In the five years since the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) launched an industry-wide Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), the number of Part 135 and 91 participants has begun to outpace those from the 121 sector, Randy McDonald, manager of ASAP programs for the FAA, said yesterday at the ACSF’s 2018 Safety Symposium.
According to McDonald, the ACSF program now accounts for 54 percent of the active agreements with the agency. “That’s huge,” he said. “We really appreciate what you bring to the table, because that’s the information we really need.” Adding that most of the accidents and incidents involve general aviation, he said, “Our focus should be on general aviation and recruiting them into the program.”
The ACSF ASAP program enables Part 135 and 91 operators to participate in a voluntary safety reporting agreement with the FAA without fear of agency action. ACSF aggregates the data to track safety trends. Russ Lawton, director of safety for the ACSF, credited the growth, in part, to the change in compliance philosophy at the FAA to help address unintentional noncompliance issues without enforcement. This makes participation a “no brainer,” Lawson said.
He further attributed this growth to opening up the ACSF program to Part 91 operators, which now outnumber the Part 135 participants. Underscoring the importance of the program, Lawson noted that 90 percent of the reports that go into ASAP come from a sole source, “which means no one would ever know about the hazard or safety issue had it not been reported.”
The number-one report—altitude deviation—comes as no surprise, he said. This is followed by speed and course deviations.
Benefits to Operators
Mike Graham, director of flight operations safety, security and standardization at Textron Aviation, noted his organization is among the most active of participants in the ACSF ASAP program, adding that the number of reports coming through the various flight activities throughout Textron Aviation has grown exponentially. He praised the quality of information the organization has received, citing as an example an instance involving SOP issues in one of the organization’s operations. The reports enabled the organization to pinpoint the issues and tailor training as a result. Urging further participation, Graham asked symposium attendees, “Why don’t you all have them? I’ve seen what it's done for my [organization]. It’s so easy. It’s very cost effective.”
While McDonald praised the increased participation, he said companies need to do more. The FAA does not take action on reports accepted into the ASAP program, but companies must also refrain from punitive action, he said. This is particularly notable in the maintenance end, with fewer maintenance organizations participating, and a lack of trust is still prevalent.
As the program continues to gain steam, the FAA is revising its guidance material surrounding ASAP. The agency has released for comment the draft update to Advisory Circular (AC) 120-66C, which was released in 2002 to provide guidance for participation. With evolution in safety and reporting, the original AC is outdated, McDonald said. “We’ve learned so much over time.”
The revision, in the works for several years, is designed to make the program more flexible, removing certain time requirements and providing latitude for participants to tailor the program to best suit their operations. In addition, the revision is designed to make the program more inclusive, he said, and noted that the FAA no longer refers to its agreement with organizations as a memorandum of understanding but instead as a partnership agreement; “because that is what it is: a partnership.” McDonald urged attendees to comment on the draft. Deadline for comments is April 26.