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The successive crashes of the A330 and A310 aircraft, which claimed the lives of 380 people, have sharpened the attention of the world community to the problem of flight safety. Relatives of victims of disasters, people flying planes, and those who are not going to fly today, but are potential passengers, ask the questions: "Why could this happen? How safe is it to fly? Is everything possible being done to ensure the safety of flights, and can the measures taken guarantee the preservation of life during the flight?"

In such moments of major air crashes, the usual assurances of airlines, aircraft manufacturers and certification authorities about all possible measures they take to ensure safety, that air transport is the safest compared to other means of transport, can not dispel the anxiety of people.

People don't feel completely safe. Receiving almost daily reports of aviation incidents with Airliners, they understand that there is no absolutely safe transport. They want and have the right to know what is being done to ensure safety, and what the term "all possible measures" actually means. And we, potential passengers and crew members, are concerned about the lack of reliable information on safety measures.

Let us turn to the statistics given in the report of the Department of environment, transport and regions of the European Commission. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers typically use passenger fatalities per million kilometres of travel as a safety characteristic. And on this indicator (0.05) flight by plane is much safer than a trip by train (0.6) and, moreover, by car (3.1).

But insurance companies use another, more obvious indicator-the number of deaths per billion trips (flights). Agree that this indicator is much more sensitive for those who choose the mode of transport on the criterion of safety. And in this case, the favorable picture of safe aircraft changes to the opposite, confirming the widespread fears of passengers before the upcoming flight. According to the number of deaths per billion trips (flights), flying by plane (117) is much more dangerous than traveling by train (20) and even by car (40). In absolute terms, between 1999 and 2008, an average of 33.3 accidents occurred annually on scheduled airline flights, resulting in the deaths of 804 people. If you move away from the statistical averaging, it becomes even more obvious the danger of flying: in the two mentioned disasters of the 381 people on board, one girl survived.

So, the task of improving the level of safety is still very far from its final solution. And the question  still remains, how fully all possible measures are used to reduce the number of disasters and reduce their consequences. Moreover, the aircraft for the sake of increasing profitability, is developing towards the increasing dimension of the aircraft. God forbid, of course, but you can imagine the reaction to a possible disaster, for example, A380.

It is sad, of course, but no one today can be sure that the disasters we are talking about are the last. The modern liner consists of approximately 3 million components, when creating designers strive to "squeeze" the maximum possible from the materials used. The plane can not hang in the air, and its safe return to the ground requires kilometer, high-quality runways.

And we know that assurances after the disaster that all possible measures were taken to avoid a tragedy do not mean this literally. Despite really increasing measures to improve safety: huge amounts of calculations, confirmed by numerous, complex tests, the modern aircraft appears as a result of a compromise between the capabilities to ensure flight safety and the cost of implementing these capabilities. The degree of compromise is not rigidly defined.

It is obvious that, it is possible to increase the number of survivors in the aviation incident, equipping each passenger seat with a catapult, like installed on the fighters, you can reduce the probability of disaster reduction of stresses in structural elements, reduction of speeds achieved traction engines etc. But such measures reduce the efficiency of planes and the loss in the competitive struggle for markets.

Where is the criterion in the fight for safety? Americans, prone to precise formulations, introduced the concept of the risk reduction level - ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable).There is the following definition of such risk:

"Risk is reasonably practical if it has been demonstrated that the costs of any further risk reduction, including loss of opportunity, as well as the financial costs and costs of other resources, are extremely disproportionate to the benefits derived from such risk reduction." Since the definition refers to financial costs into which many other resources can be equivalently converted, in human language this means that there is a certain cost of implementing safety measures, above which the possible loss of lives is allowed. That is, there is a certain the price of a passenger's life, at this stage of the development of aviation, as it may sound cynical, above which the participants of the aviation business believe it is inexpedient to pay for life.

It so happened that at least four aviation incidents that occurred in the last six months were related to water. Two of them, the emergency landings of an A320 on the Hudson and a six-seater aircraft in Australia at sea, ended without fatalities, and the last two cases, with the A330 and A310, ended in disaster. Given that more than 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water, it is not surprising that airworthiness standards include requirements for emergency flooding, evacuation of people on the water and rescue equipment used in emergency landing on water. Aircraft A330 and A310 have a type certificate confirming the type design compliance with the requirements of airworthiness standards, including the requirements for emergency landing. Why were killed almost all flying in aircraft that meet all the requirements of airworthiness standards? What in this case guarantees the compliance of the aircraft with the requirements of the norms, if their implementation did not save the lives of passengers?

Let’s have a look at requirements of item 25.801 (identical to AR-25 and European JAR-25 and CS-25):


  • 25.801 Ditching.

(a) If certification with ditching provisions is requested, the airplane must meet the requirements of this section and §§ 25.807(e), 25.1411, and 25.1415(a).


(b) Each practicable design measure, compatible with the general characteristics of the airplane, must be taken to minimize the probability that in an emergency landing on water, the behavior of the airplane would cause immediate injury to the occupants or would make it impossible for them to escape. If ditching certification is requested, the aircraft should comply with the requirements of this paragraph and paragraphs 25.807(е), 25.1411 and 25.1415(а).

This is followed by requirements for model tests, design considerations and evidence of the time spent afloat required to leave the aircraft.

The case of the A320 landing on the Hudson confirmed that "all practicable measures" had been taken and the two crashes demonstrated that they had not? And, what are these measures?

In order, the behavior of the aircraft did not cause direct injury to people when an emergency landing on the water and allowed them to leave the aircraft, as required by airworthiness standards, it is necessary to create a design that can withstand loads on the water. The question arises whether the design of the A310 and A330, as well as other land aircraft, provided calculations and tests confirming the ability of the design to withstand the loads during an emergency landing on water?

Open the Section C "Strength" of the airworthiness standards AR-25, containing all sorts of loads, which should be created by the design, and read the items under the heading:

"Loads when ditching.

Item 25.521 General:

(a) Seaplanes shall be designed for hydrodynamic loads arising during take-off and landing …"

Seaplanes, it is ok. And, where is the load on land aircraft in the event of an emergency landing on the water?

In item 25.563,  of the appliances for forced landing on water the reference to item 25.801(e) where requirements to calculation on perception of local pressures on external doors and portholes contain, and that, under certain conditions, are given. That's all. There are no requirements for water loads on the airframe structure.

And what is said about the requirements for loads when landing on water in the latest European standards CS-25? In contrast to the Russian airworthiness standards, the European standards mention the loads when landing on the water is not mentioned, since, in general, there are no requirements for seaplanes.

Therefore, it can be argued that the A310 and A330 could have collapsed on contact with water in full compliance with the applicable airworthiness standards, which do not provide for the loads impact on the structure when landing on water. And life jackets, rafts, pre-flight instructions delivered by beautiful flight attendants are all psychological tools for lawyers to use in airline advocacy processes as an illustration of fulfilling the vague requirement of p. 25.801:"all practicable measures compatible with the general characteristics of the aircraft shall be taken." Apparently, ensuring the structural strength necessary to save the lives of passengers was attributed to measures incompatible with the general characteristics of the aircraft.

And what about the successful landing of the A320, which, without subsequent disasters, could be a confirmation of all the necessary measures taken? This landing was called " Hudson miracle." And it can be called successful only by the fact that people caught in the water survived. And that the plane began to fill with water immediately after the flood and drowned, so who in such cases considers the aircraft? The miracles is salvation of the girl in the crash A310.

The tragic reality is that in the future, after hearing the command: "Prepare for emergency landing on the water. Put the vests on", passengers and crew will realize that, most likely, this is the last command in their lives. In full compliance with airworthiness standards.

But perhaps it is impossible to create a" reasonably practical " aircraft with the ability to withstand an emergency landing on water? Maybe it requires" extremely disproportionate benefit " costs? Who knows what kind of beast this is-a seaplane, landing on the water, as on the runway?

For the sake of objectivity, it should be recognized that after the Second world war, hydroaviation began to lag behind land aviation in characteristics and layout to such an extent that the requirements for such aircraft disappeared from the European standards of airworthiness of civil aircraft.  It was a practice.

But in the late 80-ies of the last century, the BERIEV aircraft company made a revolutionary breakthrough by creating an A-40 "Albatross" aircraft with characteristics almost equal to those of other similar aircraft of its class, but with the ability to operate from water. Civil aircraft Be-200 confirmed full compliance with the requirements of airworthiness standards applicable to aircraft of its class, while maintaining the ability to fly from the water. Along with new consumer qualities, the operational possibility of landing on water significantly increases the safety of flights using any suitable body of water for emergency landing. In a case similar to the emergency landing of the A320 on the Hudson, for the Be-200 it would have been an annoying flight delay without any losses.

Of course, for the possibility of landing on the water you have to pay some deterioration in performance and increase in cost. But, who decided that human lives are not worth the extra cost? Who estimated these costs? Who brought the alternative to people: increased safety or savings to increase the profits of airlines, aircraft manufacturers and bankers?

Finally, you can directly appeal to presidents Mr. Putin, Mr. Tramp, and other leaders of countries, deputies, financial and industrial magnates with the question, do they want to significantly improve the safety of their flights by making relatively small changes to the design of the liners on which they often travel around the world? In addition, the aircraft will be able to land in places where there is no runway. President Vladimir Putin, Minister Sergei Shoigu and other government officials personally tested this possibility, and they liked it.

The Russian BERIEV aircraft companyowns unique experience in creating "safe" aircraft, confirmed by the Be-200 flights. In this area, we are still ahead of the rest of the planet. But, as you know, it is not easier to keep the won positions than to achieve. Beriev's achievements in hydroaviation have already inspired the Canadians and Japanese to improve their amphibious aircraft, and recently the PRC announced the beginning of the development of a multi-purpose amphibious aircraft. And the Chinese are a formidable competitor, able to achieve their goals.

On the contrary, in Russia, as has often happened in the past with everything new and unique, hydroaviation not only does not receive full-scale support, but, in recent years, actions have been taken aimed at its disappearance.

Against the background of repeated calls by Russian President Mr. Putin on the need to diversify the economy, its innovative development, demonstration of the Be-200 in the world as an example of such development, the Boards of Directors of state-owned companies decided to stop the production of Be-200 amphibious aircraft in Irkutsk.

In fact, the operation of the Be-200ES already in operation is suspended. Here is a good example. At the end of 2006 as the result of crew error (the reasons are clearly insufficient crew training EMERCOM for Be-200ES is possible to write separate article) when landing at the airport of Malaysia, the aircraft Be-200ES was rolled out far beyond the edge of the runway and received damage to the nose landing gear. The aircraft was quickly restored for the flight in the field by a joint brigade of BERIEV, IAPO and EMERCOM and returned to Beriev for repair. Today, almost 3 years later, because of disagreements between the state Ministry and state-owned companies, who exactly and what should pay for, a new and quite expensive aircraft "works" as a museum exhibit of our Russian confusion. And people fighting practically bare hands with fires ask: "Well, and where this your vaunted Be-200? No use." And we do agree, from the plane standing in the shop and waiting for the third year of completion of repair, there is no sense. There are other examples of this attitude to the Be-200. This is the way legends about the inefficiency, and, consequently, the uselessness of amphibious aircraft Be-200 are created.

And the main legend - about transfer of production of Be-200 to Taganrog. Those who made the decision to move were well aware that it was not provided with financial or other resources. Given the initial stage of implementation of Be-200, this decision was similar to the decision of parents to put the child out of the house, without means of survival, justifying the fact that they just gave him freedom. And, now, in the role of UAC leaders, the same members of the Boards of Directors ask the Taganrog creators of amphibious aircraft: "Well, where are your orders? And no orders-no money." Forgetting, there  are no aircraft orders without production.

And now, from the interviews of industry leaders, from the plans of the UAC, mentions of the recently so loudly advertised achievement of the Russian aviation industry - the be-200 amphibious aircraft disappear. After all, the PR of the aviation industry, for which the unique Be-200 aircraft was so successfully used, is now spinning around other aircraft projects that promise to eclipse everything created by mankind, and not exceed some individual characteristics and capabilities. A well-promoted PR brings a lot of money, much more than you can get from the supply of aircraft.

Unfortunately, in the world around us, despite the existence of adherents of various religions and atheists, society continues to follow the pagan tradition-the worship of the Golden calf. And, this, in varying degrees, is characteristic of both "them" and us. Despite all the assurances that human life is priceless, there is a definite price for the lives of people, whether dying in the ocean or left without help in the elements of fire fires. And other people, who themselves have escaped such tragedies, are not ready to sacrifice their profits for the sake of raising the price of potential victims lives.

This is evident even in cases where improving safety does not require huge costs or restructuring of the industry. When in order to increase the survival rate of future participants in aviation incidents already have all the technical and organizational capabilities. Back in 2000, while studying at the European Academy of aviation security, I proposed to introduce into the training and retraining program of pilots of Airliners flying over water spaces, mandatory training to perform an emergency landing on water, with the development of this emergency situation on the simulator, and the subsequent implementation of a real landing on water on an amphibious aircraft under the guidance of an instructor pilot.

Landing on water taking into account hydrometeorological conditions has essential features in comparison with landing on the runway. A significant role is played by the psychological factor. I have repeatedly observed how experienced "land" pilots, for the first time performing landings on an amphibious aircraft, literally by inches "probed" the height, trying to understand where it is, this very water, and expecting an unusual effect from contact with it. But it happened in normal conditions, under the guidance of our experienced in the performance of flights on amphibious aircraft, test pilots. Imagine the feeling of a pilot who, without any training, for the first time in his life has to land on the water unsuitable for this aircraft in distress.

Confidence in their capabilities, the use of experience gained in theoretical and practical training, will significantly increase the likelihood of successful flooding and rescue of people during an emergency landing of an airliner on the water. Cases with landing Tu-124 on Neva (by the way, one of pilots had experience of flights on seaplanes), A320 - on Hudson, and Nimrod in the sea, prove that chances to survive at flying over water onboard the emergency plane, remain. And we must do everything to increase these chances.

BERIEV AIRCRAFT COMPANY has all the facilities (training instructors with practical experience, simulator with simulated water landing, modern amphibious jet, the similarity of flight characteristics of which the characteristics of modern Airliners recognized by European certifiers) to perform the role of training base.

I believe that it is the Russian aviation authorities, having such a domestic base, should take the initiative in ICAO to improve safety. This would be a real contribution of the achievements of Russian aviation science to improving the world level of aviation transport safety. Unfortunately, almost 9 years have passed since 2000, and the idea has not yet found its embodiment.

The recent catastrophes, I hope, will force to overcome a barrier in estimates of cost of human life and will force people controlling money to sacrifice a little the profits. In the end, almost all of them can be in the role of potential victims of aviation incidents, and in deciding whether to go to increased costs to improve safety or not, they may determine the price of their own lives.

Do not underestimate, gentlemen!


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