30th January 2023

Temperamental headsets

Initial Report

There is an ongoing issue with [Manufacturer 1] headsets. These headsets are woeful. They have a tendency to fall off your head easily, under minimal acceleration, particularly relevant in a rejected take-off (RTO). I know of other ASRs filed by colleagues where this has happened during the take-off roll. However, another major issue is the mismatch between listen and talk levels – this seems to be worse on aeroplanes where one side is fitted with the older (better) [Manufacturer 2] headset and one side is fitted with newer (dreadful) [Manufacturer 1] headset. But it is also an issue with both sides fitted with the new [Manufacturer 1] headsets. I believe this to be a serious flight safety issue.

Company Comment

The concern relating to headsets has been under investigation by Flight Operations and Engineering for several months. A large scale trial of three headsets is underway across fleets to find a suitable replacement. There are a limited number of headsets available on the market which meet the specified requirements and include an ANR function. Additionally, some headset models requested by the pilot workforce have been specified by the aircraft manufacturer as not suitable for use. An alternative headset is also available to purchase for personal use if preferred.

CHIRP Comment

Technical compatibility problems between headsets aside (which we’re told is sometimes down to user adjustments), it seems that the stability problem with the new headsets is because they only have a single headband as opposed to the [Manufacturer 2] headsets that have a twin band and are thus more stable. Stability is a fundamental requirement in CHIRP’s view given that there is no room for such distractions even during normal operations let alone potentially disastrous consequences during an RTO. We’re heartened that the company involved have acknowledged the problems and are trialling alternatives; however, we wonder whether this issue is also prevalent in other airlines or fleets.