The Internet is yielding important safety benefits for aviation, making critical information available to many more aviation participants and helping regulatory authorities disseminate safety material. The FAA has taken advantage of the Web and offers a mass of information online. One excellent example is the availability of safety material of an advisory nature, which before the advent of the Web depended on expensive and often inaccurate mailings and word of mouth.
There are a surprising number of FAA safety advisory notices published on a frequent, yet irregular, basis. The deluge of safety material from the FAA is enough to tie up any flight department safety officer for 40 hours a week.
The FAA produces five key safety products: airworthiness concern sheets, CertAlerts, safety alerts for operators, special airworthiness information bulletins and unapproved parts notifications. These products are advisory and carry no mandate for compliance. How an insurance carrier views awareness and compliance with these type of safety advisories is another matter, and flight departments might want to consider bringing this up with their insurance agents.
Flight department safety experts might want to check these sites regularly to make sure they don’t miss a potential lifesaver.
How does information of a safety nature percolate through the FAA to the point that it becomes important enough to disseminate? No single FAA office controls the development of safety advisory material. If there were such an office, it would have to be staffed with safety, maintenance, operations, airport and manufacturing experts. As it is, the system is somewhat informal, but it works because any FAA employee can pursue a safety concern and turn it into advisory material available to anyone.
The FAA Small Airplane Directorate issues airworthiness concern sheets (ACSs) primarily for light airplanes. Since 2000, the FAA and the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association have worked together to manage the Airworthiness Concern Process, which solicits industry input before issuance of an Airworthiness Directive. No central FAA repository exists for ACSs; they can be found at www.aopa.org.
CertAlerts are generated by the FAA and sent to regional offices, which disseminate them to airports.
The agency also offers no way for users to subscribe to any of these safety advisory products, but a useful link to some of them is available at www.faa.gov/aircraft/ safety/alerts.