At the end of 2021, Airbus announced a long-awaited Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) amendment for the Airbus A320 that affects airlines worldwide. The new SOP, checklist, and briefing were officially published by Airbus back in November 2021. Operators (Airlines) were advised to provide training for flight crew and implement the new procedures by early 2022. Were the changes necessary? What items were updated?

Background

Commercial Aviation is an ever-changing environment, manufacturers and operators work together in a closed-loop for feedback and response on daily basis to evaluate whether the current operations are safe and how they could be improved.

The recent procedural change was the result of the feedback and evaluation between Airbus and various operators worldwide for the past three years.

According to Airbus, the need for a shorter and simpler checklist was reflected by various operators. The main reason is that it will lessen disruptions of procedures and workload for daily operations, hence, reduces the risk of human errors. A shorter and less repetitive briefing was also introduced to enhance threat and error management. Let us look into the highlights of the amendment.

Introduction of a New Streamlined Checklist and Checklist Triggers

“Before Start Checklist down to the line” becomes history.

Checklist has always been an integral part of aviation. The previous version of the A320 checklist introduced a concept  “down to the line and below the line”, which divides a checklist into shorter parts so that procedures can be executed while the checklist is being put on hold.

The Before Takeoff Checklist, for example, is divided into two parts so that the pilots can focus on keeping an eye out while taxiing for line up and making sure the approach path is clear before entering the runway. This concept has been in the standard checklist of the A320 for 8 years and was scrapped in the latest amendment.

Before Takeoff checklist has been separated into the Taxi and Line-up checklist, with reduced items. In addition, triggers are also introduced for pilots to ask for the checklist at a more definite moment. Triggers are certain events during a flight that would suggest the pilot initiate a checklist.

For example, the Taxi Checklist should be initiated by the pilot when the cabin report is received and the T.O. config. pushbutton is pressed. This makes the procedures more streamlined and helps reduce the ambiguity of the manuals. The total number of items was reduced, items that are monitored by the aircraft system e.g. spoiler deployment were removed.

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The Airbus A320 and A330 now share the same Taxi Flow. Can you spot the differences between the cockpit layout? | © AIRBUS

Revised Flow Patterns for Airbus commonality.

The commonality between different aircraft types is one that is advertised by Airbus as the fundamental cornerstone for Mixed-Fleet-Flying. It denotes the similarity in aircraft systems and procedures of Airbus aircraft from different family series so that pilots can operate more aircraft types with minimal training.

While MFF has its pros and cons, it remains a trend for airlines to employ eventually more than one fleet type to optimize scheduling even for Low-Cost Carriers. Some flow patterns were updated to unify the procedural commonality between all the commercial airbus families (except for A300 & A220).

The original taxi flow pattern shaped like the letter “U” from left to right was revised from right to left to facilitate different weather radar installations and more importantly, to ensure all Airbus aircraft have a shared taxi flow.

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The commonality between Airbus fleets makes Mixed-Fleet Flying (MFF) possible in modern aviation | © AIRBUS

Introduction of a Task-Sharing session in Airbus Manual.

Commercial aviation incorporates multi-crew operation which shares the workload between two pilots. In the previous version of the FCOM, the allocation of each task was made ambiguous so that operators can have higher flexibility to customize procedures to their needs depending on a specific kind of operation.

For example, an LCC flying multiple sectors a day would want to alleviate the Captain’s workload during cockpit preparation as most countries require the PIC to conduct the exterior walk around as part of their regulation.

The Airbus SOP and checklist will be implemented by Airlines worldwide by 2022 but at the operators’ discretion. While the general changes shift towards simpler and shorter procedures and checklists, Airlines are allowed to tailor their documentation in accordance with the type of operations or regional considerations.

Disclaimer: The above information presented herein is for reference only; it reflects only the author’s view and must not be used in any commercial operations.

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