Gathering of General Aviation Safety Data might best be accomplished by the Private Sector Incentives

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ARTICLE: SAFE asks FAA to collect recurrent training data


SAFE recommends that General Aviation copy the aviation success of the Airlines by increasing its data sources. Great idea, but GA does not have the same resources.

Commercial aviation has made a dramatic leap forward in its safety performance and that trend is largely attributable to its increased analysis of data. This attainment of a proactive, as opposed to reactive, profile derives from the collection and analysis of numbers generated by ASRS, FOQA, VDRP, SMS and other agency sponsored reporting systems.

General aviation is a different flying arena. It needs to improve its performance, but has limited resources. In contrast, Airlines have support systems, management to implement programs, staff available to accumulate and submit information to the government and analysts to review the numbers. GA is populated primarily by individual pilots who would regard filing information like their log book, FAR §61.58 instrument proficiency checks and in the FAA’s new WINGS program, to be an undue burden and perhaps even an invasion of privacy.

The proposal to require such submissions came from the Society of Aviation Flight Educators (SAFE). The recommendation was one of the conclusions from their work on the FAA Loss of Control group under the FAA’s General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC). These teachers of aviation safety are of the expert opinion that examination of a pilot’s proficiency as measured by training and familiarity with the aircraft type might provide clues as to what was the underlying problem. “Pilot error” as a probable cause provides little useful guidance how to assure that the problem does not reoccur.

The pilot community, which has excellent representation in Washington, will resist and the Congress’ (Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1980, as amended by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35)) and OMB’s CIRCULAR NO. A-130 place heavy burdens of proof of what the FAA can require. Forcing such data collection may end in a fire fight over this valuable information resource.

Governmental compulsion is a blunt object, but a positive action through the private sector might be more effective. For years aviation accidents occurred when the wrong fuel was placed in an airplane. The insurance companies sponsored the replacement of the OEM-installed fuel tank caps with replacements which identified the correct fuel type. The cost of the new caps was quickly offset by the decreased aircraft losses.

A similar initiative would appear appropriate here. AVEMCO, a spin-off of AOPA, might lead an effort of GA insurers to give tablets and/or software to their insured pilots for the recording of their flight times, training and related safety preventative actions. The AOPA Safety Foundation could design the parameters of the new data collection mindful that its members will want to have minimal burdens. Pilots who meet or exceed certain levels of proactive measures would be rewarded with lower rates? The insurance companies could enhance GA’s performance with better information and creating economic reasons for pilots to spend more time on their cockpit craft.

That sort of incentive-driven recordation could be implemented quickly without regulation. AOPA Safety Foundation could collect the data in the same way that CAST manages some of the commercial safety data collection. The FAA would still have its existing statutory access to the pilots’ records. The new data base would be managed by the private sector on a real time basis. The possibility of information which could deliver proactive safety actions could be achieved without the need for a lengthy OMB review and the goals (perhaps more?) of SAFE could be attained by using private sector actions relying on positive offers rather than regulatory compulsions.

This might be an excellent initiative for AOPA’s new President Mark Baker.

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