrible occurs. The plane slams onto the ground then bounces back into the air and finally returns to earth on its side. It’s dark, you are hurting, the temperature outside is minus thirty degrees, and a full blown blizzard is raging on.
What do you do? Would you be prepared to handle this situation?
January 2006 Fort St John BC
According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, from 2002 to 2006, the yearly average of Canadian Registered aircraft involved in accidents was 268. Of the 268 accidents, only 30 involved fatalities.
While air travel remains the safest form of transportation, the question remains: With respect to aircraft departing from the general aviation terminals, how do we best address the concept of passenger safety? And, more importantly, who is ultimately responsible and liable when things go wrong?
Traditionally the concept of safety in air transportation lies with the carrier and ultimately the flight crew. The pilot in command assumes responsibility for everyone on board. Captain Dirk Migchels relayed it best by saying, “… to have a prepared load of passengers, boy that would give me a warm fuzzy feeling.“
Today, corporate due diligence has influenced a change in this philosophy. Safety has become the responsibility of everyone involved. Beginning with the airline and flight crew, the responsibility must be shared with the passenger and the corporation requesting the flight. Education is required to inform the traveling public about the many safety concerns and protocols that are in place and are continually being challenged in the unique environment of transporting staff to the smaller airports and on-site airfields.
In the above example, it would be challenging at best to locate an emergency exit in an unusual attitude and in the darkness. The typical pre-flight briefing simply does not cover all contingencies. Or what about the passenger, who instead of walking around the wing of the Beech 1900, snuck under it while boarding the aircraft. The result of striking his head on the tie down ring was that several stitches were required to repair the wound. That minor injury resulted in employee down time, lost wages, a workers’ compensation claim, and a departure delay. The question of responsibility and liability remains.
Another example is of the oil field worker who is expecting to spend the next several days on foot in a bear populated area. Prudence dictates that a tin of bear spray be at the ready should an encounter be experienced. Unfortunately, because the baggage compartment in many of these aircraft is not sealed from the cabin, a ruptured tin of bear spray could incapacitate everyone on board resulting in catastrophic consequences.
Today’s passengers need to know why certain policies and procedures are in place and then work closely together with the flight crew to ensure compliance and to minimize the risk of potentially hazardous situations. Also, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong, they will be equipped with the required skill set to handle this adverse situation – thus minimizing the risk of injuries.