Administrator on Collection and Analysis of Aviation Safety Data– a buried important message.

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An important speech’s most significant words are buried by the headline and this potential fissure is also highlighted in a collateral article.

FAA Administrator Huerta was the featured speaker at the Airline Pilot’s Association’s Symposium on International Data Programs. His message (see below speech) was the incredible power of these statistical analyses to set a proactive safety agenda. He, then, urged the audience of Civil Aviation Authorities around the world to participate in the amalgamation of these numbers.

Within his text was an important policy statement which may be missed by the target of this pronouncement. Also the comments made in the Wall Street Journal article (see below ↓ link) are important predicates to attaining the potential of these data driven safety programs.

The power of safety statistical analyses grows exponentially; the more data points, the greater will be the statistical relevance of the predictions/conclusions. In that aviation is global and that many airplanes are located abroad, the inclusion of as many of these foreign CAAs will add to the value of these meta data systems. That’s easy. The Administrator’s audience should have been receptive to these themes; because as he stated it has the “potential to be the single-greatest catalyst for aviation safety in the decades to come.”.

Buried within a 1,400 plus word presentation is an important directive to his own troops. It is a directive which needs to be oft repeated; because it is not being heard among the FAA rank and file:

“And I must emphasize—as the very first panel will do—that none of this is set up to be punitive.  Punishment is not the intent.  What we want—what this system needs—is for each of the professionals in it to step forward with voluntary information about safety issues.”

There is considerable episodic data that the field investigators and regional counsels, contrary to this language, are taking a broad interpretation of the exceptions to VDRP, among other programs, and initiating enforcement actions. The carriers, repair stations, pilots and mechanics, that are involved in such inadvertent violations and that file a voluntary report, are loathe to file a formal complaint. Why? Because the FAA’s penumbra of power after such an “attack” on a POI or PMI is likely to be harshly exercised against them in silent retaliation. In administering such an important source of data like VDRP, the Administrator should instruct the field that the exceptions should rarely, rather than frequently, invoked.

The above quoted section of the Administrator’s speech should be highlighted and should be repeated. This message is not eagerly heard by his employees; it appears that his dictate is regularly ignored.

The Wall Street Journal article captures a similar theme, indicating that the protection of this data in overseas courts. The authors said:

“Unlike the U.S., judges and prosecutors in many countries have clear-cut authority to demand that confidential or voluntary safety data be turned over to them or even be made public.”

The General Counsel of the Flight Safety Foundation added that he sees “little to no protection” for data, and without such protections, he is worried that the data will not be “subject to abuse or misuse as it is today.”

As with the analysis of data, it requires deep examination of the information presented to find the important meaning!

SPEECH : The Key to Safety”

“The Key to Safety”
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
June 16, 2014

ALPA: Symposium on International Data Programs

ARTICLE: FAA Ramps Up Data-Sharing Efforts to Enhance Global Airline Safety

FAA Seeks Comprehensive Plan to Combat Budding Problems Before They Result in Accidents


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