SMS should be the primary tool being used by the FAA to fix these Inadequate Separations

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ARTICLE: Too close for comfort: FAA says near accidents have spiked

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This article is based on an Audit issued by the DoT’s Inspector General on February 27, 2013. Its findings include a conclusion that “serious errors” (inadequate separation) rose from 37 reported in 2009 to 275 in 2012. The story finds some correlation between these numbers and a decrease in Air Traffic Safety Inspectors from 300 at the beginning of 2012 to 16 in the current calendar year.

The Air Traffic Organization has established, on its own initiative and considerable fanfare, a discipline of Safety Management System. Its action led to IHS’ award to the FAA. That tool, if properly implemented and followed, would be the best mechanism for the FAA ATO to correct this trend.

Under SMS, these near midair collisions should be reported, analyzed, assessed and mitigated. ATO should have a dynamic web-based reporting system; that system would allow an easy/simple way to report and detail the near misses. That data could then be categorized nationally, regionally and locally. Analysis would compensate for weather, spacing, etc. Such review should uncover the latent conditions. The end result of a vigorous assessment would eliminate or address the causal factors.

SMS can be a symbolic security blanket or it becomes a part of a top-to-bottom systematic culture which constantly strives to enhance safety. The ATO’s SMS bible, linked above, includes all of the elements needed to implement the program. These IG statistics raise concerns that SMS is not being aggressively used to respond to this spike.

Perhaps the House Transportation subcommittee might ask the FAA to report on how SMS is being used to address these near midair collisions.

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