A21 MX Portal: Interview with Victor Manuel del Castillo

Written by: Francisco M. McGregor (A21 MX Portal)
Original text:

On this occasion, I have had the privilege of talking with a true expert and professional committed to air safety for many years.

Engineer Víctor Manuel del Castillo is certified by AFAC in SMS (Operational Safety Management Systems) and Human Factors, he is the ICARUS representative in Mexico and SMS teacher for ITAerea in Spain.

Francisco.- Tell us a little about your professional experience of more than 50 years.

Víctor Manuel.- In 1969, when I began my studies in Aeronautical Engineering at the ESIME of the IPN in Mexico City, I made the decision to knock on the door of the Aircraft Operations Department of Mexico, at that time located on Boulevard Puerto Aerial (between the Mexicana de Aviación hangar and the American Airlines hangar), due to my technical background, what I knew how to do was technical drawing, I was hired and my experience began in the same month that I started my engineering degree.

I was in that Flight Operations Management for five years until I finished my career, I have only positive memories and a great learning experience with engineers and captains who always cleared up my constant doubts and questions.

Once I graduated, I got a place in Aeromexico Maintenance (on the other side of the airport), I found another world and I began to learn another facet of aviation: maintenance, which gave me great satisfaction in parallel learning; By the way, I lived relatively close to several incidents and accidents, there the seed of the issue was sown in my being.

I consider Aeromexico my second University. At some point, someone offered me the Air Services Management of Cervecería Moctezuma of the Alberto Bailléres Group, an opportunity to know another face of the industry: Corporate Aviation and I repeat, another world.

After four years I returned to Aeroméxico in a managerial position until its bankruptcy.

Since bankruptcy in 1988, I became independent and to this day I remain independent and active in the safety issue that I detected in all those years that safety was an area of ​​opportunity.

Francisco.- The courses and talks you teach on safety issues are well known not only in Mexico but also in foreign countries. In what places have all that information that you send them been most used and understood?

Víctor Manuel.- I have been fortunate to be able to spread and sow the topics in which I specialize, which are Human Factors and SMS. All countries with their corresponding authorities and operators have been very proactive and open on these issues, I do not have any negative memories about it.

I believe that one of the strengths in market penetration in Latin America and Spain was the almost four years that, as an independent, I collaborated with Flight Safety International, a company that hired and trained me to teach the Human Factors concept in Spanish in Latin America.

Fortunately, I continue to teach both topics, taking advantage of the experiences lived in classrooms, aerodromes, hangars, schools, fixed and rotary wing operators and the same airlines that I share daily with a single objective: to strengthen Operational Safety in our region.

Francisco.- What do you consider to be the main threat to air safety these days?

Víctor Manuel.- If we consider that more than 80% of aviation accidents are related to human behavior, without a doubt the main threat is the lack of monitoring and surveillance of Human Factors, CRM and SMS by the Aeronautical Authorities, these institutions are jointly responsible for the efficiency or inefficiency of Operational Safety.

Francisco.- In order to improve the processes aimed at the safety of air operations, what could you propose to the administrative staff of airlines, schools and AFAC authorities?

Víctor Manuel.- I have three proposals:

  1. That the laws and their regulations be updated, that their training and training programs be reviewed at all levels, from the Universities (if applicable) that teach Aeronautical Engineering to the most modest school with an aircraft in operation, through schools or training centers with a considerable fleet of aircraft. The focus should be around safety.
  2. That the AFAC staff that audits, monitors and follows up on the inspections is upright and well trained for the functions they perform, people’s lives are in their hands, and
  3. That the schools or training centers also do their thing, regardless of what the outdated rules for aviation schools say.

Francisco.- What is your opinion on the importance of monitoring the human factor more thoroughly to avoid incidents and air accidents?

Víctor Manuel.- Our statistics indicate that only 7% of the aeronautical technical personnel who live in and from aviation can explain in detail the Human Factor concept and its repercussions on the organization.

This indicates that the Human Factors topic is being analyzed and taught only superficially.

Francisco.- Could you say how the pandemic that we have lived through for two years has affected the operational safety system?

Víctor Manuel.- No one had the vision to prepare for a pandemic (despite the fact that there has been antecedents in other times and also recent serious forecasts) in such a way that the lack of activity in all areas, flight, maintenance, CTA, dispatch , etc., “took us out of the game” and we lost the “touch”; We can corroborate this with the large number of aviation incidents during this pandemic around the world, many are due to failures, forgetfulness, omissions and basic oversights.

Francisco.- What is the ICARUS system?

Víctor Manuel.- The ICARUS program is a software created in Croatia by two specialists in information technology and aviation, designed exclusively to manage the Operational Safety Management System and Quality Control, I am ICARUS representative for Latin America and Spain, we have additionally adjusted it to the Latin culture, we have been successful in these 2 years of commercialization.

ICARUS is the most flexible and friendly software for SMS administration.

Francisco.- How can we achieve an improvement in the aviation safety processes by all those involved in the industry?

Víctor Manuel.- ICAO in its Doc. 9859 and its Annex 19 indicates that the organizations related to Annexes 6, 11 and 14 must have their SMS implemented, that is, aircraft operators, aeronautical organizations, Air Traffic Control Service providers and Aerodrome administrators.

ICAO’s vision is to unify safety concepts with a single lens and thus achieve a more focused perception on hazard identification and risk management.

All this effort will be consolidated when the corresponding authorities monitor and ensure its comprehensive implementation.

Francisco.- The human factor continues to be the leading cause of air incidents and accidents throughout the world. What can you tell us about this subject, which is one of your specialties?

Víctor Manuel.- Although I mentioned it above, I reiterate it here, the Human Factors issue in order to produce tangible results must be implemented in an institutional way, just like the SMS, in fact the SMS frequently links to Human Factors.

Francisco.- What is the role of new technologies applied to SMS?

Víctor Manuel.- Operators and service providers must migrate from the use of a spreadsheet or Excel to a technologically advanced software that will save them time, money and effort with their mobile application, I can make a comparison, about 15 years ago the pilots of an airline carried kilos of paper manuals on board between PIA’s and Aircraft Manuals, today they only carry a tablet, we must take advantage of new technologies.

Francisco.- In recent years we have seen a certain increase in the number of air incidents and accidents, especially those involving flight school aircraft. Could these institutions have access to SMS implementation as airlines do?

Víctor Manuel.- The interpretation of NOM-064-SCT-2012, in its preface establishes: “… the training or training centers that have aircraft…” therefore they must have an SMS implemented, not necessarily with the requirements of a large operator, SMS can be tailored to schools.

Francisco.- What is the role that the aeronautical authority could play in the regulated implementation of SMS?

Víctor Manuel.- In accordance with the Chicago Convention of 1944, the signatory States (including Mexico) are committed to adhere to the 19 ICAO Annexes. In the case of the Operational Safety Management System for the State, better known as SSP (State Safety Program) it is up to the State (Mexico) to design it, therefore NOM-064-SCT-2012 is our SSP; Consequently, the AFAC has the obligation to monitor its implementation with the operators and service providers.

We are deeply grateful to Victor del Castillo for his time and for sharing his experience and knowledge of safety with us.

We follow his work because he is a person who has the floor in matters of air safety at a time when threats to the industry are increasing every day more than ever.

“Selling or buying mandatory training and education certificates can be a criminal act.”

About the author

Inxelo Technologies

Inxelo Technologies Ltd. is a company that core-business is software development in aviation industry.
Our mission is to provide quality software solutions to any air operator and improve their operations.
The software solutions we create for our customers are in various fields in aviation such as safety management system and compliance management system.