FAA’s ASAP hasn’t flown with maintenance techs

 - October 8, 2007, 11:28 AM

The FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is designed to identify and correct dangerous operational situations that might not come to the attention of the agency or company management. The FAA introduced ASAP to pilots in 1996 in an effort to encourage them to disclose their errors and to identify the contributing factors. The goal was that the information gathered would allow both the FAA and airlines to implement solutions to prevent the recurrence of specific problems.

To encourage pilot participation, the FAA published an advisory circular (AC 120-66) for field inspectors, pilot unions and air carrier management emphasizing a genuine interest in obtaining safety-related information through a nonpunitive program.

The FAA recently enlisted St. Louis University to conduct a study as to why the maintenance facet of the industry was not embracing ASAP. “The goal of our research project is to come up with factors that will lead to a successful aviation safety program in maintenance and to identify those factors that don’t,” said Dr. Manoj Patankar, associate professor in the department of aviation science at St. Louis University. During Phase I of the study he talked to numerous companies and conducted focus-group discussions seeking input to develop a survey.

Patankar told AIN his research revealed that as of last December, of 28 airlines that operate ASAPs for pilots, only six had memoranda of understanding with the FAA for aircraft maintenance technicians. “Of the six maintenance ASAP programs, most are considered by everyone involved to be highly effective,” he said.

Since the program was introduced to pilots, the 28 participating carriers have filed between three and 12 ASAP reports per day. According to Patankar, the carriers are very satisfied with their programs and believe they have identified systemic discrepancies that would not have been otherwise discovered. To expand the scope of ASAP programs, the FAA published maintenance guidance advisory circulars (AC 120-66A and -66B) last year. But despite the fact that the information has been readily available, only six maintenance organizations have developed ASAP agreements.

Phase II of the study, which began this year, provides for the distribution of the survey to 83,000 of the 130,000 A&P ticket holders listed in the FAA’s database. Patankar said that number was selected merely because it fit within the scope of the grant’s budget. However, he added, “We had to over-sample because many addresses are wrong and people have died or they’re no longer active in the industry. Statistically, we needed 400 completed surveys to justify the research on a national level, but we wanted also to justify it at the state level. We increased what we thought was necessary for each state by a factor of 1