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