US airline group Airlines for America (A4A) has urged the government to anchor future regulatory change on the findings of operational data in an effort to maintain safety.
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“We operate at a higher level of safety because we have become much better at identifying and managing risk and the demonstrated effectiveness of our safety systems, which gives us the confidence to undertake change, when warranted,” said A4A senior vice president for safety, security and operations Thomas Hendricks, who testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee.
Hendricks warned those involved in aviation safety of the need to stick to this disciplined approach, “We must resist the temptation to tinker with the safety system, lest we disturb what we have accomplished – and the benefits of that to our passengers and crew members.”
The same hearing heard one Department of Transportation official claim that while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains that the increase in operational errors by air traffic controllers is likely due to improved reporting practices, that assertion is not actually based on fact.
“While enhanced reporting has yielded important data on safety issues like operational errors and runway incursions, the FAA will need to ensure that the data are accurate, comprehensive, and effectively analysed to better identify baselines and safety trends,” said the official
Hendricks said a data driven approach improves safety through identifying emerging patterns and allowing the prompt deployment of focused resources.: “Risk assessment has been used in aviation for many years. What has changed since the 1990s is the volume and accessibility of operational data that can be applied to safety issues. Airline safety professionals work in an information-rich environment.
“That means that we now rely on data-driven analysis, which frequently involves the combined scrutiny of the FAA, employees and management. This yields a high-definition picture, if you will, of operating environments and transient events, and thus more refined risk assessments.
“Some of the most effective of these safety-data programmes are voluntary. They are very tangible manifestations of the industry’s willingness to explore new means and develop new relationships within the aviation community to improve safety. In short, a cultural shift has occurred that promotes and enables a higher level of safety.”