Looking for the Big ASAP Success Story

In only four years, since October 2008, the total number of ASAP reports is about 220,000, and has been increasing by 20 percent annually.


“Show me the success story for FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program and other such safety initiatives.” I receive that request from senior management of both the commercial and government sectors. I recently made the promise to find the examples and document the “big stories” that demonstrate the value of ASAP. That search opened my eyes!

For review, ASAP is a formalized voluntary reporting process that permits an employee to report an observed safety hazard or a personal action/possible error. ASAP is primarily used at large maintenance organizations or airlines. However, ASAP could be implemented into a smaller maintenance organization or flight department. For most reports the employee is protected from punitive action from the company and from the FAA. Using a pre-agreed upon process the voluntary report is reviewed by a committee of three, including a representative from company management, the work force, and the FAA.

ASAP has provided companies and the FAA an expanded awareness of safety hazards that otherwise would have gone unreported. For those involved with ASAP, they don’t need the big story to see the value. To get the “big story” I went to the ideal information sources; companies and workers using ASAP and to the FAA parties responsible for the program.

Ask FAA about ASAP

I started my information quest at the FAA. I work there and knew it had the big picture and a lot of data. FAA’s Voluntary Safety Programs Branch (AFS 230), headed by Inspector Chris MacWhorter is responsible for the program. There are more than 250 active ASAP programs in the U.S. The participants include pilots (oldest and largest group), maintenance and engineering, cabin, and dispatch. In only four years, since October 2008, the total number of ASAP reports is about 220,000, and has been increasing by 20 percent annually. There is also a relatively new ASAP derivative used by controllers in FAA’s Air Traffic Organization. By numbers alone ASAP is a success. It is obvious that the FAA numbers are important but more information was needed to show the big ASAP success story. My information search continued.

Ask industry about ASAP

There are 74 active maintenance and engineering (M&E) ASAP programs. I asked a group of M&E ASAP participants to help me tell the “big success stories.” One large air-carrier ASAP leader was slow to offer the big stories. Instead, he invited me to their bi-weekly ASAP event review committee (ERC) so that I can choose a “big story.” I said yes, expecting a meeting of one or two hours. Instead, I received a very formal information packet and a formal agenda for a five-hour meeting, with a 30-minute lunch break.

The meeting participants included the required ERC group of three people representing management, work force, and the FAA. There were also representatives from corporate safety, government affairs, and quality. There were telephone participants from key hubs. The Director of Safety reinforced corporate commitment to ASAP by attending some of the meeting. The ASAP ERC meeting was a significant financial and intellectual investment in safety.

Each event was presented by a worker or management representative. All presenters had the professional demeanor and fact-based precision of a trial lawyer. There were questions and enlightened discussion from everyone in the room and on the phone. Everyone involved had maintenance credentials and experience. The group members voiced opinion about the possible intentions or actions of the employee.

In every case, there was an equal focus on the employee and on what the company could have done to prevent the event. Most importantly the group documented actions to prevent a repeat of the event. In some cases, where an employee violated company procedures and FAA regulations, there was carefully deliberated action taken. In most cases the event was “accepted” as a legitimate ASAP reportable event. In all cases, the company and the employee remediation was documented, with a deadline. Everything was recorded in a well-designed data base projected on two large screens in the room.

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