NASA clarifies its aviation safety reporting system

 - January 31, 2007, 9:29 AM

After discussing the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) with people involved in many different aspects of aviation, NASA has come to believe there are several misconceptions concerning the filing of reports. For example, a number of people thought that direct involvement was necessary to report an incident, and many expressed a belief that a person can submit only one ASRS report within a five-year period.

“You do not need to be directly involved in an incident to submit a report,” said NASA. “Everyone is encouraged to submit reports to the ASRS when they are involved in, or observe, an incident or situation in which aviation safety was a concern or in which safety was actually compromised.”

Regarding the second misconception, NASA explained, “There is no limit to the number of ASRS reports you may file in any given time period, nor is there any minimum time restriction between submissions. You may file as many reports as you think necessary, as often as you think necessary.”

The only restriction that applies to ASRS reports is the number of times that a person can exercise “transactional immunity” in a given period of time. There are actually two immunities that apply to ASRS report submissions, specifically, use immunity and transactional immunity.

Simply stated, use immunity means that “your report, or information contained in your report, may not be used against you. The restriction to use immunity is that the event must not have been an accident or a criminal act. Transactional immunity means that penalties assigned by an administrative law judge as the result of a violation will be waived.” A person can exercise transactional immunity only once in a five-year period.

If a person has not been found guilty of an infraction in an administrative hearing, in front of a judge, then he has not used his transactional immunity, so the five-year restriction does not apply. Even if a person is found in violation in a hearing, he can still submit as many reports to ASRS as he wants, but he would not be able to exercise his transactional immunity privileges to waive a penalty for five years. One final requirement for transactional immunity is that the ASRS report must be submitted “within 10 days of becoming aware of the event.”

Pilots making submissions to ASRS should also be aware that two people cannot receive immunity from a single submission. ASRS officials said they have received several reports that include a sentence such as: “I am submitting this report on behalf of myself and the first officer, with his permission.”

According to the officials, only the person whose name appears on the report identification strip is eligible for immunity against FAA certificate actions. There is another reason for each person involved in an incident to submit his or her own report, said NASA: “Multiple reports of the same incident provide a richer, fuller picture of what happened.”

Additional information regarding ASRS immunities can be found in FAA Advisory Circular 00-46D (online at