FAA Sees Trust Growing with Compliance Program

 - November 12, 2019, 7:03 PM

As the FAA’s compliance program enters its fifth year, a senior FAA official said the agency and industry are seeing evidence of growing trust, transparency, and effective use of safety management systems (SMS). Tim Miller, director of FAA’s Office of Air Carrier Safety Assurance, told attendees at Bombardier’s 23rd annual Safety Standdown yesterday, “I am happy to report we are making progress.”

The compliance program relies on voluntary reporting and corrective actions such as training and improved procedures to address deviations or safety issues. Enforcement instead is reserved for “the reckless, inappropriate risk-taking, or those that are unwilling or unable to comply,” Miller said.

The compliance program is simple but has many moving parts that require attention to detail both on the regulator and the industry side, he said. It moves away from the former approach to accountability that places blame and focuses on function to an accountability that accepts responsibility and results in action for change.

“Compliance means a lot more than just following the rules. Far more important is proactive risk management,” he said. Improvement in safety, he added, “rises from the operators’ willingness and ability to proactivity address risk management to deal with the issues that cannot be addressed by federal regulations.”

This requires communication, cooperation, and collaboration, he noted. In evidence of this growing collaboration, he pointed to an air carrier that changed its procedures after improperly flying passengers without following the regulations. He also highlighted industry collaboration with the FAA on illegal charter, noting this is requiring information sharing.

But even further evidence of this collaboration has been a jump in submissions to the various voluntary reporting programs, Miller said. In the last full fiscal year for which the FAA has data on the Aviation Safety Reporting System, submissions had grown to more than 96,000 reports. Submissions to the Aviation Safety Action Program in the last 12 months grew to 131,000 reports, a 26 percent increase over 2016. Submissions to the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting program had reached 2,200, he said, adding, “These numbers are phenomenal. That’s how we’re developing standards.”

Miller acknowledged he is preparing to retire from the agency and said while he has found his career there rewarding, “When people ask me what I am most proud of, I can point to the work the FAA and the industry have done to raise the bar of safety.”

Along with compliance and information sharing is the adoption of safety management systems, as well as the agency’s move to realign its divisions to focus more on function rather than geography.

He also praised the Safety Standdown, saying the sustained efforts of the annual seminar have made it “one of the industry’s best known and most respected conferences. The longevity of this event and the diversity represented demonstrate a key point that goes along the heart of this year’s theme—'Elevating Standards'—that when it comes to aviation safety, we’re all a team.”