One of the things my boss likes to say in speeches is that no matter how competitive the commercial aviation industry is, we are all on the same team when it comes to safety. That idea is certainly one of the foundational principles for Aviation Safety InfoShare, a semiannual meeting of over 500 air carrier, government, and manufacturing safety professionals in a protected environment that facilitates sharing of safety issues and best practices.
InfoShare is also connected to the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program, which now has access to 185 data sources that include voluntarily-provided safety data. ASIAS partners with the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) and General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) to monitor known risk, evaluate the effectiveness of deployed mitigations, and detect emerging hazards.
Flight Data Monitoring
To get the benefits of data, though, the first requirement is to get data — a more challenging concept in the GA world. As you may have read in the Jan/Feb 2016 Compliance Philosophy-focused issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine (see Tom Hoffmann’s “In Data We Trust”), the FAA partnered with industry last year on a Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) demonstration project for the GA community. The GA Demonstration Project Team included members of government, industry, academia, and the GA community, and the work was conducted in the Phoenix area given Arizona’s diversity in landscape and its mix of commercial, corporate, and private flight operations. The idea was to ask volunteers to upload de-identified data from their flights, while giving participating pilots the ability to reanimate recorded flight track data for post-flight review.
As a next step, the GA Demonstration Project Team seeks to increase GA participation in the FDM program by creating a public education campaign on the safety benefits, assessing the GA community’s perception and understanding of FDM, and determining the incentives required to generate a meaningful level of GA participation in a national FDM program. As the GAJSC web page notes, the hope is to develop voluntary GA FDM programs similar to the airline industry’s Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA).
Another idea is to hold an InfoShare-like conference for GA, so as to facilitate communication of best practices. Stay tuned.
What You Can Do
One of the most important things you can do to further the safety benefits of information sharing is to contribute to the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Colloquially known as “NASA forms” since NASA administers the system on behalf of the FAA, this program collects voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident/situation reports from pilots, controllers, and others. The ASRS database is a public repository serving the needs of the FAA, NASA, and organizations world-wide which are engaged in research and the promotion of safe flight. Using this information, ASRS identifies system deficiencies and issues alerting messages to persons in a position to correct them.
Too many pilots think of ASRS only in terms of its sanctions relief benefit in the event of an enforcement action. While this benefit provides a strong incentive to contribute to the system, the point of ASRS is to contribute to a safety culture by collecting, analyzing, and sharing information on issues and events affecting safety. You can, and you should, submit a report to ASRS anytime you observe or experience a safety issue in the National Airspace System. Online submission makes the ASRS system easier than ever to use, and speaking up when you see a safety concern is definitely part of good aviation citizenship.
ASRS also educates through its CallBack newsletter, its Directline journal, and through research studies. To benefit from the extensive shared safety information, you can subscribe to an electronic version of CallBack at no charge.
So please, do your part for the aviation safety team by both contributing to, and benefiting from, this valuable data. (FAA Safety Briefing – JanFeb 2017)