Tuesday, April 08, 2008

FAA History Lesson -- April 8

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Apr 8, 1975: Acting Administrator James E. Dow announced the establishment of the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (ASRP), designed to provide the agency with information on potentially unsafe conditions in the National Airspace System, effective May 1, 1975. To encourage the reporting of violations, the program granted immunity from disciplinary action to pilots or controllers who filed a timely report. No immunity was granted, however, in the case of "reckless operations, criminal offenses, gross negligence, willful misconduct, and accidents." FAA remained free to take corrective or remedial action necessary for air safety.

Although such immunity programs had been instituted before (see Jan 1, 1968), the ASRP was the first not limited to reports of near midair collisions. The program's establishment anticipated one of the recommendations being prepared by the Secretary's Task Force on the FAA Safety Mission (see Jan 28, 1975), of which Dow served as Executive Secretary. The Air Line Pilots Association, skeptical of the ASRP, preferred a system in which a third party would process reports and protect their confidentiality. (See Aug 15, 1975.) “

To quote Yogi Berra, “This is like deja vu all over again.” In case you haven’t seen it, NATCA and the FAA have signed yet another agreement of this type. Take a look.

I have to admit, I don’t get it. The FAA forced a “contract” on NATCA when they imposed their work rules. Why couldn’t they just impose an immunity program ? I assure you controllers wouldn’t object nearly as much to imposing an immunity program on them to promote safety as they did work rules to promote...I forget. What were the work rules supposed to promote ?

”This isn't just a discussion about paychecks. The current agreement contains all sorts of restrictions on the FAA that no employer would agree to in any sensible business arrangement provisions that give the union de facto control over schedules and staffing levels “

Marion Blakey
July 13, 2005

Too bad controllers really weren’t in charge of “schedules and staffing levels.” Considering the mess the FAA has made of them, it’d be a great option if the FAA was able them give them back to the controllers.

Steering back on course...How much did it cost the FAA to implement this new safety program ? Probably about as much as it’s worth -- next to nothing.

The FAA can improve their safety culture any time they choose to do so. Nobody can stand in their way and nobody would. All they have to do is...well, just do it. Besides, they are just reinventing the wheel. We already have an immunity program that has been working for over 30 years -- really working -- NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Aug 15, 1975: FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed an agreement under which NASA would operate a third-party reporting system guaranteeing anonymity to persons providing information about safety hazards and incidents (see Apr 8, 1975). This system was designed to overcome fears that FAA's Aviation Safety Reporting Program would not provide genuine immunity. NASA agreed to: receive and process reports; delete information that would reveal the identity of the informants; analyze and interpret the data; and provide the results to FAA and the aviation community. Information concerning criminal offenses, however, would be referred directly to FAA and the Justice Department. The system was to become operational by Apr 15, 1976 (see that date.) “

But wait ! There’s more ! Read this from Air Safety Week.

”At the same time the White House recently announced with much fanfare the new government-industry effort regarding the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), the FAA's funding for ASRS is being cut back. “

”The White House announcement rings hollow, especially given FAA declarations about the need for "data-driven" safety programs. ASRS is a primary source of precisely such incident data. Indeed, guess what the National Transportation Safety Board requested immediately after the Alaska Airlines MD-80 crash? That's right, an ASRS evaluation of all inflight control problems with the MD-80.

As an appalling illustration of the impact of budget cuts, of some 35,000 ASRS incident reports received annually, only about 30 percent wind up in the data base. The staff cannot handle them all, so must decide which of the reports are the most worthy of keeping. Consider the dilemma: is it better to keep a well-written report and discard a poorly-written submission? ASRS staff have been placed in the role of judges, looking for trends. But any system forced to discard two-thirds of its reports may in fact wind up missing trends, under the notion that the sum of the seemingly trivial could point to a widespread hazard. “

Those quotes aren’t new either. They’re from February 2000.

You might be asking yourself a question. Why strangle a program that works and implement a program that won’t work because your employees don’t trust you ? If you’ll explore that last link, it might dawn on you that controlling the flow of information is what’s important to the FAA. Seriously, take a look around. See if that “interview” of Nick Sabatini doesn’t smack of propaganda to you.

It’s about the data and who controls it. If you don’t like the answer, change the figures.

"The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

Joseph Stalin

Maybe they’ll contract the program out to these guys.

Don Brown
April 8, 2008

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