Recent Events, News Coverage, and Aviation Safety

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – As most everyone in the United States who has caught this week’s news is aware, aviation maintenance issues have been in this week’s news. Such events call for immediate resolution of the problem while a detailed investigation by all potential parties works to clearly identify the root cause. Once the root cause is known, the parties take measures to ensure similar events will not occur in the future. This “model” of immediate source identification and corrective action is one of the major reasons for the incredibly safe aviation system we enjoy today. It boils down to a simple concept: in aviation, all events are taken seriously and every event is a learning experience and an opportunity for improvement. In our view, no industry better exemplifies the notion of self-improvement than aviation.

Unfortunately, the necessary and complex investigative process does not necessarily lend itself to the constant stream of the 24-hour news cycle. That is particularly true early on, when facts are simply not available. At that stage, an air carrier will be focused on assembling its internal team to inspect the affected aircraft, review its records, research and document the operating conditions involved, and determine if similar aircraft in its fleet could be impacted. In the latter case, the airline will conduct additional inspections on the potentially affected aircraft to gather more information. During this process, the air carrier may share limited facts that become available along the way, but it will be impossible to definitively state a root cause until the analysis is complete.

Other participants may be limited in what they can say while the investigation proceeds. For instance, the air carrier’s actions may lead it to coordinate with its maintenance provider who will then assemble its own team to further examine the aircraft, the maintenance records, the work instructions, and conduct interviews with maintenance personnel. Due to contractual obligations, the maintenance provider will usually share information directly with the air carrier, without making separate announcements to the news media. Again, the purpose is to coordinate the release of facts as they become available and to avoid drawing inaccurate early conclusions. The same holds true for the aircraft manufacturer or the manufacturer of a component involved in the event. Likewise, although it will have insight into the ongoing efforts, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will refrain from making statements to the news media until the investigation has run its course.

ARSA hopes that, in light of the preceding discussion, it can serve as a resource in this, and any other, aviation event. As described, the parties directly involved are consumed in the investigative process and simply cannot provide detailed information desired by the news media. Although ARSA is not privy to specific facts, it is in a position to provide relevant context without disrupting the ongoing investigation. To set up an interview with an ARSA expert, please contact our organization.

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