Joint Session (Safety and Security) — August 14, 2008

Sharing Information to Improve Safety Makes Sense
“Show me yours and I’ll show you mine,” was the theme of the Data-Sharing Panel Discussion, conducted with the pooled attendees of ALPA’s Safety and Security Forums. Panelists provided individual presentations and answered audience questions in this segment that highlighted government and industry collaboration.

Peggy Gilligan, the FAA’s deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, discussed the agency’s participation in self-disclosure programs like the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and the Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) Program.

“The FAA remains committed to data sharing,” she said, adding, “Combining information resources will create a more accurate picture of what is going on.”

Using de-identified ASAP and FOQA statistics to detect tendencies and trends has been an important development in improving air transportation safety. Hassan Shahidi, associate director of aviation safety and performance-based services for the MITRE Corporation, talked about the 4 million FOQA reports and 51,000 ASAP reports analyzed as part of the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) System.

Shahidi noted that 12 airlines were currently participating in the program and that MITRE is enhancing its data-management and analysis tools. MITRE is responsible for the developing the ASIAS architecture.

Ken Quinn, general counsel for the Flight Safety Foundation, noted that, in the 1990s, there was a “movement away from automatic suspensions and civil penalties . . . FOQA, ASAP, and VDRPs (voluntary disclosure reporting programs) have encouraged the free flow of information without fear of enforcement action or company discipline.”

Unfortunately, the Comair 191 accident investigation and several international accident investigations have led to a recent regressive movement back toward faultfinding and punishment as a means of deterring future incidents.

Fortunately, not everyone has followed suit. Capt. Bill Yantiss, United Airlines vice president of corporate safety, security, quality, and environment, discussed the success of voluntary disclosure programs at his airline and its participation in ASIAS.

“It’s worth the effort to take the risk to share the data,” he concluded.

The Data-Sharing Panel Discussion was moderated by Capt. Brit Etzold, the Northwest ALPA MEC’s chief accident investigator.

The Work that Still Needs to be Done
Kathy Fox, board member of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, gave a stirring presentation about the Swissair 111 tragedy of Sept. 2, 1998, and the subsequent investigation. The four-year inquiry revealed various underlying failures and contributing factors.

The crew of the MD-11, operating from New York to Geneva, smelled smoke in the cockpit and diverted to Halifax International Airport. Unfortunately, the aircraft experienced a serious systems failure and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of the airport, killing the 229 passengers and crewmembers onboard.

The Board submitted its findings along with 23 recommendations to Canada’s minister of transportation, addressing flammability issues, and in-flight firefighting and recorder proposals. Ten years later, some of these recommendations have been acted upon but others remain outstanding.

“We rely on collaboration with manufacturers, airlines, and regulators,” said Fox, adding that the industry is free to make changes, regardless of regulatory policy. She called for airlines to take it upon themselves to develop new checklist templates, better firefighting techniques, and other measures that will improve operational safety and the likelihood of survival in the potential instance of similar malfunctions.