The importance of SOP in Aviation Essay

Abstract            The public is mostly concerned with the safety of air travel.  It has been the duty of the government as well as non government organizations to subject the airline industry to its regulation.            The aviation industry is expected to remain within the limits set forth by law, public policy and morals in keeping and maintaining safety to life and property.

  In this regard, standard operating procedures are imposed for strict compliance a mong airline companies.            Reported incidents of airline accidents have been caused by non observance of certain standard operating procedures warranting the imposition of criminal, civil and administrative sanctions.Introduction            By the nature of its business, common carriers are under the legal obligation to observe extra ordinary diligence in the performance of its duties.  Extra ordinary diligence shall mean diligence more than that of a good father of a family.            Common carriers are those engaged in the transportation of goods, cargoes and/or persons from one place to another for a fee.  One of which is the aviation transportation.  In the aviation industry, air carriers undertake to transport passengers and/or cargoes from one place to another by air.

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            In a contract of carriage, as in air transportation, involved are the following parties:1.      airline company;2.      passengers;3.

      riding public in general;4.      government;5.      non-government organizations.True, books on contracts of carriage reveal that there are only two parties to a contract of carriage.  However, the chain in the real scope of air travel involves the foregoing five (5) aspects of society; it is one where the public is with much interest.The business of air transportation is one imbued with public interest considering that it involves the risk of life among passengers and crew.  Thus, the necessity of ensuring at all times a safe and risk-free travel.

  Not to mention the expectations and reliance of the public on the same, with matters affecting primarily on the safety and convenience of the riding public at the same time.Many people nowadays move from one place to another for leisure, business or education.  With the advancement in technology, people are engaged into several business or jobs requiring constant travel with utmost convenience and at a quick time possible.  In this regard, air travel has become popular, notwithstanding the considerable expensive air fares.

            This paper deals in standard operating procedures observed by aviation companies, the nature, the degree of care observed and more importantly adverse effects and consequences in case of failure to observe the same.  Corollary to this is the responsibilities that they may face in case of failure to observe strict precautionary measures vis a vis the public.Standard Operating Procedures            Standard operating procedures are a necessity.  What is at stake in the field of aviation is the life of thousands of people.  Involvement in civil aviation has a domino effect.

  A single incident affecting the life of a few passengers would be detrimental to the business not only to the particular company directly affected.  The trust and confidence on the riding public on planes in all parts of the world may be affected.  Issues on standard operating procedures would become relevant and scrutinized not only by the governments concerned but as well as the public and civic organizations primarily concerned on the welfare of the people.            Standard operating procedures in general are established primarily to ensure the safety of the public.  Protection on people directly affected and those which will be affected in the chain are likewise taken into consideration.

  They are intended to be implemented with strictness in order to achieve or meet the desired and ideal outcome of a particular undertaking, as in air travel, that is, the safety of passengers, cargoes and crew in the course of their travel.  In particular, these procedures govern both normal operations and emergency situations (Turner, 2001).            These procedures are made possible through the integration of comprehensive studies on a particular field, first hand experiences among the various parties involved as well as conventions and meetings organized for the purpose such as those established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.            Well to note is the fact that pilots are not very familiar with each other’s techniques.  They may have undergone the same training under the same company, or may have followed the same procedures as established by laws, individually still, each has his own technique of approaching different problem.  The standard operating procedure in the aviation industry serves this purpose.  In order to regulate and monitor the undertaking in the cockpit, the standard operating procedures are established which they are not allowed to compromise (Kern, 1998).

Pilots who have been in the service for a considerable period of time are exposed and learned on different techniques, while new ones are more abreast of new techniques.  These differences in approaches and techniques may lead to non uniformity in the procedure thereby causing conflict within the workforce in flight.            In the airline industry, Turner (2001) has outlined some important guidelines in setting forth a standard operating procedure.

  He emphasized the importance of a checklist containing a summary but highlighting important matters to remember while on flight, particularly in cases of emergency.  He also opined that checklists must contain among others, the following matters:1.      danger signA pilot in the course of the flight must be mindful of some established danger signs which can very well be avoided and thus prevent possible accidents.2.      fatigueThere are instances that pilots experience fatigue during the travel particularly in long travels.

  This may lead to just skipping some important procedures to be observed during the flight.  It is important that each must be able to combat the same as part of discipline in the work, reducing stress and increasing focus with work.3.      distractionDuring long travels, people worry or are excited to reach their destinations for different reasons.  In fact, some pilots make choices that violate some established procedures.  A single act of violation may lead to successive violations of established procedures.  It should be born in mind therefore that pilots must strictly observe what has been established, and never to deviate therefrom.  Distractions such as eagerness to reach the destination may lead to failure to follow standards thereby increasing the risk of accidents.

4.      complacencyComplacency is a result of familiarity.  A pilot, though familiar in every aspect of the flight must see to it that every single step is taken.

  Experience and familiarity do not justify deviation from the rules, in fact it should be the driving force to observe more closely to them fearing that any deviation therefrom however slight may cause undue unnecessary trouble to the passengers and even the crew.5.      unusual operationsPilots, with the exhaustive training they have to undergo coupled with their experience while flying, are aware of what are the usual operations especially during the flight.  Corollary, they have to be mindful of possible unusual operations that they may encounter along the way and consequently must be aware as to how to counter the same.

On the other hand, the United States Department of Transportation has established certain standards for effective standard operating procedures, to wit:‘(1) The procedure is appropriate to the situation.(2) The procedure is practical to use.(3) Crewmembers understand the reasons for the procedure.

(4) Pilot Flying (PF), Pilot Not Flying (PNF) / Pilot Monitoring (PM), and Flight Engineer duties are clearly delineated.(5) Effective training is conducted.(6) The attitudes shown by instructors, check airmen, and managers all reinforce the need for the procedure.’ The foregoing are important matters to be born while flying.  These are possible distractions or challenges which may possibly be encountered and which pilots must be ready to counter with to maintain the safety and security of the passengers and crew and the public as well.Moreover, it is well to note that a single deviation evincing no effect does not necessarily mean such an act is tolerable.  It is not within the ambit of the pilots to determine whether or not a single act will lead to disastrous result.Cockpit operations comprise a couple of procedures to be observed.

  The checklist serves as a guide that each of which must be complied with.   In fact, Kern (1996) notes that more often than not, there are automations (which are supposed to respond automatically as programmed) may not function at all, calling for immediate remedy to prevent possible accidents.This is one aspect provided for in standard operating procedures which pilots in cockpit operations must be mindful about.In addition, observance of standard operating procedures not only has lessened if not prevented the incidents of reported airplane related accidents, the same increases ones working knowledge supportive of aviation operations in the cockpit, thereby maintaining standard for safety travel by air.Consequences relating to non-observance of Standard Operating Procedures            What calls for the establishment of established and absolutely necessary operating procedures among others, is the numerous reported incidents and problems that have occurred during the seven-year observation (Brown, No Year).  Brown reported the importance of data link communications vis a vis the observance of standard operating procedures.  He opined that in the communication line for instance, when the plane is on flight, non observance of some procedures may lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, missed communications, thus failing to report problems encountered in the course of the flight.

  The same has been found to have caused numerous incidents in the airline industry.            The United States Department of Transportation conducted a study on air-related accidents particularly involving Boeing DC-9 series, MD 80-series, MD-90 and B-717 flights.  In particular, it delve into incidents that occur during take-offs.  Studies have revealed that since 1968, reported incidents related to take-off operations amounted to 49 accidents worldwide with 392 casualties.  Researchers propose two important solutions for this, one is observance of standard operating procedure and the other is the introduction of warning system.            It is emphasized however that these standard operating procedures are established for the purpose of mitigating, if not eradicating possible hazards during take-offs which may well apply also to other operations in the cockpit.            The following (http://aviation-safety.

net/news/news.php?var=200808%, 2008) are particular reported incidents that have happened in different countries highlighting the relevance of standard operating procedures.Sometime recently, Boeing 757 and Boeing 777 almost encountered collision within the area of Korea.  One flight made communications with the other giving instructions regarding its descent while passing another plane.

  The communication was not understood by the other party, thus causing miscommunication in the two lines.  One flight conducted a high speed descent without regard to another plane passing in the same area.  The undertaking can be said to have been proper where it not for the presence of another plane within the area or could have called for a different approach where it not for the failure to receive and convey the necessary information with regards to plane descent while on flight.  It was reported that there were lapses in the monitoring of some signals which could have prevented the almost colliding flights mid-air.  This was found out to have been due to non observance of standard operating procedure with regard to ‘radiotelephony procedures and telephony.’Another reported incident took place in United Kingdom at Guernsay Kingdom.  While there were no reported fatalities, the same had caught the attention of government officials.  Investigation shows that HS 748 flight was approaching the runway under a peculiar weather condition but under tolerable condition which could have led to a safe take off and landing.

  It overran the runway for about 145 meters to the grasses far beyond the runway.  Primary reason for the incident was failure to comply with the standard operating procedure, particularly the following:(i)                 The flight crew did not comply with the Standard Operating Procedures for a Category I ILS.(ii)               The commander’s decision to land or go around was delayed significantly beyond the intersection of the Decision Altitude and the ILS glideslope.(iii)             After landing, the crew did not immediately apply maximum braking or withdraw the flight fine pitch stops, as advised in the Operations Manual.

Failure to observe standard operating procedure may both lead to fatalities and non injury incidents.  Nevertheless, the importance of observing the same can not be overemphasized.Standard operating procedures are not established for the sole benefit of a few but for the public in general.  They are imposed not only while the plain is in flight but also during take-offs and landings.  Each of these procedures are relevant and of practical purpose and so must be complied with strictness.Liabilities            Violations of standard operating procedures on the basis of reported incidents not to mention the unreported once undeniably lead to criminal, civil and administrative sanctions on the part of the airline companies, crews and employees.            Criminal violations may involve criminal negligence resulting in homicide for instance where it involves fatalities, or physical injuries as the case may be.

            Criminal sanctions are not imposed on the basis of deliberate intent on the part of the crew/pilots manning the cockpit but on the basis of neglect to perform such acts called for by a particular situation, particularly failing to observe what has been established as the standard operating procedure.            It is to be noted however that it is the burden on the part of the common carrier, as in this case, the airline company to prove the complete absence of neglect to free itself from criminal liability.  It can be said that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor or ‘the thing speaks for itself’ principle may apply.  Where airline accidents take place and technical problems are raised as causes, it is the burden on the part of the carrier to prove that there was indeed absence of human intervention.

  This can be shown by the observance of the standard operating procedures with absolute strictness.            Aside from the criminal liability, civil liability definitely attaches particularly in cases where there are a couple of fatalities and other forms of injuries caused on passengers.  Civil liabilities attach by virtue of the criminal liability committed by the common carrier such as the air carrier.  Moreover, the same may likewise arise from the violation of the contract of carriage, that is, a contract whereby the air carrier undertakes to transport passengers with utmost care and diligence from the point of departure to destination and the passengers and/or cargoes are completely removed from the territory of the carrier in land.            In one investigation reported in August of 2008, the American Airlines is fined for civil liability amounting to $7.1 million.

  Reports say that the same is due to the following:improperly deferring maintenance on safety-related equipment;and deficiencies with its drug and alcohol testing programs and exit lighting inspections (, 2008).These are clearly violations of established procedures which warrant the imposition of the said civil penalty.

  It is to be noted that American Airlines flights have been subjected to restrictions in its flights but violated the same nevertheless, thus, the higher civil penalty. This is to overemphasize that maintenance and repair are part of the standard operating procedure of airline industries and therefore could not just be disregarded.In addition to the criminal and civil liabilities are administrative sanctions imposed by the respective governments concerned and also by aviation organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization.Conclusion            It can not be overemphasized the importance of air transportation in today’s world.  Every one gets to travel all over the world and has relied chiefly on fast and safe air travel.  It is in this respect that aviation is considered of utmost public interest.            The riding public as well as the government is both concerned with the upkeep of the airline business as the same supports the economic conditions, tourism and some other factors relating to globalization.

            Moral obligation likewise calls for the protection of life.            Health and safety to life and property calls for the observance of standard operating procedures.  These standard operating procedures have been found to mitigate death incidents and injuries to passengers, crew and/or cargoes carried by means of air transportation, reducing as they do reported fatalities.  In addition, the same gives a working knowledge on cockpit operations leading to discoveries of more advanced techniques and strategies to be observed by the airline industry.            By the nature of an airline business, the same must be subject to regulation by the government.  Criminal, civil and administrative sanctions are imposed to keep airline companies within their duties to transport passengers safely with extraordinary diligence.BibliographyTurner, T. (2001).

Controlling Pilot Error. McGraw Hill Publications.Kern, T. (1998). Flight Discipline. McGraw Hill Publications.Brown, B.

(No Year). Importance of Standard Knowledge and Procedures when Conducting ATC Data Link Operations. http://www.icao.

int/icao/en/ro/apac/cnsmetsg7-cnsatmicsg10-2003/wp30.pdf.No Author. (2008). Safety Alert for Operations, United States Federal Aviation Administration.

No Author. (2008).