Recent Passenger Gun Problems
Safety Risk Assessment (SRA) Can Find Solutions
Passengers are the reason why aviation devotes so much focus on safety and as these two stories indicate, the customers (carrying guns and behaving badly) are now becoming an increasing part of a problem for TSA, airports and the airlines. Weapons within the airport environment creates huge risks and as mentioned before, the problems posed by the individuals who lose control for a variety of reasons (stress, drugs, alcohol, etc.?) can be injurious to crew, fellow travelers and the plane itself.
It would appear that some new approach should be tried and it would appear that the techniques used by SMS, especially broad inclusion and deep examination of data, might be helpful.
Safety risk assessment (SRA) is a tool which the airlines and hopefully TSA are already familiar and employ periodically. The SRA uses a risk based methodology to examine the range of risks encountered every day and using the risk and hazard process to:
- Review data if collected already, but if not define variables relevant to these issues.
- Create a 3600 team to assess the potential problems posed by passengers; include sky caps, rank-and-file/supervisory TSA airport personnel, TSA management (especially intelligence/staffing/behavioral), airport retail vendors (especially all involved in the sale of liquor by the glass or the bottle) airline counter staff/management, passenger gate staff, cockpit and cabin staff/management.
- Brain storm/Identify potential Hazards.
- Categorize the Hazards – may have multiple levels of a hazard (system or systems).
- Identify risks for each Hazard.
- Determine if risk is acceptable or unacceptable.
- If acceptable, may not need to define mitigation(s).
- If unacceptable, need to determine likelihood and severity of risk.
- Identify mitigations/solutions to risk.
- Implement mitigation.
- Keep collecting data and evaluate mitigation(s).
- Keep revisiting and revising mitigation(s) based on results (redo process if necessary).
Some organizations within the aviation industry get hung up on SMS as a new safety program, when it is essentially taking a risk based approach to managing a business day-to-day and, it is not that hard. Whether you are changing an organization, hiring a new vendor, revising a procedure or dealing with unruly passengers, every aviation organization should use a risk based approach similar to above and embed it in their day to day business operations, striving to get the solution driven down to the process owners.
- What data do we have on unruly passengers?
- Are unruly passengers a hazard? Yes.
- Risks – Delays, cancellations, passengers’ safety, flight crew safety, airplane damage, company reputation, loss sales etc.
- Determine – Severity and Likelihood unruly passenger events will take place – Likelihood fairly high and severity, too.
- Mitigations – flight crew and flight attendant training, education (public), procedures and equipment, law enforcement engagement and partnership. Create hypothetical (what if?) scenarios.
- Whatever solutions designed by the SRA processes should be shared with all airlines, all airports, all vendors and TSA.
- Keep collecting data and revisiting problem and results.
This is an iterative process and to be truly effective, the actual experience of field implementation will add further knowledge, should contribute to further refinements and be available as threats/behavior change over time. TSA will likely balk at the risk of sharing security information, but many of the people to be invited to the SRA already are privy to this sensitive intelligence. Those not already within the TSA tent can be properly vetted.
The incidence rates of both guns and disruptions should compel all new, more comprehensive and proven techniques to address these human variables in the aviation system. Start SRA now?!!?