December 11, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

Confession is good for the soul and it’s good for aviation safety. Volunteering to the community that you screwed up gets the problem out where all can look at it and work on future prevention. Several airlines have recently canceled their voluntary safety reporting programs, known as ASAP. On the face of it, it appears that management –union relations have gotten so toxic that they just can’t accept the greater good that comes from letting someone off the hook in exchange for getting safety data that might well prevent a major mishap.

As in all these situations, there is truth on both sides with bad actors and vindictive players. It’s time for some leadership to get beyond self interest and focus on the greater good. GA has our own version of this, NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which allows anyone to point out a safety defect that they observed or may have caused. If there was a violation and the FAA found out about it, they could pursue it but they could not inflict punishment, such as suspension. There is no continuing get-out-of-jail free card here. You can only use the “waiver-of-sanction” deal once every 5 years.

Every pilot should be familiar with this program– I’ve used it a number of times myself. ASF receives regular reports from ASRS on problem areas and we often take action to see that a particular problem is taken seriously by those in a position to do something about it.

Fortunately, ASRS is very much alive and well, even as various ASAP programs fall victim to internal politics. Bottom line: the management, unions and FAA need to get ASAP working again – ASAP!

Epilogue to Verify, Verify, Verify : You’ll recall we had a really close call in Allentown, PA where a RJ nearly ran down a Cessna that had not cleared the runway. I got a nice note from reader, James Marshall, who felt that I was a bit tough on the RJ crew for “Apparently not visually scanning the runway prior to takeoff.”

He had some additional information. “They in fact did, but were unable to clearly distinguish many of the runway features due to the presence of emergency vehicles at the far end of the runway working an accident and the associated scene lighting which significantly reduced their ability to see to the middle of the runway.” It’s a good reminder that there are often confounding circumstances, another link in the accident chain, that provide additional incentives to verify when anything is out of the ordinary. It also points out the hazards of the before-the-fact analysis that I sometimes do and it’s appreciated when someone has factual information to clarify misconceptions.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • david hanst

    I agree with your assessment of the loss of the ASAP program at American Airlines. Sadly, political posturing resulted in the termination of the ASAP program. Our management felt that not including language that allowed the use of discipline for instances labeled as “reckless” in their minds was unacceptable. Just as our union, who started this program, felt that including such language, that was not present in the mechanics ASAP, was not justified.

  • http://AOPA Charlie Julius

    I know this is the wrong place to respond to Steve Fuller and AOPA’s position on bail out money, but I can’t seem to find a place to voice my opinion anywhere else on this web site.

    How in the world can AOPA spend so much time and energy fighting congress to stop excessive user fees and fuel taxes on GA then turn around and stick their fingers in the socialist pie. Do you really think AOPA can have it’s cake and eat it too?

  • Crawford Parr

    I’m sorry to hear ASAP is no longer available to American Airlines pilots. I’m happy to report that it is alive and well in Alaska amongst a growing group of commuter airlines. I’m on the event review committee at a small 121 operation; Frontier Alaska and am a strong believer in the value that the program brings to aviation in terms of increased safety through the highlighting of various crews’ mistakes, and the huge relief the immunity brings to the repentant.

  • Bruce Landsberg

    Crawford, It’s not getting any better – USAIR just terminated their program – Thanks for your comments…Bruce