Strong evidence that SMS/ASIAS/CAST/compliance is working

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New safety systems are working

2017 Safest Year

Episodic ,economic complaints not refute hard data

The FAA issued two noteworthy Fact Sheets during the well-noted new trough between the major holidays. The success of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) and Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) programs should be heralded, not hidden when most of the journalists are away from their desks.

Here are a few of the CAST highlights:

  • “The nation’s impressive commercial aviation safety record is due in part to the aviation industry and government voluntarily investing in the right safety enhancements to reduce the fatality risk in commercial air travel in the United States. The work of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), along with new aircraft, regulations, and other activities, reduced the fatality risk for commercial aviation in the United States by 83 percent from 1998 to 2008 – and is continuing to do so.”
  • Since its inception in 1998, CAST has evolved beyond the “historic” approach of examining past accident data to a proactive approach that focuses on detecting risk and implementing mitigation strategies before accidents or serious incidents occur. In 2010 CAST set a new goal: to reduce the U.S. commercial fatality risk by another 50 percent by 2025.”
  • CAST Is Focused

CAST has developed an integrated, data-driven strategy to reduce the commercial aviation fatality risk in the United States. CAST identifies precursors and contributing factors to ensure resources address the most prevalent categories of risk that pose the greatest threat to loss of life. The group has reduced the fatality risk in commercial aviation by focusing resources on the following risk areas:

  • Takeoff Misconfiguration
  • Runway excursions,
  • Airplane State Awareness
  • Midair collisions,
  • Controlled flight into terrain,
  • Approach and landing accidents,
  • Loss of control,
  • Runway incursions,
  • Weather,
  • Turbulence,
  • Icing, and
  • Uncontained engine failures.



  • How CAST Works

CAST uses a disciplined, data-driven, focused approach to:

  • Analyze safety data/information,
  • Identify hazards and underlying contributing factors,
  • Develop specific safety enhancements to address risk,
  • Voluntarily implement cost-effective safety enhancements,
  • Track implementation and continuously monitor the effectiveness of the safety mitigations, and
  • Use knowledge gained to continually improve the aviation system.

CAST charters joint government and industry working groups for analysis of the systemic safety issues in commercial aviation. The groups leverage data from ASIAS to understand the underlying contributing factors and develop mitigation strategies.

Senior-level safety officials from CAST organizations meet regularly to oversee the activities of the following working groups:

Similarly, the underlying data system, ASIAS, has made significant contributions to safety. The innovative concept is that by accumulating data FROM AS MANY RELEVANT, RELIABLE SOURCES, the focus of aviation safety shifts forward to reducing FUTURE risk. Here is the list of resources which ASIAS aggregates and analyzes:

  • ASAP (Aviation Safety Action Program),
  • ASDE–X (Airport Surface Detection Equipment–Model X),
  • ASPM (Airspace Performance Metrics),
  • ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System),
  • ATSAP (Air Traffic Safety Action Program),
  • FOQA (Flight Operational Quality Assurance),
  • METAR (Meteorological Aviation Report),
  • MOR (Mandatory Occurrence Reports),
  • NFDC (National Flight Data Center),
  • NMAC (Near Mid-Air Collisions),
  • NOP (National Offload Program office track data),
  • SDR (Service Difficulty Reports), and
  • TFMS (Traffic Flow Management System).

The FAA is increasing the quantity and types of participants as part of a phased expansion plan, such as expanding participation in the corporate/business and small general aviation communities. It will also expand into the rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft systems communities in the future.”

The internal workings of CAST, ASIAS and SMS result in remedial actions before the projected trended risk line becomes a problem. The good news is that there have been ho accidents; the bad news is that there are no stories about specific SMS-driven saves.

On a macro basis, 2017 was the SAFEST year in aviation safety. The data published by ASN and FSF includes global operations. The trend reflects the worldwide move to SMS and the respective forms of ASIAS and CAST. The success is diluted by some countries/carriers which have not yet adopted the IATA initiated regime.


ASN data show 2017 was safest year in aviation history

SMS is based on collaboration and cooperation. Sharing of potential problems before they occur does not fit well with a regulator seeking to penalize errors. For this reason, among many others, ticket-writing is no longer the primary mode of seeking certificate holder compliance.

Torqued: FAA Enforcement Pendulum Swings, Angering Some Operators


The contrary view of this change is expressed by a former NTSB member and is well stated in this paragraph:


“I have observed FAA enforcement actions for the last several decades from many different vantage points. And I’ve seen the enforcement pendulum swing from heavy-handed punitive sanctions for seemingly small or inconsequential infractions to nonexistent punishment for even patently unsafe and intentional acts. (Right now, thanks to the FAA’s most recent Compliance Philosophy, the pendulum has clearly swung in the latter direction.) But whichever way the pendulum swings—often in reaction to industry complaints—the one constant I’ve observed is that industry complains no matter where the pendulum swings.”

To support this thesis, a complaint by NATA is cited. Every FAR is predicated on safety, but some of the regulations are designed to define commercial vs. private flight. The “violations” at issue here involve the form of the transaction to “charter” or “use” the plane- not the safety of the operations of maintenance. The “operators” do not participate in SMS because they “contend” that they are not within the FAA’s defined jurisdiction. The “anger” is not directed at the FAA’s collaboration and compliance approach, but rather at economic activity with which the FAA has surveillance problems for years.

The data that the SMS/CAST/ASIAS/compliance/cooperation approach is working is strong. The episodic stories, that the pendulum swing is beyond acceptable range, are not as convincing.




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2 Comments on "Strong evidence that SMS/ASIAS/CAST/compliance is working"

  1. When we publish statements like “ASN data show 2017 was the safest year in aviation history,” we need to be even more vigilant in uncovering those areas in the operation that can cause harm. I believe Safety Management Systems are only as good as the the culture that supports the mission of safety. The balance between production and protection (safety) it a tough one!

  2. Dr. Hakim, well put and a much appreciated addition to this post.

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