A safety improvement program that has paid big dividends for the scheduled airlines and other large fleet operators for nearly 20 years is now available for small and medium size part 135 and part 91 operators.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the FAA has approved the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) as a third-party Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) manager. ASAP enables employees of charter operators and flight departments to file reports when they are involved in situations with safety implications or possible violations of FAA regulations.
These reports are analyzed by an event review committee (ERC) comprised of the FAA, company management, and participating employee group representatives (pilots, mechanics, etc.). After carefully reviewing the circumstances surrounding each report, the ERC decides on the appropriate course of action to mitigate or eliminate similar occurrences.
The U.S. aviation community spends billions of dollars annually training pilots, mechanics, and other employees in the interest of safety. Operators invest resources in developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to provide a safety roadmap for employees to follow. The FAA encourages the use of safety management systems to identify and manage risks. Despite all these efforts, mistakes still happen, procedures are not followed, and safety is compromised. That’s where ASAP can help.
“The whole premise behind the program is determining root cause of errors and mistakes,” said Bryan Burns, ACSF president. Most ASAP pilot reports involve things like altitude deviations, navigation errors, or speed restriction violations. “So, you just had a deviation. What was going on in the cockpit, what was happening?” said Burns.
Filing an ASAP report provides crewmembers with immunity from the FAA for inadvertent, or unintentional, violations of the regulations to encourage people to speak up when something goes wrong.
“Being forthright and honest leads to better procedures, better training,” Burns said, “and helps prevent the same mistakes from being repeated. That makes the operating environment safer for everyone.”
Such reporting programs have been used by the employees of major airlines and other large-fleet operators for nearly 20 years, generating tens of thousands of reports that alert the carriers and the FAA to problems that can be addressed by changes in training and procedures.
ACSF officials wanted to provide a way for smaller operators to gain the benefit of similar feedback, and began working closely with the FAA in 2012. With encouragement from FAA senior management in Washington, officials of the agency’s Great Lakes Region headquarters got the ball rolling. ACSF signed an MOU with the Great Lakes Region, and operators who wanted to participate in ASAP then had MOUs signed with their local Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs).
The ACSF-managed ASAP program is now approved in the contiguous United States including the FAA Eastern, Central, Great Lakes, Southern, Southwest, Western-Pacific, and Northwest Mountain regions.
As of late-summer 2016, there were 55 operators enrolled in the ACSF-administered ASAP — 27 part 135 charter operators and 28 part 91 corporate flight departments. Over the past four years, employees of those 55 operators have generated nearly 650 ASAP reports. Another 15 operators are in various stages of signing the MOU/employee training process.
The program is structured so ACSF, not the FAA or the operator, shoulders 90 percent of the administrative burden. “In all respects, it’s a win-win for all parties involved,” Burns said.
In addition, ACSF members can now participate in the FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program. ASAP participation results in a lot of de-identified information sharing among companies and safety administrators. After all, safety isn’t competitive.
Being forthright and honest leads to better procedures, better training,” Burns said, “and helps prevent the same mistakes from being repeated. That makes the operating environment safer for everyone.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.