The Most Common Risks Operators Face Day to Day
[+ Free Guide] And what to do about them

The Most Common Risks Operators Face Day to Day [+ Free Guide]

Thousands of Risk Assessments are submitted to ARC every year. We’ve taken a look at the top 10 selected risk factors flight departments are facing and how to mitigate them. How do these compare to your top 10 factors and subsequent mitigations?

How to Mitigate Risk

  1. Identify
    Complete a risk assessment to identify the primary hazards.
  2. Assess Impact
    A good risk assessment tool will do this for you automatically. It should have a set risk value for each factor previously determined by your team, automatically tally the risk score, and notify you when you have reached a medium or high-risk level.
  3. Mitigate
    Assess any elevated risk values against the department’s SOPs for guidance on implementing mitigations due to higher risk levels. There are four key strategies to mitigate risk:

      1. Avoid
        Eliminate the risk.
      2. Transfer
        Share or transfer the risk to another party.
      3. Reduce
        Implement actions to help reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk.
      4. Accept
        Accept the risk as is, but carefully monitor it.

Top 10 selected Flight Risk Factors

10. Mountainous Airport
Mountainous Airports
  • Review weather for temperature (including its effect on density altitude) and wind conditions (wind shear, downdrafts, turbulence, and mountain wave activity).
  • Increase weather minima requirements when inclement weather is expected.
  • Consider aircraft capabilities in relation to Minimum Enroute Altitudes (MEAs) / Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitudes (MOCAs) of the surrounding area. This is particularly important if the aircraft has deferred inoperative or missing equipment that impacts performance.
  • Review the airport’s location in relation to terrain (CFIT, weather effects, etc.).
  • Review runway information, particularly if operating on a sloping runway. Check the AFM for any landing or takeoff distance increases.
  • If possible, adjust crew pairing to include a crewmember familiar with the airport and/or operating in mountainous regions.
  • Closely review approach and departure procedures to ensure:
    • Aircraft performance is capable of meeting any restrictions or terrain clearance requirements.
    • The planned operation can be conducted in accordance with any approach or departure restrictions (such as airport curfews).
    • Crewmembers and/or the flight department are authorized to conduct the approach (if authorization is required).
    • The assigned crewmembers are comfortable with conducting the approach.
  • Closely brief missed approach procedures, with particular emphasis on obstacle/terrain clearance requirements.
  • Provide additional training to crewmembers in mountainous airport operations, particularly if a complex approach or departure procedure is required.
  • Review PIREPs for any reported weather conditions.
  • Adjust the departure time so that the mountainous airport operations occur during daylight hours.
  • Review inoperative equipment (MEL items) to ensure systems relevant to terrain and ground proximity detection (such as the GPWS and radio altimeter) are operative.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
Safety officer with clipboard
9. Repositioning flight (No Passengers or Cargo)
  • Review SOPs and reiterate the importance of adhering to them.
  • Review aircraft maintenance and deferral logs for any items that may have been recently worked on or that are inoperative which may affect safety of flight.
    • If the aircraft is being operated with inoperative equipment, review the Minimum Equipment List (MEL) for any additional provisions, restrictions, and considerations.
  • If the repositioning flight is following a maintenance event, crews should:
    • Review what is/was inoperative, repaired, or replaced.
    • Discuss the procedures to be used in the event the aircraft does not perform as expected.
    • Review weather to ensure conditions are appropriate for the flight.
    • Debrief the personnel that conducted or supervised the maintenance to understand the full scope of the work performed.
    • A lot more time to perform a very thorough preflight inspection, with particular emphasis on any switches or system controls that may differ from their standard setting.
  • Review aircraft performance calculations to account for a lower or non-standard W&B.
  • If the leg is being operated under different regulatory rules (e.g., 14 CFR Part 91 instead of 14 CFR Part 135) crews may still want to consider adhering to the more restrictive requirements.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.

Did you know?

In 2008 the FAA reported:

Approximately 25% of accidents involving turbine powered aircraft during the past decade have occurred during non-revenue flights (e.g., ferry flights for maintenance purposes or re-positioning flights to pick-up passengers).”

“Two common factors found by the National Transportation Safety Board to have been contributory in non-revenue flight accidents are:

  1. The flight crew’s failure to adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and,
  2. The flight crew’s failure to operate the airplane within its performance limitations.”

– FAA SAFO 08024

8. Wet Runway
Wet Runway
  • Select an airport with a longer runway.
  • Utilize a grooved runway if available.
  • Apply an additional safety margin to calculated stopping distances.
  • Suggest an alternate destination or departure time to avoid weather or to gain a more favorable headwind/crosswind component.
  • Review the aircraft manufacturer’s operating manuals for procedures for wet runway landings and any applicable landing distance increases.
  • Review the aircraft deferral log to ensure braking, anti-skid, and thrust reverse systems (as installed) are operative. If any of these items are inoperative, refer to the MEL for additional procedures and guidance.
  • Establish “intended landing” and “committed to stop” points and reiterate them during the approach briefing.
  • Closely review missed approach procedures.
  • Review the aircraft manufacturer’s procedures for maintaining directional control on a contaminated runway.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
Non-towered Airport
7. Non-Towered Airport
  • Conduct a thorough review of surrounding airspace, including other types of operations that may be occurring in the area (glider activities, pilot training, parachute operations, etc.).
  • Review the digital chart supplement (Airport/Facility Directory) or airport-published procedures for any special airport procedures.
  • Ensure crews have the applicable VFR sectional chart available.
  • Check NOTAMs for the airport and surrounding area.
  • When approaching the area follow best practices with regards to outside scanning for traffic.
  • Review the standard radio broadcast terminology to be used when operating at non-towered airports.
  • Listen to and announce position and intentions on the applicable local frequency to coordinate actions with other traffic.
  • If able, utilize additional aircraft lights (such as those mentioned in the FAA’s “Operation Lights On” program) to make the aircraft easier to see.
  • Review flight planning to ensure it includes allowances for flight clearances as these may take longer to get at a non-towered airport.
  • Increase takeoff and landing minimum requirements to allow for crews to identify other traffic more readily.
  • Increase weather minimum requirements when inclement weather is expected.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
6. First Officer with Less Than 200 Flight Hours in Aircraft Type
7. First Officer With Less Than 200 Flight Hours in A/C Type
  • Pair the First Officer with a more experienced Captain.
  • Review aircraft checklists for normal, abnormal, and emergency operations prior to flight.
  • Plan more thorough briefings with adequate time to discuss questions, comments, and concerns. Be sure to cover what the First Officer will be responsible for during normal, abnormal, and emergency situations.
  • Brief with more experienced Captains in type and/or maintenance for any specific issues to be aware of during the flight.
  • Plan the flight during daylight hours and good weather conditions.
  • Utilize the First Officer on routes they are familiar with.
  • Pair the First Officer with a Captain they have worked with previously.
  • Increase the flight minimums (weather, landing minimums, etc.).
  • Conduct a postflight debrief to review items that went well, areas of improvement, lessons learned from the flight, and answer questions and talk through elements of the flight.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the deviation from your normal procedures as well as the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
RAT_2
5. First Officer with Less Than 100 Flight Hours in the Last 90 Days
  • Pair the First Officer with a Captain that has more recent experience.
  • Increase the flight minimums (weather, landing minimums, etc.).
  • Assign a different First Officer. If all First Officers fall under this risk factor, assign FOs based on who is most familiar with the route, flight, and/or aircraft.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the deviation from your normal procedures as well as the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
4. Nighttime Operation
Nighttime Operations
  • Ensure crews are well rested. Try to avoid night operations in conjunction with extensions to duty or flight time limits.
    • If any portion of the flight will be conducted during the Window of Circadian Low (WOCL), ensure crewmembers are provided additional rest opportunities prior to the flight.
  • Ensure crews are familiar with the airport layout and have looked over the airport diagram. This will help with situational awareness and reduce chances of an incident during taxi, such as striking an object or crossing an active runway without clearance. Consider requiring the diagram to be readily available on the flight deck or open on an iPad during the flight.
    • Review airport procedures for any unique considerations (such as Runway Status Lights or “hot spots”).
    • Encourage a progressive taxi if crews are unfamiliar with the airport.
    • Closely review airport publications and NOTAMs for construction or apron, taxiway, or runway closures.
  • Select a destination and alternates with precision approaches. Consider the use of landing aids such as EFVS, if installed.
    • If using EFVS, ensure the department and crews are authorized to use EFVS at the airport, if required.
  • Ensure passengers are always in a well-lit area and visible or escorted when in low light areas.
  • Check aircraft deferrals for any inoperative items that could affect aircraft performance or visibility (e.g., aircraft lights).
  • If able, utilize additional aircraft lights (such as those mentioned in the FAA’s “Operation Lights On” program) to make the aircraft easier to see.
  • Consider whether the areas surrounding the departure, arrival, and alternate airports are populated or rural/overwater with very few lights and whether it is a full moon or moonless night. This will help set expectations for visibility during takeoff, approach, and landing.
  • Carefully review aeronautical charts and aircraft performance data to ensure the aircraft can safely clear any significant obstacles that exist in the takeoff and climb path (particularly when conducting a VFR flight).
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented
Mountainous Airports
3. Mountains with Airport MSA <25nm
  • Carefully review the departure and/or approach procedure (as appropriate).
  • If utilizing GPS for navigation, conduct a RAIM check and review NOTAMs prior to flight to ensure adequate sensor coverage will be available.
  • Increase takeoff of landing minima.
  • Utilize crewmembers with experience operating in mountainous areas.
  • Review inoperative equipment (MEL items) to ensure systems relevant to terrain and ground proximity detection (such as the GPWS and radio altimeter) are operative.
  • Closely review weather reports for mountainous-area related weather phenomenon. (mountain wave turbulence, valley fog, etc.)
  • Thoroughly brief departure and/or approach procedure (as appropriate), with an emphasis on terrain avoidance.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the risk and the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
2. Captain With Less than 100 Flight Hours in the Past 90 Days
RAT_2
  • Pair the Captain with an FO that has more recent experience.
  • Increase the flight minimums (weather, landing minimums, etc.).
  • Assign a different Captain. If all Captains fall under this risk factor, assign Captains based on who is most familiar with the route, flight, and/or aircraft.
  • Complete a thorough briefing of the flight from beginning to end. Crews may consider doing a tabletop to run through the flight and potential contingencies.
  • Complete a report within your SMS to track the deviation from your normal procedures as well as the effectiveness of the mitigations that were implemented.
7. First Officer With Less Than 200 Flight Hours in A/C Type
1. Captain With Less than 200 Flight Hours in Aircraft Type
  • Pair the FO with a Captain that has more recent experience.
  • Increase the flight minimums (weather, landing minimums, etc.).
  • Assign a different FO. If all FOs fall under this risk factor, assign FOs based on who is most familiar with the route, flight, and/or aircraft.

2019 vs 2021

A lot has changed from 2019, more than usual for a 2-year span, and the top 10 flight risk factors reflect that change.

International trip, which held the number 9 slot in 2019, unsurprisingly, doesn’t even make the list in 2021. With the on-going pandemic, operators are still less likely to be conducting international trips. With the reduction in flying, it’s expected that factors related to lack of recency appear in the number 1, 2, 5, and 6 slots. Crews should be particularly aware of how much they have or have not been flying recently and recognize the impact that can have on effective execution of flight tasks.

20192021
1First Officer (FO) with less than 100 flight hours in the last 90 daysCaptain with less than 200 flight hours in A/C type
2Captain with less than 100 flight hours in the last 90 days Captain with less than 100 flight hours in last 90 days
3Repositioning Flight (no passengers or cargo) Mountains within Airport MSA < 25nm
4Wet Runway Nighttime Operation
5Non-Towered Airport First Officer with less than 100 flight hours in the last 90 days
6Mountainous Airport First Officer with less than 200 flight hours in A/C type
7First Officer With Less Than 200 Flight Hours in Aircraft Type Non-Towered Airport
8Nighttime Operation Wet Runway
9International Trip Repositioning flight (no passengers or cargo)
10Crew Duty Day Greater Than 12 Hours Mountainous airport

Have any questions? Contact our experts.