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  • By Chris Nielsen Manager, Safety Share Programs

On Approach with ASIAS - Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing

If we pause, take a look back and see how far we have come in our safety programs, we have made significant steps that have evolved into mature safety management programs. We should all take a moment to give ourselves a pat on the back or a “high five.” As so many of us have learned from implementing robust safety programs, our thought process has moved from being reactive to predictive. We have transitioned from explaining accidents and incidents to predicting safety risks—making adjustments to avoid potential safety issues. The key ingredient in this success is the utilization of data that has been compiled from an operator’s SMS.

Over time, each SMS program safety database has developed into a crucial tool that influences day-to-day activities. Safety managers have embarked upon a new journey of the science of “Safety Datatology” whereby organizations are able to reel in knowledge from the data being retrieved. The data gives us actionable intelligence to continually improve our SMS documentation and safety culture. This safety intelligence moves us from merely explaining to being predictive and proactive.

Now that organizations find the data so compelling and the benefits realized from the data so great, we seek more avenues to generate more data to analyze. How do we do this? Do we walk into Verizon or AT&T and upgrade our data plans? Do we call down to Scotty in the engine room as Kirk did when he often said, “I need more power (data),” and the Safety Manager replies, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got!” You get the point.

Until recently, a repository for de-identified business aviation safety data to complement existing internal safety data did not exist. The FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) is an industry collaboration that analyzes and shares de-identified safety data, providing a means of expanding an organization’s data inventory. Yet only a handful of operators have jumped into share programs such as ASIAS and are now beginning to experience the value of doing so. Airlines and some FAR135 operators “get it” and understand the benefits of sharing aviation safety data. Why is it that business operators don’t embrace such data sharing? Learning from other’s experiences is a lot safer and more efficient. However, the price of entry is your contribution to safety databases.

Perhaps evidence that safety data helps improve overall safety might encourage business operators to embrace share programs such as ASIAS. Recently the Wall Street Journal wrote:

“For many years, individual countries and regions have reduced accidents partly by collecting and analyzing airliner incidents to help identify budding threats. The programs have sought to identify issues including mechanical defects; controllers mistakenly keeping planes too high during landing approaches; and lapses in pilots’ awareness.

That strategy has helped create record safety in the U.S. and elsewhere, with overall crash rates for scheduled commercial flights dropping 13% in 2013 from the previous year. In the U.S., no domestic airline has suffered a fatal crash since early 2008.”

Research by WisconsinWatch in an article titled “Aviation Database Reveals Frequent Safety Problems at Airports” noted:

While flight-related fatalities are limited — and indeed commercial airline companies reported none for the last two years — the reports to NASA disclose thousands of repeated errors that point to potentially serious flaws in the safeguards set up for the aviation industry.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples where the collection of data is revealing potential problems in our global aviation systems. As professionals in our aviation community, we all need to participate in the collection of safety data.

Robert Sumwalt’s Presentation to the Transportation Research Board Human Factors Workshop on Safety Data in January 13, 2013 shared the following:

“While I’m comfortable that our investigators will be able to determine the cause of the accident, when we don’t have data, it adds challenges. And, we are asking ourselves one of the very questions that is the theme of this workshop: where is the data. We have already identified data from sources that are not necessary intended for accident investigation. For example, on Friday we identified that there were six closed circuit TV cameras on the vessel that captured hours of video. And, we also learned from the engine manufacturer that the engine control unit captures data that may shed light on why engines shut down during the accident sequence.

In Friday’s press conference, I asked that if the public had cell phone video or still shots, please contact us. I said ‘There is so little data, that whatever is available, we must capture.’ So, yes, the question of ‘where is the data’ is an important one.”

ASIAS data participants currently include 44 air carriers and 12 business aviation operators. The data consists of FOQA, C-FOQA, and safety reports of numerous categories that sources over 140,000 safety reports and over 12 million operations. Operators can have access to this data if they participate by submitting their own de-identified safety data to ASIAS.

The good news is that operators who are serious about safety data are beginning to step up. Now, with some additional tools being introduced, this should be easier. Over the past year, Baldwin Aviation has engaged the ASIAS program on opportunities to collaborate a means to participate in and access ASIAS data. We are excited to report that we are moving forward in this process and will have a solution for operators to participate in ASIAS, if they choose, through a Memorandum of Understating (MOU) between Baldwin and FAA/MITRE, who safe guards ASIAS data.

Stay tuned for more about timing and enhancements as our aviation community moves forward with ASIAS.

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