‘The right action at the right time’
In 2015, the section conducted more than 383 inspections, those inspections are the section’s corner stone with regards to having preventive measures against the factors that can lead to accidents and/or incidents, Abdulla Mohammed Abdulla Hassan Al Blooshi, Accident and Incident Investigation Section, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), told Via Dubai in an interview. Al Blooshi, who has been working in the aviation industry for the past eight years, working with Emirates Engineering and then DCAA, said that the section continues to work towards excellence when it comes to investigating and preventing incidents and accidents. Toward this, the section has also has planned a SMART project, which will create the giant leap to being a fully SMART investigations section.
Excerpts from the interview
What is the role of Accidents Investigation Section (AIS) in the DCAA?
Basically we investigate occurrences that affect the safety of the aviation activities in the CTA of Dubai, CTA being the Dubai boundary, these occurrences vary depending on type of activity, scale, location, type of aircraft..etc and based on these factors as well as others the type of occurrence varies between accidents or incidents.Aircraft accident and incident investigation is an investigation that doesn’t seek liability or blame. We basically find out what happened, how it happened and how it can be prevented from happening again, so it’s about ensuring that safety is maintained as ‘the’ pillar which the aviation industry is built upon.
As you can understand the discussed actions are reactive in nature, i.e. an accident takes place and we react to it by investigating it, and you have to understand that there are no permanent ideal scenarios in reality, therefore you can never eliminate the chances of an accident taking place, but that is not an excuse not to at least try and mitigate those chances!, the section recognizes the need to be proactive in that regard, as such the section conducts regular inspections with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on the safety aspects of the operators and the aerodromes in order to identify unsafe situations that may be harmful if left unattended.
We usually work in close contact with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Dubai Police, Dubai airports and several local authorities and operators in order to investigate the occurrences as well as conduct inspections as a preventive measure, the cooperation, team work and professionalism between us have been key in maintaining this high standard of aviation safety in the emirate of Dubai.
When an occurrence (incident or accident) is categorized as an ICAO annex 13 occurrence, the GCAA leads the investigation as they represent the UAE which is a contracting state with the ICAO, and the DCAA AIS team becomes a team member in that investigation and both authorities work together for the purpose of elevating safety in the emirate of Dubai as well as in the aviation industry as a whole.
However, in case of investigations that do not fall under Annex 13, we solely investigate ,circulate the report and follow up with the recommendations.
What is your role within your department?
My work involves responding to accidents and incidents 24/7, conducting initial on the site investigations, gathering information, writing reports with recommendations, circulating the reports and following up the recommendations with the respective entities. I also assist in conducting regular inspections, along with the GCAA. During these inspections, we check the safety aspects of the aerodrome itself or the operators. We work toward mitigating those non-conformities and raise the safety levels so we reduce the rate of accidents or incidents that take place.
How is the department contributing to aviation industry’s growth?
As known, the aviation industry is rapidly growing. It is the fastest and safest way of travel. The growth of aviation industry in Dubai has been rapid, and this has been possible due to the vision of the leadership, that vision is progressive and ambitious and pushes us to always want to be Number ‘1’.
The aviation industry is built on safety, but the rapid growth of the aviation brings a lot of pressure alongside it, that pressure should not come at the price of jeopardizing safety, that’s a high price to pay!, our contribution is to minimize the risks and potential accidents as we grow. We try to cover almost all accidents and incidents regardless of the scale of damage involved, as neglecting minor incidents based on the damage can present a more severe and harmful outcome in the long term.
What are the challenges you face in maintaining the safety?
Because of the rapid growth in aviation industry, we have to keep up with the new technologies, new standards regulations, processes and procedures that operators, airlines and different entities adopt. We have to be extremely dynamic and flexible. As I said earlier, growth comes with a lot of pressure. The pressure eventually affects human beings. Human factors is major concern for any accident investigation, the way I see it, technology usually doesn’t fail until a human interacts with it, on the other hand, that technology was actually designed by a human, that paints an ironic picture! But that picture shows what a vital role accident investigators play in the aviation industry’s growth. Another challenge is ground incidents, when an aircraft is on the ground it is usually surrounded by an army of ground staff in order to service and help load passengers and cargo, this creates an error prone environment where humans who are under a lot of pressure are working next to the aircraft, ground incident are usually minor but again we try to keep them to a minimum. Recently, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or drones have become a growing concern specially that they are easily accessible to the public who have small or no knowledge of the dangers they present to air traffic when they are flown irresponsibly, awareness programs are available and we urge the public to familiarize themselves with them.
How do you address these challenges?
One of the means to address the challenges is to ‘innovate’, our leadership encourages innovation, you have to be on your toes and continuously innovate new ways to deal with any issue.
Can you give examples of incidents that are more frequent?
As I have stated earlier, minor ground incidents are common and can happen more frequently.
What is the number of investigations and inspections you conduct on a monthly basis?
Some investigations can take up to a year, some are done within a month. So I cannot put an exact number on how many investigations we conduct on yearly basis, but we are kept busy if I can say that, and we treat all investigations with the level of seriousness they deserve. As for inspections, we do 20-30 inspections each month alongside the GCAA on different operators.In 2015, we conducted 335 inspections with the GCAA on foreign operators and around 28 inspections on our own on different hazard aspects in aerodromes. The number continues to rise to keep up with the continuous growth in the aviation industry in Dubai and the UAE.
Can you share with us any future plans?
We have a project in the pipeline. The project is to transform the investigation section into a SMART section utilizing technology in the investigation, this will help us make an innovative leap in the investigation process. At the moment, the reports are mostly documented through papers, the aim here is to make it SMART. The innovative aspect in this project is that we are trying to minimize human involvement in the gathering of information phase of the investigation, we are aiming to make the entire effort of investigator to be focused on analysis.
Another major aspect in accident investigations is to circulate notifications as soon as the occurrence takes place the system will assist in creating a faster, clearer and effortless way of circulating information, also when conducting initial on site investigation, the system will be developed to be self-intelligent, memorizing logics and previous entries, therefore it suggests items and areas for the investigator to look into in order to help him gather as much information as he needs in order for him to use in the analysis. The system is expected to be launched in 2018.
What are the expected benefits?
It will help minimize the effort used to gather information. The investigator will focus solely on analysis. It will also significantly reduce the time for an investigation to be completed in. Instead of taking photos on site, logging it in physically, the system will do it for you! And it will circulate the reports to the respective entities, thus creating a common platform where entities can access for the purpose of becoming safer.