Oddly enough the author of the FAA’s new Safety Assurance System, Edward Howerter, a Volpe engineer who collaborated with Volpe IT specialist Edwin Tait, said “Safety starts, I would argue, on the ground.” (see below↓press release) Mr. Howerter’s quote may be an ingenious effort to get the FAA field to buy into SAS, but the new tool avoids the typical walk around pictured above and points the FAA perspective to the SAS identified directly to the problematic, for example, aileron.
SAS is one of a suite of FAA meta data systems and the hallmark of the analytical tools is that they rise above the details, develop macro trends and then direct the attention to the specific problem. SAS uses data to derive work programs that focus on details. SAS begins at the 40,000’ level and targets the inspection function.
Historically principal operations inspectors, aviation safety inspectors, FSDO managers, CHDO supervisors are performing or have performed the detail work. They, typically, would spend time meticulously working through records, examining a C check or observing the pilots preflight preparation. In the course of such surveillance, inadequate training records, inattentive entry of the waypoints into the onboard navigational computer or some other observed error (or what appears to be a mistake) drove the FAA discipline to lead to corrective actions and/or an enforcement letter. The transition to the SAS approach may be uncomfortable; for, one might say that the FAA field staff enjoyed wallowing in the details.
SAS and its related tool, System Approach for Safety Oversight, both utilize the other data bases (SMS information from the carriers, VDRP, ASIAS, etc.) to highlight where the carrier problems are and/or are developing. For internal guidance, SAS leans on Aviation Safety Staffing Tool and Reporting System, an tool which indicates where and how many inspectors are located, estimates how many may be needed for the targeted tasks and helps management direct the right human resources to the right project., These programs helps management maximize its resources within tight budgets.
Now, when that ASI arrives at the specific facility at Carrier A where it is believed that there is a problem, she/he has a computer-created check list and goes to the precise nexus identified by SAS. It is a far different discipline than that which has served these many FAA inspectors well over the recent past; so it is somewhat uncomfortable. Once through the conceptual and tactical transitions, that ASI will begin to do what he/she is most comfortable—EXAMINING DETAILS; thus the brilliance of Mr. Howerter’s ingenious (slightly disingenuous statement).
ARTICLE: FAA Releases Sophisticated Aviation Safety System