Tribal Knowledge

You are finally done with the inspection and repairs. The aircraft is cowled, you triple check to make sure all access panels are back in place and the aircraft is ready to be delivered back to the customer tie-down area. You gather all the paperwork...

At major air carriers, SDR submission is often the responsibility of the quality assurance or reliability programs department or similar named department. Some operators such as air carriers, charter operators, and repair stations have regulatory requirements to report service difficulty reports to the FAA and utilize the SDR program as the method of filing the required reports. The bottom line is that data goes into one database, the SDR system.

Data-driven decisions

As the FAA implements new technology to collect and analyze data, more data-driven decisions are going to be made. Data-driven decisions depend upon data, and the SDR system is the primary data source for general aviation. The maintenance professional is part of the solution when safety issues surface with aircraft designs.

An important aspect of data-driven decision making is that it works both ways. The data can also show that a perceived problem actually has less risk than first thought. Data allows the engineer to effectively determine what the actual risk level may be rather than, in the absence of data, make an overly conservative decision to take action just to play it safe. And with sufficient data, engineers can pinpoint issues that exist in subfleets of aircraft and not the entire fleet thus reducing the number of affected aircraft. At the end of the day, sufficient data drives better decision making and a safer aviation community. The maintenance technician’s role of submitting SDRs is critical to this working properly.

Electronic database

The FAA has put the SDR system online to make it easy for maintenance personnel to participate. Electronic submission is available and the site also provides access to the SDRs in the database for review. Maintenance operations should take advantage of using the SDR database as a source for additional safety information regarding their aircraft make and modes. Simply access the web site and search on your specific make and model for SDR history. Visit the web site at:

So think outside the “tribe” and participate. Be active in sharing your knowledge and experiences, it will make general aviation much safer. Pass on your tribe’s knowledge by submitting SDRs when appropriate. Be a powerful source driving aviation safety. 

Barry Ballenger is the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate’s program manager for System Safety. He has held A&P and IA ratings for close to 40 years and remains a mechanic at heart.

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