FAA Launches A New Confidential Non-Punitive Safety Reporting Program


Facing pressure in the wake of the two high-profile crashes of Boeing 737 MAX airliners in late 2018 and early 2019, the FAA announced Monday (June 21) it is launching a new Voluntary Safety Reporting Program. The initiative is “an additional way for its engineers, safety inspectors, systems safety specialists, and other aviation safety employees to report safety-related issues and concerns,” according to the agency statement.

Under the program, the 7,400-strong FAA Aviation Safety workforce will be able to report safety concerns confidentially “without fear of punitive action.” The agency has faced scrutiny over concerns that it was not strict enough in its oversight of Boeing in the 737 MAX certification process, particularly in the area of its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The FAA statement noted that it already has a long list of voluntary safety reporting programs in place, adding that the risk of a fatal air accident has decreased by 94 percent since 1998. But, as FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said, “We can never be satisfied with the status quo when it comes to safety, and the free exchange of vital information is a cornerstone of safety and continual improvement. We want our employees to know that when they speak up, they can be sure someone is listening.”

Union leadership among Aviation Safety groups were part of the process in crafting the architecture of the new reporting program “to encourage the sharing of safety information by all parties,” according to the FAA statement. For example, Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said, “The more we can continue to encourage people to report, the more we can influence the safety in the system.”

The program addresses the flip-side risk of spurious whistleblowers and has follow-up procedures in place. Mike Perrone, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union, explained that an Event Review Team, consisting of experts in the subject matter of the complaint, will “evaluate the safety issue and provide a recommendation on corrective action and will continue to monitor the issue throughout the process.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I laugh when I read stories like this. Once, long ago, I was in an office headed by someone who I can rightly describe as having the leadership skills of Ghengis Kahn.
    The company introduced an anonymous reporting system, and one, poor misguided soul, used it to report the office head, for having made him work 18 hours or so till he got something right.
    Within seconds the chief was summonsed, within a few seconds more she realised who the squealer was, and he was out the door, never to return, not even for holiday pay owed, within the hour.

    • If you were the one who just worked an 18 hour shift for a particular boss, and you then report that said boss made someone work an 18 hour shift last night, then obviously your complaint is anything but anonymous

  2. Two different years at Airventure, I wandered into the FAA Pavillion to discuss ADS-B with their point man who seemed like a genuine and nice guy. I was trying to make a decision on going 1090 or 978UAT and I was worried about anonymity. He assured me that the FAA would not use ADS-B as a punitive tool so I went 1090 since I needed a transponder anyways. Snap forward to 2021 … how’d that work out for Martha Lunken? OR … in years past … Bob Hoover? If someone within FAA decides they want your carcass … you’re toast on either side of their fence.

    This “Program” is a tacit admission that their ‘system’ isn’t working. It’s already too big, bloated, complicated and slow … this is just another layer of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo aimed at satiating an external entity. Simplification, me boys, simplification. Just look how long it’s taking MOSAIC or the FAR Part 23 update to take place.

  3. No chance I would use this. The FAA (or any other government agency) can not be trusted. This was tried in the 90s and the result was me losing my job and worse.
    Everything you say can and will be used against you with any form of government.
    Always plead the Fifth, unless you are willing to lay your life down for another. I can tell you from experience, no one will care in the end what happens to you.