Voluntary Reports great aid to Aviation Safety
Information from Inside and Industry reducing Risks
FAA reporting system better under ASRS or AEE?
The FAA has issued a Fact Sheet extolling the virtues of its 10 voluntary disclosure programs, five of which apply to agency employees. It correctly concludes that:
Voluntary reporting programs have significantly contributed to the nation’s impressive commercial aviation safety record, including improvements to training as well as enhanced operational and maintenance procedures.
The various systems have contributed to reduction in flying risks. The lessons of internal FAA VDRPs, however, are not revealed beyond the organization. Greater transparency of what agency employees have detected as problems might increase public confidence in the safety administration’s safety culture.
[NOTE: external ASAP, ASRS, FOQA, VDRP are not the
subject of this post. After years or trials and tribulations,
they seem to be working well.]
Over the recent past, there have been press reports about deficiencies, especially as to aircraft certification. The solution may come from one of two options:
Periodic de-identified Reports on actions taken and lessons learned
The oldest and perhaps the most publicly recognized is NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System. Since implementation in 1976, pilots and other safety professionals can file reports of near misses or close call events in the interest of improving aviation safety. The system has been most successful because the person submitting receives limited immunity.
NASA has established a significant record of accumulating these incidents and of sharing lessons as to what went wrong. The administration’s output is periodically published in CallBack.
The “Aeronautics” Administration has earned a reputation for trustworthiness and its expertise to synthesize the information submitted. It has also demonstrated a competence to produce useful lessons from the facts presented.
2.These internal voluntary reporting programs could be administered by an existing FAA office
In 2008, Chairman Oberstar held some castigating hearings about the relationship between a SMO and two airlines. Specifically, the questioning examined inspectors’ complaints being ignored by management.
As a result, the Office of Audit and Evaluation(AAE) was established. Its independence is assured because the Director reports only to the Administrator and thus need not worry any of the Associate Administrators with their operating divisions. Its mission is to investigate:
- aviation safety violations
- waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement
- internal FAA rule or policy violations
- whistleblower disclosures.
The Voluntary Reporting programs cited in this FAA Fact Sheet appear to share some of the problems found in the 2008 hearings—complaints of subordinates being reviewed by management, albeit perhaps a level up the organization chart.
AEE has the independence to make judgments that will be more credible to the employee who submitted the complaint, others within the FAA and the general public. The output of this process could be a public report delivering, on a deidentified basis, what was done to correct the risk, if any.
By being the point of reviewing complaints from various FAA organization, AEE may detect issues that cross divisions. One of the tenets of SMS is the involvement of all in the certificate holder’s offices. There have been instances in which the exposure could be better addressed by personnel-recruitment, scheduling, purchasing, etc. Those inter organizational solutions should be more likely identified by this single point of resolution.
March 10, 2021
Contact: Tammy Jones
Aviation safety today is about looking ahead. The aviation community has moved away from the “forensic” approach of making safety improvements based solely on accident investigations to a proactive strategy that incorporates a mix of actual flight data, data from other government agencies, and voluntarily submitted information from airline employees. Voluntary reporting programs have significantly contributed to the nation’s impressive commercial aviation safety record, including improvements to training as well as enhanced operational and maintenance procedures.
Aircraft Certification Safety Review Process
In June 2015, the FAA, in partnership with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), launched the Safety Review Process (SRP), which is open to all bargaining-unit employees. The SRP allows FAA employees who work in the Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) to elevate safety concerns without fear of retaliation. Modeled after a similar process implemented by the FAA’s Office of Airports, the SRP fosters a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for open reporting by AIR employees represented by NATCA. The FAA expects that most safety concerns will continue to be resolved at the local office level, but the SRP provides a tool to quickly elevate safety-related concerns. The SRP also provides a process for a documented review of safety concerns and will serve as a means for resolving these concerns.
Airport Voluntary Reporting System (AVRS)
AVRS enables ARP employees to report hazards, safety-related issues, concerns, and incidents through a process in which they can provide recommended solutions and ideas for safety mitigation or improvement. The AVRS process begins when an employee files a confidential report to raise a safety issue through an online reporting system.
An AVRS oversight board, comprised of three FAA executives from headquarters or the region, will then review, investigate, and help resolve the reported items. To ensure positive control, all board members are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Once the board reaches a resolution, the recommendations are sent to the appropriate manager and the solution is monitored for application or implementation. A final report is sent to the employee who raised the safety concern. All relevant personal identifying information is removed from the AVRS report before posting the final resolution for all airport employees to view through the Knowledge Services Network or KSN.
Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP)
ATSAP is an agreement between the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) that fosters a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for FAA air traffic employees to openly report safety concerns. By Order, all personnel providing or directly supporting air traffic services are covered, including management. A related Confidential Information Sharing Program (CISP) integrates voluntary safety information self-reported by pilots and air traffic controllers. This data-sharing program gives the FAA a more complete picture of the National Airspace System (NAS) by collecting, assessing and reviewing safety events from the perspective of both pilots and air traffic controllers.
Air TrafficSafety Action Program – X (ATSAP-X) Engineers, Architects, 2186 Aviation Professional, Staff Support Specialist and Flight Procedures Team (ATSAP-X).
This program is an agreement between the FAA and NATCA that fosters a voluntary, cooperative, non-punitive environment for FAA employees to openly report safety concerns. This program is intended to encourage controllers and their managers to voluntarily provide safety-related information through an automated platform, so the FAA can learn about and mitigate aviation safety hazards. This data-sharing program provides the FAA a more complete picture of what is occurring in the NAS. It enables the FAA to collect, find and fix identified safety issues.
SAFER – Federal Contract Towers (SAFER-FCT)
The Federal Contract Towers (SAFER-FCT) Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is an agreement between the FAA, NATCA, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Inc. (PATCO Inc.) and the federal contract tower companies that foster a voluntary, cooperative and non-punitive environment for FAA Contract Air Traffic Controllers to openly report safety events and concerns.
This program is intended to encourage controllers and their managers to voluntarily provide safety-related information through an automated platform, so the FAA can learn about and mitigate aviation safety hazards. This data-sharing program provides the FAA a more complete picture of what is occurring in the NAS. It enables the FAA to collect, find and fix identified safety issues.
Technical Operations Safety Action Program (T-SAP)
T-SAP is an agreement between the FAA and PASS that allows technicians represented by PASS and other non-bargaining unit Technical Operations employees the opportunity to report potential safety hazards voluntarily and confidentially. T-SAP first became available to technical operations employees on October 2011.
FAA Internal Voluntary Reporting Plans
Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS)
Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA)
Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program (VDRP)
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