According to a May 14, 2009 Memorandum released by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (“OIG”), the FAA “is not realizing the full benefits of the Aviation Safety Action Program.” The Memorandum explains the results of the OIG’s audit of the aviation safety reporting programs (“ASAP”) at several Part 121 air carriers. (An ASAP is similar to the Aviation Safety Reporting Program established for non-Part 121, general aviation operations).
An ASAP allows aviation employees of Part 121 air carriers(pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, dispatchers etc.) to self-report safety violations to their air carrier and the FAA, including violations of the FARs, without fear of reprisal through legal or disciplinary actions. The purpose of an ASAP is to obtain voluntarily reported safety information to proactively prevent accidents and incidents.
The OIG found that the “FAA’s ineffective implementation and inadequate guidelines have allowed inconsistent use and potential abuse of the program.” It also determined that the “FAA has limited the program’s effectiveness because it has not devised a method to fully compile data reported through ASAP and analyze these data on a national level to identify trends.” As a result, the OIG observed that “ASAP, as currently implemented, is a missed opportunity for FAA to enhance the national margin of safety.”
In order to maximize the safety benefits from ASAP, the OIG recommended that the FAA:
1. Revise current ASAP guidance to exclude accidents from the program and clarify what constitutes an “intentional disregard for safety.
2. Require that FAA representatives on ERCs receive ASAP reports in a timely manner and concurrently with other ERC members.
3. Modify Advisory Circular 120-66B to clarify that ASAP is not an amnesty program and that employees submitting ASAP reports are subject to administrative action by FAA and corrective action by the air carrier.
4. Revise its ERC training to emphasize the need for FAA’s ERC members to remain impartial and require periodic refresher training in this area.
5. Clarify field office management responsibilities to ensure personal relationships between inspectors and airline personnel do not influence decision-making.
6. Standardize current ASAP guidance regarding quarterly report submissions and ensure they include, at a minimum, summary information regarding the ASAP reports submitted.
7. Require inspectors to examine repetitive reports of safety concerns and enhancements to ensure that corrective actions are completed in a satisfactory manner.
8. Develop a central database of all air carriers’ ASAP reports that the Agency can use for trend analysis at a national level.
The FAA concurred with seven recommendations and partially concurred with Recommendation 1. The OIG then concluded by requesting that the FAA reconsider its position regarding the part of recommendation 1 related to excluding accidents from ASAP reporting and by accepting the FAA’s planned actions and target dates for recommendations 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 pending completion of the proposed actions.