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This is the only way to fly a five part series of programs examining the safety of America's air transport system produced by station WABE f o in Buffalo New York for national educational radio for the last program in the series we return to the question with which it began five weeks ago. How safe is safe. On that first program and answer to that question we cited some statistics published by the FAA and gave some indication to the effect that flying commercially in the United States was six times safer than driving. And yet you and I and the FAA all know that airplanes crash now and then every few months your morning paper will proclaim a ninety eight point type size usually reserved for the end of the world. That's somewhere in this country an airliner has crashed some months even as much as a year and a half later a small box may appear on page 78 of your local newspaper indicating that the report of the federal investigators has been released and the official probable cause will have been announced. Despite what we assume to be a painstaking investigation into the cause of the accident we sometimes can't help the feeling that despite the findings of the
engineers somewhere somehow a mysterious mechanical Genie has managed to step out of the darkness and tarnish the pillar of science responsible for the cleanliness of that pillar through the use of exhaustive investigative techniques. Is the newly formed National Transportation Safety Board. You're probably more familiar with its predecessor agency the Civil Aeronautics Board. Regardless of what it's called However the board's function is to investigate all civil aviation accidents and to report to the public the probable cause of these accidents which include air carrier private air taxi accidents. To do this job the entire bureau of aviation safety employs about 180 people. One of these people is Edward Slattery Jr. director of the public affairs office for the safety board. Mr. Slattery has been at the scene of every major airplane accident in the past 26 years. And for a report on the causes of airplane accidents and look at the investigative techniques developed by the board I spoke with Ed Slattery in his busy office in Washington was just not everyone heard how safe the airlines are how safe the
aircraft pilots are. Certificate it and. It's all a very safe business but we still have it down and here is an airliner that crashed and people were killed. Why is that. Well we find many causes. And Airplane accidents right. Technical errors and. Pilotage. From the structural design of the aircraft. And. Perhaps from a little known human mishandling of bodes. Well in terms of statistics how many accidents are caused by. Errors in. The pilot. And our overall total 6000 accidents a year. I believe that more than 60 percent are found to be in the area of pilot error. I take it you find the pilots union disputes the figures I know although they've been very helpful to us as a rule or because they don't like to me. I think that at home
we can find any other reason we go to the pilot but I would dispute that we do that. We. Wear our facts together on evidence. As I say the human factor is there. We've got to face it. The board distinguishes between survivable and non survivable accident. What's the basis of the distinction. Well I would actually be solvent parent and I actually have catastrophic really has any survivors. And I actually know that. There's a mild in nature when you're getting. 20 percent or 30 percent survivors. Are higher. Then we look for the cause as to why they were able to get out of there safely and try and apply it to other aircraft design. But what I mean by the question is people have a notion that their lives are inherently always catastrophic and no chance of surviving. No we we have a number of accidents all air carriers and private aviation.
That are totally survive and many that are 50 percent survival. A particular absolute comes to mind was when I saw the Salt Lake City couple of years ago at 77. Where half the people got out and half of them didn't. What's the what's the reason. Why I will not play in that case. Due to the chance position of seeing. This airplane broken down live flames immediately and striking the ground during its rollout before it stopped. And. The flames were all through the cabin in varying degrees of intensity. Plus the added problem of toxic smoke which. Made people less able to move if they had to had relations that small they would likely stay seated and the other people are up on their feet down that exit because that and that would be fired at a particular point.
What's the general technique. Accident Investigation Board uses. How does it go about cleaning information right. Well at least they were not explored began this business in 1940. And. They developed their own procedures. And techniques. In this field from practically nothing. We have developed the science of vaccine investigation today. So that we have available at all times of. Catastrophic gold team as we call it. 10 experts in various fields or products. Who are under leave on a weekly rotational basis. I'd go immediately to the scene of an accident by government yet. Had I. On arriving they break into their tense like minutes he just specialized segment and concentrate on that one effort with the
help of people we call in from industry. What I did and pretend that would include structures group what news group our plans group you know. Back to the air traffic control group. And. Several others. You work on with people from industry. Yes we are named. To the investigation parties that are involved in the accident such as the airline would be involved would be one airline pilot union or flying your plane would be another. The FAA which makes the rules of aviation. And runs the air traffic control system they would be at hand then likely the pilot dispatching him new and might be the power plant manufacturer and the airplane manufacturer itself. Throughout all this the Bureau of aviation safety and the board in general is is supposed to remain impartial.
Well of course and that's why we're independent body and to a large extent our groups at the accident site. The specialists I just told you I each headed by a Board investigator and bodies of interest were under him so that in effect we are using the best brains of private industry but most knowledgeable men assisting our technicians and their sonar. The more involved there is the take out from each other. You come up with a good product that way. Does the board have any regulatory power over the industry. Now we have the National Transportation Safety Board has the power and the feel of safety only. And our recommendation to prevent accidents. The regulatory power such as rules governing flight in the United States is a function of the Federal Aviation Administration immediately after an accident the newspaper said we swore to. The FBI as you call them that the investigation of this because of suspicion of sabotage
of the earth from the womb by the FBI. On most airline accidents. To come in as a party of interest or just as an observer. Because they are the people who do the identification of the persons on the aircraft. They have the master fingerprint files Everyone knows for this country and they do excellent work in identifying bodies. Does the board do with the lab workers contract. We do some lab work and we do. KONDRACKE I would do nothing to both private and governmental laboratories we use the Federal Bureau standards for mileage to work we use the FBI laboratory it's like I'm an agency or cause and sometimes we use private medical and other laboratories. Perhaps even meteorology to aircraft that in recent times have had a bad reputation with the public even the Boeing 727 a lot he'd like to. What was wrong with these or what's wrong with them now.
Well there's nothing wrong with either one of them now. There was nothing wrong with the 727 at any time and it didn't have to suffer for. Accidents. Live quite close together focused public attention on the airplane. And they said were not explored when it had this pilot is no. I was in the National Safety Board. Recommended. A change in the technique of pilot training for these airplanes they were. Second generation jets they had. I think right perhaps and some others. But they had a slightly different technique of flying and once that was I doubt they were all our problem. And the first instance of the electro. It was a design. Problem. Gyroscopic coupling. Which you know affect is the movement of the engine in the cell. And propeller mounted on the wing going up and down while the wing was another direction.
This could result. Ironic condition that. Would cause total destruction of the wing in a matter of seconds. This was. Found after two investigations. Have. Proven and the company corrected the situation. At a cost of 100 million dollars. Today the electorate is mine is going to have like Edward Slattery Jr. of the National Transportation Safety Board. One point which Mr. Slattery made which needs clarification. The 6000 airplane accidents per year to which he referred in the beginning of our talk includes all accidents including private aviation helicopters air taxis and airlines both fatal and non-fatal. To put the rather alarming figure of 6000 accidents into perspective in 1965 the last year for which complete figures are available 3 million 900000 departures were made by U.S. airlines domestically carrying a total of 84 and a half million passengers. There were 53 accidents that year. That number includes all varieties such as
successful wheels up landings of the nearly four million flights only six resulted in passenger fatalities. It's quite obvious then that most of those 6000 accidents no matter how slight or serious occurred in private flying. One airline accident which comes to mind which occurred in 1962 is the crash of an American Airlines Boeing 707 just after takeoff from what was then Idlewild. Now John F. Kennedy Airport in New York 95 passengers were killed when the airplane was destroyed on impact with a swampy area of Jamaica Bay. One of the most thorough and painstaking investigations was undertaken to discover the cause of this accident and the results proved to be unusual. Mr. Slattery in the case of. American Airlines seven of the seven that crashed on takeoff from. JFK on March for some years ago. We found. A small power you know and the rudder whose mechanism. Apparently human the wrong signal. To the control surfaces caused
this. Rollover out of control. We trace this back to the manufacturer factory and found. The manufacturing process have sworn it. To the driving and why hands which come through the cover of the light. Expose it. I actually saw that. It was possible. To use an electric carving to do it that way. And. Create. A mess. That would be the. Quality control manufacturing control area rather than the flight test controller. Well there was nothing that actually wrong with the unit. Because the act in itself was a problem just in mechanics assembly of the as I recall it was the assembly of the human. I want to gently take before the board comes out with a probable cause when I. Am more to. Come on earth here is only a week to 10 days of the scene of
attacks on. Public Hearing about two months later. And I am approximately six months after the public hearing the published report as to the cause reaction. It sometimes it takes longer to leave them dollars one year and a half. When we have bought laboratory of flight testing. What about prevention everything aboard that seems to take place after. People have already been killed. What is it what white people are getting killed. Well I am only a National Transportation Safety Board chairman of a convoy repeated many times at our most important product the prevention of accidents. I want to write powers we have in that field. And make your recommendations. Which we make public. And these recommendations seek to correct the situations we find bring
X the best occasion. I during that statistic. This is a data involving accidents. You've worked for some 25 years in the accident investigation business. And one question comes to mind a very loaded question. Is it safe to travel by air. Well Inslee only way I travel. And we're the Slattery junior director of the public affairs office for the Department of Transportation's National Transportation Safety Board at his Washington office. The board has no regulatory power. It's an independent body which carries on an impartial investigation into the facts conditions and circumstances of an accident and then makes its findings public the board also has the power to make recommendations to other governmental agencies and to make these recommendations known to the public. In aircraft safety the board generally recommends changes in procedure to the Federal Aviation Administration which has the legal power of making the rules under which U.S. aircraft
fly even if the board does not make specific recommendations. The FAA makes extensive use of its findings both as a participant in the investigation and by detailed study of the report. In this regard it is important to note that one area of aircraft safety study has recently resulted in the issuance of new FAA rules for the industry. That area being passenger evacuation. You will recall that the second programme in the series focused on the research projects that the FAA is national aviation facilities experimental center and that one of the areas of continuing research in making the aircraft safer as a vehicle dealt with the speed of passenger evacuation. As a result of earlier work along these lines and in the light of the board's investigative findings about the causes of passenger fatalities and survivable accidents the FAA issued the following rules on September 20 of one thousand sixty seven for all new aircraft with a sufficient time allowed for compliance by current aircraft and FAA release explains. For the first time airplane manufacturers will have to demonstrate a 90
second emergency evacuation using a full and Representative passenger load before they will be issued type certificates. President FAA rules require the airlines to demonstrate passenger evacuation allowing two minutes for complete evacuation under the new rules. Air carriers will have to conduct a 90 second evacuation demonstrations when they introduce new or significantly modified equipment into service or when passenger seating capacity is increased by 5 percent or more. Some of the improvements required in passenger transports now in service. Ready accessibility of all emergency exits for passenger evacuation regardless of the number of occupants present on any particular flight. All passenger seat backs must be in an upright position for takeoffs and landings and flight attendants must be Station near floor level exits and uniformly spaced during takeoff and landing. These rules are in effect as of October 24th 1967 October 24th one thousand sixty eight will require better access to over wing exits by eliminating interference
from seat backs in the immediate area of the exit and cabin linings with self extinguishing properties for improved resistance to fire. By April 24th 1969 aircraft must have restraints for stowing carry on baggage to prevent such baggage from creating a hazard in the event of an accident. And by October 1st one thousand sixty nine automatic self-supporting 10 second escape slides from each floor level exit in the cabin higher than six feet above the ground must be installed and slip resistant and clearly marked escape routes from each overwing exit. In addition improved landing gear design requirements must be met for type certification to minimize rupture of fuselage fuel lines in the event of landing gear failure or crash associated with this requirement are new rules for better protection of fuel lines and electrical cables against fuel leakage. It is hopefully apparent then that the federal aviation administration takes seriously its charge by Congress to promote Foster and develop American aviation.
The FAA is eighth annual report says. Aviation safety is the FAA its primary mission. A mission it shares with other governmental agencies and with the aviation community in general. Complete Success in this mission or the elimination of death or injury from aviation operations is the end toward which the agency must strive efforts towards this end in recent years. Despite an occasional headline making accident have shown encouraging results. It is in the light of these public statements by the FAA. What we already know about the extent to which the industry is regulated and the statistics we have cited that we must view the perennial charges by Congress that the airways are unsafe that the FAA is not doing its job effectively getting aboard an airplane constitutes taking your life in your hands. To these charges the FAA perennially replies as do all governmental agencies that to achieve perfection it must have more money every year in the same Congress that slices the agency's requested budget bills are introduced to force changes in the aviation community this year.
One such bill would prohibit private flyers from high density traffic areas. These bills generally get nowhere in the congressional machinery and it's no wonder when an investigation is made. Congressional critics inevitably reach the same conclusion that the FAA published in its report the achievement of total safety and aviation on a sustained basis at the present stage of technology is more an ideal than a realistic concept. As George Van Epps the supervisory air safety investigator at the National Transportation Safety Board's New York field office told me. There was some risk inherent in any kind of transportation but the risk in flying is far less than it is in some other forms. In the light of the congressional charges and as a closing statement on the matter we might be wise to remember that all of us it seems have come to accept the inevitability of carnage on the highways each holiday weekend and yet the occasional headline making airplane accident is used as cause for major public alarm. Where is American commercial aviation headed in the next several years. What does the future
hold for the air traveler. Certainly increased speed is written into the future with the development of the supersonic transports which will complete a transcontinental flight in two and a half hours. The American ss t will carry several hundred passengers at two and three times the speed of sound. At altitudes in the vicinity of 60000 feet within this speed and altitude envelope. It will be necessary to develop cabin pressurization systems of increased reliability airframe materials capable of withstanding the heat that will be generated by this high speed friction and an aerodynamic shape that will permit operations in this severe environment. The FAA is flight standard services currently working with the airframe and powerplant manufacturers and the development of standards for this radical new concept in air transport. Paul species an aerospace engineer with the flight standard service who is working in the development of SSD standards told me that the FIA is attempting to make the SSD even with its radical new problems at least as safe as current transport type aircraft.
And hopefully even safer while the FAA endeavors to introduce new aircraft into the airways system. Other branches of that agency are continuing research and development into improving the system itself and the aircraft already flying in it. At the national aviation facilities experimental center we heard in detail about the research into new and less flammable forms of jet fuel at the same time other branches of the set of are seeking to make the aircraft safer as a vehicle to improve approach lighting and instrument landing systems to develop new radar procedures at the FAA aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City. Medical research into the physiological effects of flight the impact characteristics of structural materials and the effects of drugs on flight performance are being carried out. Other agencies of government and industry are researching the phenomenon of clear air turbulence. A weather hazard which is proven to be one for castable non-right are detectable and highly dangerous to jet aircraft operating at higher speeds and altitude. The International Civil Aviation Organization has been
investigating the air traffic separation rules over the North Atlantic. Which have recently been criticized by pilots. And as we learned on our last program the Air Transport Association is developing an airborne collision avoidance system. Within the next decade safety may make its most significant advances in air traffic control the FAA is currently instituting an equipment change which will take some time to complete depending on the rate of congressional money. I will make extensive use of computers and sophisticated airborne equipment for more details I spoke with Jay Rapp chief of the systems division of the National Airspace System program office at FBI headquarters in Washington. The system that we are putting in is one of its major Cumberland's system which requires an airplane to carry the radio beacon transponder. You know fans of cooperation by the air.
Well there's people around this big time transponder seems to the ground. The airplane's altitude and number which is used as the identity to identify them. So the big concerns to the growler aircraft identity theory of the system that we are putting in that will receive that information and will show the controller. Controllers radar display the position of the airplane over the surface of the earth and the side that position will right then help them or forward the altitude of the airplane and you're doing it here.
What is alpha numeric form letters in your written showing you want from a safety viewpoint. How is the system better than the one we have today. In two ways we're going to. Trying the system from the pilot's point of view he now must stand his identification and his power to do the ground wars radio transmission takes time for him to read their instruments to talk to the control ground so it will free him with this kind of ask so that he has more time to actually concentrate on life. You're just passing information being instrument readings on the ground the air traffic controller receives just information or America as it comes in and has written on the display
in front of them by the system so that he can he can read it. He then does not have to talk to the pilot by radio and there were reasons controller to the sixth to concentrate on safety or aggressor. It also gives him a very quick with and additional information that he requires or say separation and now he has the position over the surface of the earth. What he does with the airplane years know Heidi is that these are the two pieces of information so that he can separate now not only or with the service of the earth but also. Jay Rapp of the National Airspace System program office in Washington the future in aviation. There will certainly be progress and like progress in any other field of endeavor there will be accidents and there will be deaths. But we may at least
have the assurance that it won't become any more dangerous to fly. And it very probably will become even safer than it already is. Safety in the air is the prime end of the Federal Aviation Administration and the other agencies federal state and local which serve the aviation community. It is the pursuit of that goal which is the only way to fly. The only way to fly was produced by station WABE F-0 the educational radio service of the State University of New York at Buffalo. The producer wishes to thank those government and industry sources who have participated in the production of the series. Certainly those whose voices we have heard on the programs but also those whose guidance and helpful criticism help give body to the final product. Special thanks go to Robert Fulton and Frank Buckley. Of the Eastern Region Office of Public Affairs and to John Leighton David Hess and Dennis Feldman of the FAA is Washington Office of Information Services. This is Ed Baron speaking for any our the national educational radio network.
The only way to fly
Episode Number
5 Of 5
Producing Organization
WBFO (Radio station : Buffalo, N.Y.)
State University of New York at Buffalo
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3384 or 3385. This prog.: Future of aviation. Guests: George A. Van Epps, federal supervisory air safety investigator in New York; and Edward Slattery, National Transportation Safety Board, Washington, D.C.
Consumer Affairs and Advocacy
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Producing Organization: WBFO (Radio station : Buffalo, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: State University of New York at Buffalo
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-19-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:38
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Chicago: “The only way to fly; 5 Of 5,” 1968-05-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
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