Chairman’s Opening Address
STATE OF THE ASG 2017-2018
The following is an extract from the opening address
Our work is as important now as it was when the Group was first formed in 1964 to fight the use of wide cut JP4 fuel in passenger carrying airliners. A ‘globalised’ economy has made our task more complex.
Globalisation is the development of an integrated global economy including greater free trade, free international capital flows, and the availability of inexpensive labour markets in developed and less developed areas. Human societies have gradually integrated over the centuries, but the pace of integration increased dramatically in the late 20th century. Fast aircraft, huge ships, and information technology, especially the Internet, have made the world more interdependent than ever. Companies manufacture products in countries of low labour cost and sell these products across the globe. In the 21st century, money, technology and raw materials can move across national borders quickly and easily. Globalisation has also led to ideas circulating more freely, which has resulted in the creation of international laws and new social movements.
Commercial aviation satisfies the avid and avaricious demands of an integrated global economy. It moves cheap labour around the world on a daily basis and matches the expectations of a low cost mass travel market that expands in double percentage points year on year. The profits are huge. Last year (2017) Ryanair announced profits of €1.32 Bn a rise of 6% on previous figures. Ryanair boasted that:
• Avg. fares fell 13% to €41;
• Traffic grew 13% to 120m customers;
• Load factor rose to an industry leading 94%;
• Unit costs were cut 11% (ex-fuel they declined 5%);
• Over €1bn was returned to shareholders via share buybacks.
But who paid the price for this staggering business success?
In an integrated globalised economy companies have access to overseas companies that offer outsourcing; employment conditions and security have changed for many workers. With lower standards of living, third world companies can offer their services at a greatly reduced rate. This has affected many workers in the developed world as well as other large countries as more companies embrace the outsourcing trend. While it means a greater profit margin for the companies, it can also lead to poorer conditions for employees.
The working environment for western pilots has changed dramatically since the 1970s and 80s and Dickensian working practices have become the norm. Pilots are self-employed; they buy their own uniforms and pay for their own hotel accommodation. They earn no money until the brakes are released or after the chocks are placed around the nose wheels. They must endure pernicious bonus schemes like an attendance bonus of £12,000 pa that forces them not to report sick even when unfit to fly. They must try to rest between flights in rooms unsuited for the purpose and in the case of Colgon Air flight 3407, excessive fatigue endured by the crew led to the deaths of 49 passengers and crew and 1 person on the ground.
But the hunger for greater profits from airline operators and their shareholders knows no end and must be satiated. Regulators like EASA are eager to satisfy a requirement for ever lower FOC’s and DOC’s. Under ORO.FTL.100 pilots work longer with unrealistic opportunities to rest, their workload increases as there are fewer people to support them. Worse still, we are hearing reports of companies who are even subverting the already wholly inadequate EASA FTL schemes. Pilots are also pressured into carrying less fuel than their judgement requires by the publication of league tables which are designed to embarrass and pressure them. EASA will soon reduce fuel requirements when their fuel schemes initiatives become EU law. EASA does not require that anyone involved with the calculation of fuel requirements be qualified to do so and that ground staff involved with the inflight assistance to aircrew flying on just Trip Fuel plus 45 min reserves need not be qualified to do so either. Ignorance is preferred, even for those holding safety critical jobs like flight planners, as they cost less than qualified personnel.
Deregulation, supported by safety management systems and Performance based control of air safety may actually be the anathema of air safety? The collapse of global economies in 2008 was caused by the deregulation of the banking system; the irony of this will not be lost on you.
Through performance based rule making and rule making teams that include operator representation like Ryanair and British Airways and the European Sport Pilot Association, regulators like EASA are eagerly making rules that benefit shareholders and company executives’ interests, but not the safety interests of the mass travelling public. Performance Based Oversight by aviation authorities like the CAA is meant to keep operators in check and thus maintain safety standards, but when operators censure the submission of ASRs and decide when an MOR can and cannot be submitted the philosophy that underpins PBO becomes contaminated and thus the results are skewed in favour of less scrutiny of the operator. It’s not until an accident or serious incident occurs like an attempted landing in a 63KT crosswind, that authorities become aware of errant compliance and low safety standards. So if you are competent safety minded professional pilot can you expect to keep your job if you complain about cost overrides of safety standards?
The workload burden placed on pilots is increasing and they are expected to work for longer and rest less. This can only end in disaster as the James T Reason Swiss Cheese Accident Causation model will predict.
This is where the work of the Air Safety Group is imperative and onerous. There is much to do, some of it urgent. Together we can help to make passenger travel safer and I look forward to a long and flourishing future for the Group.
R Nigel Johnstone