Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jetstar: Passenger safety 'at risk due to cost cutting'

Airline safety is being eroded as operators cut crew training time and other costs, a senior pilot trainer has warned. Geoff Klouth, an A320 training captain with budget carrier Jetstar Airways, said a drop in training standards and checks had prompted him to make a submission to a Senate inquiry into airline safety.

"Safety margins that were a normal part of the aviation industries and which contributed to Australia's safety record have been and are being eroded to a point where airlines' safety can no longer be considered as a given," Mr Klouth told the inquiry in Canberra.

He said insufficient pilot and cabin crew training, poor rostering leading to increased fatigue and an overall reduction in resources were cause for concern. Airlines had cut the training time for cabin crew and were relying more on cadet pilots to drive down their operating costs, Mr Klouth said.

Mr Klouth said shortening the training time for cabin crew had implications for the operation of the aircraft and passenger safety. "If you are crammed with six weeks' worth of knowledge in three weeks, it is inevitable that you are not going to be able to recall all the important pieces of information that you need to," he said.

Mr Klouth recommended to the committee that training for a commercial pilot's licence be a minimum of 1500 hours and all airlines should release their draft or final reports on safety incidents to the ATSB.

He has previosly raised concerns about some flight attendants completing their training without having operated on the A321 aircraft, leaving them unsure how to "arm" the doors. "They have been unable to 'arm' doors. Arming the doors is necessary to allow for the automatic deployment of the emergency escape slide if the aircraft has to be evacuated," Mr Klouth said.

The increasing number of flight attendants who are based in Singapore and Bangkok yet operate domestically on international flights is also an issue of concern. “The foreign based crew all speak English but the ability to be understood in an emergency is an aspect of their training that is not effectively assessed.”

He said that airlines are under increasing pressure airlines to cut costs. “The CEO of Jetstar requires a 10 per cent reduction in the airline costs per year. In a safety sensitive industry this will result in a reduction of the safety margins that have contributed to Australia’s aviation safety record."


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