Another Failed FAA Safety Program

The Inspector General of the Department of Transportation has recently published, without fanfare, its report stating that the ATOS safety program started in 1998 has failed in its effort to implement a comprehensive safety and inspection process within...


Other safety programs: Self-disclosures: AC 00-58

Voluntary disclosure of aviation safety discrepancies in airline operations are covered under AC 00-58. This safety program was instituted by the FAA to aid in detecting failures of airline maintenance to find and disclose errors. It is designed to encourage self-disclosure in return for immunity in some but not all cases. The key element is that the safety errors must be disclosed before the FAA detects the errors, in order to provide immunity.

In the airline cases described however, errors were disclosed after the FAA found them. In these cases the AC calls for sanctions, which were not imposed. This disclosure program for the most part receives no followup, as required in the AC, and can also be considered by many as another failure for this and other significant reasons, including airline privacy.

ASAP: AC 120-66

The aviation safety action program (ASAP) was designed to collect safety information by data collection of otherwise unobtainable information. It was designed as a voluntary program. The reason that this program met so much opposition is that it required the collection of otherwise proprietary maintenance performance information and made it available to FAA examiners and maybe other airline competitors. It became so controversial that some airlines opted out and refused to participate. With some additional guarantee of privacy some have re-joined but the doubt always remains as to who will have access to this proprietary information. Yet another failure?

For example, after the 1995 American Airlines crash in Cali, Colombia, AAL refused to disclose internal safety information to litigants in the discovery phase of the cases that had been filed to recover damages. American argued that without firm guarantees that such data be protected from disclosure to lawyers and others, all air carriers will think twice about participating in such programs as ASAP. This argument will continue to be a serious impediment to the collection of safety data by the FAA. There is no law that says airlines have to divulge their private information through the FAA in this manner.

The FAA has agreed to include such aviation self-critical data analysis in the overall protections contained in the air carrier voluntary disclosure program (AC 00-58). This program protects records submitted to the FAA by airlines from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The FAA recognizes that such disclosures would interfere with the FAA’s ability to collect such information in the future and therefore impact aviation safety efforts. However, courts have gone both ways on this issue when the self-critical analysis privilege is raised in defense of refusals to provide information in litigation.

CASS: FAR 121.373

The continuous analysis and surveillance system (CASS) has been around for a long time and requires airlines to manage and run a program that contains monthly maintenance meetings that cover every aspect of the maintenance and operations facets of the airline.

The FAR states: “Each certificate holder shall establish and maintain a system for the continuing analysis and surveillance of the performance and effectiveness of its inspection program and the program covering other maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations and for the correction of any deficiency in those programs …”

By itself, this is no small task. It requires a department or group of people to daily track maintenance effectiveness, discrepancies, and inspection programs and prepare a regular monthly report for submission to management and FAA inspectors.

This mandated safety program is probably the single most successful one of all and it has been spelled out in the FAR for many years. FAA inspectors are encouraged to attend the meeting and review and discuss the monthly report prepared by the CASP staff at the airline.

Other safety reporting requirements

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