The names FAA and Allegiant have been found juxtaposed in many, many headlines over the last year. The precipitant for these articles have been allegations of FAR violations. The relations between the regulator and the regulated were not positive.
This sort of confrontational approach to safety was called ENFORCEMENT. The premise was that the threat of civil penalties would encourage the certificate holder to meet or exceed the regulations. Press releases seem to relish proposed fines of six or seven figures.
ICAO and the FAA have been primary advocates for an advanced discipline called SMS. That approach seeks to prevent future incidents by joint examination of data, simultaneous search for root causes and collaboration. The results have been exemplary.
In June, 2015 two major policy announcements were released and their collective goal was to change from ENFORCEMENT to COOPERATION/ COLLABORATION. There was some industry skepticism whether this culture change would be accepted by the field. A very smart organizational design change limited the field’s capability to obstruct the new philosophy. The early record of civil penalties proposed after the change created some doubt that the rank and file were retreating from an emphasis on sanctions.
A real test case was an incident in which Allegiant pilots had to declare an emergency due to low fuel. This was marked as a classic case for the ticket-writing-traffic-cop to emerge, a real test case for the transition from enforcement to compliance. The result? Millions of penalties, revocation/suspension of certificates/licenses/privileges? Here is what the FAA said and what Allegiant did:
“A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that the agency closed its investigation in October with a ‘letter of correction,’ which is not as serious as an enforcement action, and a follow-up letter this month.
An Allegiant spokeswoman said the airline has added new procedures and training.”
A letter of correction is the epitome of the root cause and remedial solution. A BIG WIN FOR THE ADMINISTROR’s new approach.