NTSB Expresses Concern as Air Carriers Suspend Proactive Safety Programs

WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Transportation Safety Board is concerned that Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) have recently been discontinued by some major air carriers. ASAP, which has been in existence among many air carriers since the early 1990s, encourages pilots, mechanics, and flight dispatchers to voluntarily report any safety-related incidents and, in return, receive immunity from disciplinary action.

These programs identify and correct safety issues before they cause accidents. Once the information is reported, a team of representatives from the airline, unions, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviews the information provided and recommends methods to improve safety. The success of ASAP has led to recent discussions between the FAA and the air traffic controllers to implement ASAP.

"The Safety Board is concerned that these proactive, voluntary disclosure programs, in which pilots, mechanics, and dispatchers become additional ‘eyes and ears’ dedicated to aviation safety, are no longer available at several major air carriers," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker. "ASAP programs are a critical tool for addressing potential safety issues."

In 2007, the NTSB issued a recommendation to the FAA to, "strongly encourage and assist all regional air carriers operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 to implement an approved ASAP."

The recommendation (A-07-11), which was intended to expand the benefits of ASAP to regional air carriers, has been classified "Closed -- Acceptable Action" based on significant efforts made by the FAA to encourage the adoption of ASAP.

The Safety Board believes that proactive safety programs, which encourage voluntary disclosure of safety issues, are crucial to ensuring aviation safety and identifying problems before they lead to accidents.

Their elimination could put aviation safety at risk.

"The NTSB strongly urges all parties to do what is needed to reinstate proactive safety programs and keep existing programs viable and fully functioning," Rosenker said.