Paper Example on Investigating Aviation Disasters: How SMS Could Have Prevented Accidents

Published: 2023-08-26
Paper Example on Investigating Aviation Disasters: How SMS Could Have Prevented Accidents
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Technology Aviation
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1045 words
9 min read


The National Transportation Safety Board is mandated to ensure the safety of railroads, marine, and aviation in the United States. The board investigates accidents in the transport industry to establish the probable causes. This paper analyses two past disasters in the aviation industry and analyses the likely mechanisms that would have enabled the SMS to prevent accidents.

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The first plane accident was the Agusta S.P. A-109E helicopter in New Mexico in 2009, where one passenger and the pilot suffered injuries in the accident that left the entire aircraft damaged. The highway officer who acted as who served as a spotter during the calamity suffered severe injuries (National Transportation Safety Board, 2008). The helicopter was run operated by the State Police of the New Mexico and registered to the Public Safety Department.

The National Transport Safety Board established that the accident resulted from the decision by the pilot to enter a remote and mountainous site in a windy, moonless night. The culture of the organization that prioritized the accomplishment of the rescue mission over the safety of the aircraft is one of the cases. Furthermore, the pilot was fatigued, was under situational stress, and under self-imposed pressure to operate. There are several deficiencies from the aviation department contributing to the accident that include inadequate staff, lack of risk assessment before embarking on the mission and lack of staff on the ground during the rescue mission as well as lack of faulty equipment to necessitate communication between the pilot and the personnel on the ground.

The second accident involved a Eurocopter AS350 B3 helicopter in Alaska during the rescue mission near Talkeetna. Both the Alaska state trooper who had called for the rescue, the pilot and a snowmobiler perished. The helicopter burnt in the fire that erupted after the crash. The aircraft served under the Alaska Safety Department (National Transportation Safety Board, 2013). The origin of the flight was coming from a frozen pond near the rescue location of the snowmobiler destined for an airport on the outside located in the south. After the pickup, the pilot who wore night-vision goggles experienced snow showers. The pilot had long time experience in such risky rescue missions, but the helicopter was not well equipped to withstand such operations. The pilot had little instrument-flight rules helicopter experience with no known Instrument meteorological conditions training. Therefore, carrying out the procedure under prevailing conditions posed a risk to both parties.

Even though he accepted the rescue mission, sufficient information was available to establish that the current weather conditions and the low lighting were risky for such an operation to be successful. The investigation found that the officials in Alaska did not have organizational procedures and policies to ensure that the process's potential risks contained during the mission that would have given the pilot a chance to accept or decline the task. The authorities also lacked a tactical flight program since there was no skilled observer who would have helped mitigate the risks.

Comparison of the Errors Before the Accident

The evidence from both accidents indicates that they could mitigate; the authorities played their part by setting up programs to serve on such occasions. Negligence by both pilots contributed to the accident. In the first accident in New Mexico, the pilot personally decided to enter the windy, moonless rescue area despite all indicators showing that it was risky. While in the second operation in Alaska, the pilot, despite the pilot lacking instrument flight rules, helicopter experience to help him navigate in such terrain. He accepted the mission without checking the available data that would have informed him of the underlying risks of the operation at hand.

The inefficiencies of both departments are evident as a contributor to the calamities that took place. The accident in New Mexico was partly caused by fatigued personnel because the department failed to instill programs that would manage and guide the pilots' working conditions. On the other hand, the officials in Alaska did not have a tactical flight program that would have seen a skilled observer on the ground to mitigate the probable risks.

Flight rescue operations are generally dangerous and require intense preparation to ensure a successful rescue operation. As such, both departments failed to set up clear structures to help the pilots in decision making when such rescue operations occur. It is clear that the pilot in New Mexico was under situational stress, and this would have determined if we had stress management programs on board. The second accident is more alarming because it is evident that despite the availability of sufficient information on the low lighting and poor weather conditions that required to perform the rescue operation with a lot of caution, he went ahead and accepted the rescue operation (Bourrier & Bieder, 2018). It would not have happened had we in place aviation safety regulations to give guidance when making such decisions.

The two accidents would not occur if the authorities implemented the components of a safety management system. These components are safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion (Wilson & Binnema, 2014). A safety management system ensures that all safety measures in an airport be observed that include essential organizational structures, all procedures, policies, and accountability from both parties is put into consideration (Hollinger, 2013). It enables gap analysis, manages the allocation of resources, and sets up systems to guide aviation operations.


Bourrier, M. & Bieder, C. (2018). Risk communication for the future: towards smart risk governance and safety management. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Hollinger, K. (2013). Safety management systems for aviation practitioners: real-world lessons. Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Avionics, Inc.

National Transportation Safety Board. (2008). Crash after encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions during takeoff from the remote landing site, New Mexico State Police Agusta S. P. A-109E, N606SP Near Santa Fe, New New Mexico. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/m6-6.2_AAR1104%20Article.pdf

National Transportation Safety Board. (2013). Crash Following Encounter with Instrument Meteorological Conditions After Departure from Remote Landing Site Alaska Department of Public Safety Eurocopter AS350 B3, N911AA Talkeetna, Alaska. Daytona Beach, Florida]: [Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/m6_6.2_AAR1403%20Article.pdf

Wilson, D. & Cinema, G. (2014). Managing risk: best practices for pilots. Newcastle, WA: Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc.

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