Safety Leadership & Culture

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Sharing Aviation Safety Data Is a Good Thing

Sharing Aviation Safety Data Is a Good Thing

Pooling operational data enables safety experts to identify safety trends – the first step in risk mitigation.

June 5, 2017

A growing number of NBAA members are participating in the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program. Why? Because ASIAS is a conduit for exchanging safety information among participants so that data can be aggregated and analyzed and the results used to enhance safety.

ASIAS is an FAA-funded, joint government/industry collaborative effort facilitated by The MITRE Corporation, which is a not-for-profit organization that operates federally funded research and development centers for the federal government. Due to MITRE’s unique role, it is a trusted third party, which gives peace of mind to operators that have privacy concerns.

In fact, confidentiality and non-punitive reporting are foundational values of ASIAS. Data is gathered from participants, then “de-identified” (scrubbed to remove information associated with the operator) and finally aggregated. What ASIAS provides to the FAA and program participants is aggregated, de-identified information based on operator data, but that information is not attributable to any single operator.

Some operators still might be leery of sharing data. However, the fact is that ASIAS has been operating for more than 10 years, and its positive history speaks for itself. Almost 50 airlines participate in the program, as do most of their pilot union groups. In the past decade, there’s been no known security breach, no enforcement case stemming from the data collection process, and no airline has ever stopped participating due to security or privacy concerns.

THE BREADTH OF THE PROACTIVE PROGRAM

“The mission of ASIAS is to identify system issues and address them in a proactive nature,” explained Jeff Mittelman, senior principal engineer at MITRE and lead for the general aviation side of ASIAS. “ASIAS participants trust us to take in their data, secure it and produce results. There is tremendous governance in place to control and protect the data and determine how the results are released.”

Data is contributed by approximately 185 industry and government sources, including aircraft operators, ATC and others. Stakeholders include all segments of the aviation industry – Part 121 air carriers, Part 91 operators, Part 135 operators, flight schools, aircraft manufacturers and repair stations.

The GA side of ASIAS is relatively new, but it is growing rapidly, with about 40 general aviation participants, including Part 91 and Part 135 operators that fly between two to hundreds of aircraft. The commercial air carrier side of the program represents more than 99 percent of all U.S. air carrier operations.

ASIAS participants trust us to take in their data, secure it and produce results. There is tremendous governance in place to control and protect the data and determine how the results are released.
– JEFF MITTELMAN Senior Principal Engineer, The MITRE Corporation

“The business aviation industry as a whole is moving to proactive, cooperative safety management,” said Mark Larsen, NBAA’s senior manager of safety and staff liaison to the NBAA Safety Committee. “Proactive management of risk is a critical aspect of SMS [Safety Management Systems], as is safety data collection and aggregation. These concepts come together in the movement of safety data sharing.”

“Participating in ASIAS is a smart step for any business aircraft operator, especially if you use one of these programs for your narrative safety reporting or FOQA analysis, as sharing that data with ASIAS is a seamless process with no additional workload,” said Larsen.

BENEFITS FOR BUSINESS AVIATION

Mark Wulber, director of operations at Mayo Aviation, a Colorado-based Part 135 charter operator that participates in an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and shares data with ASIAS, encourages data sharing as a critical aspect of a healthy safety culture.

“Collecting and analyzing your own organization’s safety data is an important part of safety culture,” says Wulber. “Sharing that data with other operators through programs like ASIAS is the next step.”

This sharing has led to some tangible safety improvements. ASIAS works in coordination with other government and industry groups, including the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) and the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST). The CAST has adopted 22 “safety enhancements” as the result of data collected and analyzed through the ASIAS program. These safety enhancements are recommendations to be voluntarily adopted by the FAA and industry.

For example, CAST has issued safety enhancements to prevent a pilot from taking the active runway and starting a takeoff roll before the aircraft is set in the appropriate takeoff configuration. In another example, CAST developed safety enhancements concerning deviations from RNAV arrival and departure procedures. These safety enhancements are direct results of ASIAS data collection and analysis.

Information produced from ASIAS data will be provided to the GAJSC for development of safety enhancements to benefit the GA industry, just as CAST has been doing with the airlines.

In addition, ASIAS participants realize several specific benefits from the program. First, many enjoy contributing to the greater good – offering their experience to improve the overall safety of the industry.

“The benefits of sharing safety data are not linear – they’re exponential,” said Wulber. “It’s one thing to collect and analyze safety data from a single operator. Even if you have a fleet of 20 aircraft and dozens of pilots and maintenance technicians, your data will be limited. Data sharing allows you to learn lessons not just from your own company’s experiences, but lessons from other operators’ experiences as well.”

Operators also receive access to the ASIAS web portal, which contains myriad information on airports, an interactive risk-assessment tool and more. In addition, ASIAS participants are invited to a semi-annual Aviation Safety InfoShare, an event that facilitates sharing of safety concerns and best practices in a closed environment.

Frank Raymond, an aviation safety manager for Vulcan, Inc., which was one of the first GA participants in ASIAS, puts it simply: “ASIAS is a free program. Why wouldn’t you participate and help influence positive change in the industry?”

ADDRESS SPECIFIC CONCERNS

The goal of ASIAS is to improve aviation safety. But how does sharing safety data lead to that goal? What policies or practices might ASIAS help improve in the future?

Raymond hopes to see information produced from ASIAS data collection and analysis used to work with the FAA – and air traffic controllers, in particular – to address specific safety concerns with certain airspace and issues with arrival or departure procedures.

“One company expressing a concern with an air traffic procedure is just one company,” said Raymond. “Aggregated, objective data from multiple companies has far more impact.”

ASIAS participants also hope information produced by the program will influence how Part 91 and 135 pilot training is delivered and maybe even drive regulatory changes regarding training.

“We can use the data to see the hot spots. What are the risks?” said Raymond. “Then we can develop risk-based, real-world training.”

“It’s exciting to consider where safety data sharing can influence policy and best practices in the future,” said Larsen. “We encourage NBAA member companies to participate in ASIAS, narrative safety-report sharing and FOQA analysis and sharing. The data gathered and analyzed through these programs can proactively improve safety across the entire industry, as is proven by the commercial aviation side’s successes.”

Review how to participate in ASIAS at www.asias.aero.

HOW ASIAS ACTUALLY WORKS

ASIAS participants agree to provide either flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) data, Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP)-like safety reports, or both. This FOQA data is shared through programs like C-FOQA Centerline, Flight Data Services and some other flight data management programs, which conduct independent analyses of data contributed to their own programs and provide the FOQA data to ASIAS, with the operator’s permission.

Similarly, narrative safety reports, including ASAP reports and safety reports from non-ASAP participants, are submitted to and analyzed by organizations like the Air Charter Safety Foundation, WBAT for Aviation Safety, Baldwin Aviation and ARGUS Prism, which then interface with the ASIAS system, if a participating operator elects to share data in that way.

NO FDR, NO PROBLEM

For operators of aircraft that do not have an installed flight data recorder, there are additional ways that you can analyze and share FOQA-like data with ASIAS.

With a portable attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) unit and an iPad or Android tablet running the GAARD app, which was developed by MITRE, operators can record the flight parameters collected by the AHRS unit for analysis. That data can be uploaded from the GAARD app to the National General Aviation Flight Information Database (NGAFID), which is managed by the University of North Dakota for the FAA. The NGAFID provides analysis and flight playback tools to an operator submitting data, and de-identified data in the NGAFID is also shared with ASIAS.

Similarly, operators with Garmin G1000-based avionics can record their flight data onto an SD card, and after a flight, upload the data from the SD card to the NGAFID for analysis and sharing with ASIAS.

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This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Business Aviation Insider. Download the magazine app for iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.