Sword Avoidance for the DGCA of India- SASO!

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If you take the complaints which the DGCA of India as described in the article linked, and if you delete the country identifiers, most US aviation safety experts would guess that the story is about the FAA. If you read the testimony of Associate Administrator Gilligan before Congress, you will learn that she faces the same Sword of Damocles hanging above the DGCA of India. What can India gain from Ms. Gilligan’s effort to deal with a human resource inventory which is stretched?

For many years Congress has refused repeated requests by Administrations of both political stripes to fund the FAA staffing at a higher level. The career senior staff at 800 Independence Avenue has realized that “doing more with less” is their immutable reality. To their credit, the Aviation Safety organization applied principles which they have preached; they decided to integrate the concepts of Safety Management Systems[1] into AVS’ internal management. They have initiated System Approach for Safety Oversight, designed to maximize the impact of the existing inspectors.

[1] “SMS is the formal, top-down business approach to managing safety risk, which includes a systemic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures. (Order VS 8000.367).” It relies heavily on data to define safety risks.

As described in this informative video (see above picture), Larry Bird (not the NBA version) explains how his organization is transitioning to SASO. The existing and future safety extensive data base will be analyzed to identify specific airlines and their specific practices which pose a risk. This is in contrast to the FAA’s historical approach in which the inspectors would conduct audits of the airlines documents and actions. If a problem was found, a formal enforcement process would be initiated.[2] The transition to SASO is incurring some resistance in the field.

[2] The FAA Handbook required when such “violations” were found, that the carrier should be informed. Not clear that this was followed.

Once SAS (the implementation package) is fully deployed, the FAA is of the opinion that they can do MORE with less. Auditing was not as effective; for it resembled the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. Repetitive review of paperwork does not guarantee that high risk problems will be found; at best, such investigations will catch paperwork errors which may or may not have high risks associated with the inadequate entry. SAS will lead the investigator to points of important safety improvements. Also the computer will not differentiate between large and small or between highly revered airlines and new entrants.

India here is your approach to avoid the Sword of Damocles. Declare that you are going to “do more with less,” adopt SASO and SAS and attack the areas with the highest risks. It would be hypocritical for the FAA to reject such a solution, even if the DGCA of India’s data base is not as fully developed.

Failing to implement SASO or some other creative response, the huge sword of Damocles held by the single hair of a horse’s tail, by which Dionysius suspended the weapon, will certainly fall.

Perhaps the DGCA of India can revise the SASO acronym to Sword Avoidance Safety Organization? Seriously, the FAA’s reliance on data and risk oriented action plans is a model for other similarly challenged CAAs.

ARTICLE: Aviation safety issues: Damocles’ sword hangs over DGCA

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