Taking on the Challenge

Earlier this year IATA (International Air Transportation Association) launched an aggressive Ground Damage Prevention Program with the goal of reducing the cost of damage in 2004 by 10 percent and a five-year goal of halving the staggering US $4 billion annual cost. This program is a part of IATA’s six-point Safety Strategy and fully complementary to another key part of that strategy, IOSA — the IATA Operational Safety Audit Program.

Combined developments in safety data management, safety training, cabin safety, cargo safety, safety auditing and infrastructure safety have already contributed to a marked improvement in the industry’s safety record. However, despite the fact that the year 2004 was the safest ever in aviation history and we have seen a 35 percent reduction in the accident rate over the past ten years, August 2005 saw a spate of aircraft accidents placing under pressure IATA’s target of a 25 percent reduction in the accident rate by year-end 2006. This underlines the fact that we cannot allow complacency to creep in to aviation safety, either in the air, nor on the ground.


IATA is taking on the challenge of reducing the cost of ground damage on the ramp, which currently amounts to US$4 billion per year industry-wide. The magnitude of the ground damage problem indicates clearly that action is needed and like all IATA Safety activities, the action will be data-driven. The first step therefore will be to develop a worldwide database to identify and address air-side safety shortfalls as well as providing tools and expertise to assist airlines and ground service providers in improving airside safety management. The program will also assist airlines in ascertaining ground damage expenses to ensure the quick recovery of uninsured costs. To achieve the goal, industry collaboration is essential.

Reducing ground damage requires standards, measures and more transparency to understand the causes. Today there are varying definitions of ground damage and different ways of evaluating it, and ground handlers do not openly share data. We need to convince airports and ground handlers to work together. With that in mind, IATA outlined the program at the IATA Ground Handling Council (IGHC) meeting in Bangkok this past May which brought together more than 600 delegates from around the world, of which two thirds were ground handlers and one third were airlines.

The resulting dialogue has laid a foundation for a number of further steps. The CEOs of ground handling companies now know that they need to prepare today if we are to meet our goals and reduce the industry cost. IATA will work to establish a collaboration model with the International Aviation Handlers Association (IAHA) to contribute ground damage data.


IATA is also meeting with airlines that strongly support the Ground Damage Prevention Program to validate what it has in its Safety Trend Evaluation, Analysis & Data Exchange System (STEADES) by comparing its data with that of the airlines on ground damage.

A system that collects data from participating airlines to identify accident precursors and improve airline safety, STEADES contains the largest pool of de-identified safety incident data in the world.

IATA’s benchmarking efforts will give the industry more harmonised standards and definitions and a standard reporting protocol and format. Once achieved, this would lead to the development of a real-time global database that provides up-to-the-minute reports on ground damage causes, trends and steps to better prevention.

Another key goal is to work with airports and vendors where there is a lot of ground damage and try and find out why it is so prevalent. To that end IATA will conduct Ramp Safety Audits and SMS audits for several airlines to identify areas in which significant rapid improvement may be achieved.

Once up and running a certification scheme in line with Ground Damage Prevention Programme principles could be developed similar to the current valuable audit and registration process for airlines provided by the IOSA program.

There is no doubt the goals of the Ground Damage Prevention Program are aggressive. But with US$4 billion in annual industry savings at stake, the business case is compelling. With industry cooperation and determined effort by airlines, ground handling companies and regulators, these goals can be achieved.