Report from the Aviation Safety Initiative Review: New Orleans — December 6-7, 1995

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This safety summit meeting brought together the nation's leading aviation safety experts to review the accomplishments of 1995 and set the aviation safety agenda for 1996. Here's a rundown on the meeting by one of the participants.

Introduction:

The "Aviation Safety Initiative Review" in New Orleans (December 6-7, 1995) demonstrated the aviation community's uncompromising long-term commitment to a safety standard of "zero accidents". The two-day, industry-led meeting brought together the nation's aviation safety experts from industry, labor and government to build upon the initiatives identified earlier this year and to set the safety agenda for 1996. An updated Aviation Safety Action Plan will be released in February 1996.

Background

In January, the aviation community formed an unprecedented partnership to define a plan to improve aviation safety. The meeting produced four new ways of doing business:

  • An ambitious new standard of aviation safety: zero accidents.

  • Shared responsibility: a new way of thinking that makes passenger safety the responsibility of everyone who flies, builds, regulates, services, inspects or repairs aircraft.

  • An active partnership among industry, labor and government that increases commitment and accountability for achieving and sustaining zero accidents.

  • The Aviation Safety Action Plan, Zero Accidents: A Shared Responsibility, provided the framework for the aviation community to begin building a continuing process to improve aviation safety.

Passenger Growth & Accidents

The United States operates the safest and most complex air traffic system in the world, handling 82 million air traffic operations annually (roughly two flights per second). On a typical day, 1.5 million passengers on 30,000 flights move safely to their destinations.

The number of passengers traveling on U.S. carriers is predicted to grow by 56 percent over the next 10 years. Worldwide passenger growth is expected to be even greater. Accident rates today are consistently half what they were a decade ago. However, the rapid growth in air travel has the potential to cause a 56 percent increase in fatalities over the next 10 years unless we stay ahead of that growth by continuing to improve the accident rate from its already low level.

The Aviation Safety Action Plan

The Aviation Safety Action Plan, adopted at the Aviation Safety Summit last January, identified 173 safety initiatives in six critical areas:

  • crew training

  • new technologies

  • air traffic control and weather issues

  • aircraft maintenance

  • procedures and inspections

  • flight operating procedures

  • safety data collection and use

Of the 173 safety initiatives identified at the January safety summit, 91 were targeted for completion by the end of the 1995 fiscal year. Of those, 70 (77%) have been completed and 21 (23%) are ongoing or under review. In addition, 65 initiatives were targeted for completion during 1996-1999, and 17 were ongoing initiatives.

Key Accomplishments in 1995

Safety Audit: In January, the FAA committed to conduct a safety inspection of all air carriers with 10 or more passenger seats. The audit will be completed by the end of December.

Safety Evaluation Programs & Safety Positions: In February, the airlines voluntarily agreed to establish internal safety evaluation programs and safety office positions. At that time,46 airlines (mostly ATA members) had safety evaluation programs in existence. The number has more than doubled to 95 out of a total of 138 air carriers. The number of safety office positions has increased by 83 percent, from 60 in February to 108 today.

FAA Safety Officer: On February 15, FAA Administrator Hinson named Christopher Hart to the new position of Assistant Administrator for System Safety to serve as a key advisor to the Administrator on emerging trends in aviation safety.

One Level of Safety: On March 24, the FAA published a notice of proposed rulemaking outlining new regulations that mandate "one level of safety" for all carriers using aircraft with 10 or more seats. The final rule is expected in December.

Runway Incursions: On April 17, the FAA released a comprehensive Runway Incursion Action Plan which addressed human performance, communications, guidance, surveillance, and surface traffic management.

FAA Aviation Weather Division: On October 1, the FAA established an Aviation Weather Division to enhance the agency's ability to prevent accidents and reduce delays attributable to weather. The new office consolidates the agency's weather activities into one office in the Air Traffic Services line of business.

Unapproved Parts: On November 13, the FAA established a National Program Office to focus exclusively on unapproved parts and combine the expertise and processes previously covered by two separate FAA offices.

Human Factors: On June 13, the FAA announced a comprehensive initiative to conduct and apply human factors research to the national Airspace System in a joint FAA/DoD/NASA commitment to making the airspace system safer and less complicated for those who use it.

Future Air Navigation System (FANS): On June 21, the FAA and Qantas Airlines began operational trials of a new oceanic satellite-based communication, navigation and surveillance system.

National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN II): On March 31, the FAA inaugurated operation of the National Airspace Data Interchange Network, a high speed data communications system that enhances the controller's ability to pass information to pilots.

Flight Operations Quality Assurance Programs: Three working groups at the January meeting identified Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs as a major partnership action to achieve zero accidents. This agreement will give the FAA access to in-flight recorded data collected by airlines to improve safety in the following areas: flight crew performance; training; air traffic procedures; airport maintenance and design; and aircraft operations and design. Airline participation is voluntary. The FAA, labor and industry are working with NASA Ames on research and development. A model program has been initiated with some major airlines.

Some Other Key Safety Initiatives

Flight Operating Procedures: Identify strategies to direct the systematic development of safe and efficient flight operational procedures that will not only recognize limitations of present support systems but also define requirements for future support system improvements.

Crew Training: Enable rapid adoption of modern training methods and technologies.

Advanced Qualification Program: AQP aims to improve training. It is an alternative method of qualifying, certifying, training and ensuring the competency of flight crew members, flight attendants, aircraft dispatchers, instructors, and evaluators under Part 121 (major carriers) and Part 135 (commuters) of the FARs. Seven major air carriers are participating in the AQP program. Seven regional carriers are in the development phase and one program has been implemented. Training centers and aircraft manufacturers are also active participants in the program.

Air Traffic Control & Weather Issues: Identify goals and strategies to ensure that air traffic control and weather information systems and procedures are coherently aligned to ensure increased safety as well as increased efficiencies and effectiveness in flight operations.

Aircraft Maintenance Procedures & Inspections: Identify more effective procedures and processes that can be implemented to eliminate maintenance related discrepancies.

Maintenance Resource Management System: The FAA and industry have established a system that identifies the cause and effect of maintenance induced errors. A prototype program has been developed with a major air carrier. Other major air carriers are interested in establishing such programs.

Safety Data Collection & Use: Identify needed changes which will ensure all aviation safety data are available for immediate use in accident prevention.

Air Transportation Partnership for Safety Programs: These voluntary data sharing programs focus on fixing safety problems. The programs, intended for major air carriers, commuters and major domestic repair stations, encourage employees of certificate holders participating in the programs to disclose important safety information without fear of legal enforcement.

Applications of New Technologies: Identify applications and implementation strategies for these technologies.


For further information, Gordon E. Smith can be reached at:

The Aviation Safety Institute
6797 North High Street, #316
Worthington, Ohio 43085 USA
Phone: 614-885-4242
FAX: 614-885-5891
Email: 76703.402@compuserve.com
Materials & Measurement Systems, Inc.
Office of the President
P.O. Box 883
Dublin, Ohio 43017 USA
Phone/FAX: 614-890-1712
Email: GESmith@ee.net