Issue Number 250
April 2000
A Monthly Safety Bulletin from The Office of the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189

Passsenger Misconduct, Effects on Flight CrewsAt the recent 17th Annual International Aircraft Cabin Safety Symposium held in Los Angeles, California, NASA-ASRS staff presented the results of a study on commercial air passenger behavior problems reported to the ASRS in 1998. Of the total 152 passenger behavior incidents reviewed, 77 reports were submitted by cabin crew and 75 by cockpit crew. This selection assured that the perspectives of both pilots and cabin attendants were represented.

The ASRS study revealed that passenger misconduct causes significant problems to flight deck crews as well as cabin attendants. A "snapshot" of the study data is revealing:Against Passenger Rage Symbol

The following study report illustrates all of these factors:

Monitoring of Passengers Prior to BoardingAlcohol intoxication was directly involved in 43% of the ASRS passenger misconduct incidents. The study’s reporters frequently suggested that passengers should be monitored for erratic behavior prior to boarding – particularly for signs of intoxication – and denied boarding if their behavior appears likely to continue during flight. Yet in some instances drunken passengers were actually assisted in boarding by ground personnel:

To Intervene, or Not to InterveneThe ASRS study data indicated that cockpit crews are often faced with the dilemma of whether to intervene in a passenger-caused disturbance. A harrowing smoke-in-the-lavatory incident illustrates:

In this instance, the Captain’s decision not to intervene until after the aircraft had landed may have been due to company policy, or reluctance to lose the services of a cockpit crew member during the crucial approach and landing phases.

SummaryIn 1999, passenger behavior problems became the type of incident most frequently reported to the ASRS by cabin crew personnel. The phenomenon of "air rage" is justifiably attracting the attention of media, regulators, and airlines. The ASRS study data show additional reasons to be concerned: Commercial aircraft, and their passengers, are exposed to higher risks of a serious incident or accident when pilots are distracted from flying tasks, become involved in restraining unruly passengers, and are put at risk of personal injury.

Nesting UrgesIt’s that spring-wonderful season of the year when pilots brush the cobwebs off their flying skills – and airplanes – and vault joyfully into the blue. Only (in a few unfortunate instances reported to ASRS) to suffer engine fires, or fuel starvation, because the nesting habits of small creatures went undetected during pre-flight. A Cessna pilot titled this narrow escape from a merry mockingbird couple, "Feathered Persistence":

Our reporter came up with a creative and creature-friendly solution that other pilots in similar circumstances may want to consider. Cowling covers that restrict access to the engine compartment are another possibility.

Plugged By Leaf RollersOne of the most common insect problems reported to ASRS is the plugging of fuel tank vent tubes by mud daubers and other insects. The usual result is an emergency landing due to fuel starvation, as experienced by this pilot:

A Plea for Taxi Practice

The FAA has made runway incursions a top safety priority through its Runway Incursion Reduction Program (RIRP). As part of this effort, it is evaluating technology options that show promise for helping to increase the safety of aircraft and vehicle movement on the airport surface.

A General Aviation pilot involved in a runway incursion recently submitted a suggestion to ASRS for a taxi "trainer":

The idea of a taxi trainer suggests other possibilities: a taxi "simulator," interactive computer-based training aids, and training videotapes. As part of its ‘Back to Basics’ series, for example, the FAA has made a 25-minute videotape, "Aircraft Surface Movement," which describes the appearance and purpose of newly standardized signs at large airports.

The simplest solution of all: pilots new to controlled airports should request progressive taxi instructions on the first contact with ATC after landing, and before taxi-out. Telling ATC, "We’re strangers here," can open the door to helpful service and avoid a runway incursion incident.

ASRS Recently Issued Alerts On...
Runaway electric trim on an Avro RJ85
Multiple incidents of MEL non-compliance off the gate
Runway incursion and signage problems at an airport
B-767 bulkhead charring caused by an airphone short
Radio frequency disruption of a DC-9 pressure controller
February 2000 Report Intake
 Air Carrier/Air Taxi Pilots
 General Aviation Pilots