Peggy Gilligan, Memphis, Tennessee
March 29, 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. On behalf of my industry co-chair, Captain Don Gunther, welcome to Infoshare. I’m thrilled to see such a great turn out. So thank you for being here.
We’ve really come a long way over the last few years. We’ve built an effective partnership that’s based on collaboration, cooperation, and the sharing of data. As a result, we’ve made the safest mode of transportation available today even safer. And those aren’t just words – we’ve got the data to back it up.
In 2010, we didn’t have a single commercial passenger fatality in the United States, and last month, the International Air Transport Association released a report that called 2010 the safest year in aviation history for Western-built planes. Certainly, that’s an achievement we all can and should be proud of. But we know we can do better – because we all know we can reduce the risk in air transportation.
As members of the aviation industry, we all share a commitment to make air travel as safe as possible. And we know we can only achieve that by working together. And when I say “we,” I’m talking about every member of this community – I’m talking about the FAA, airlines, manufacturers, labor unions, industry associations, pilots, mechanics, dispatchers, flight attendants, and every other stakeholder.
The bottom line is: aviation safety is a team sport, and we can’t ever take our eyes off the ball. We have to embrace and encourage a culture of continuous improvement. We have to use innovation and new technology to identify and address risks – and we have to keep making air travel safer.
To do that, we have to refine, and wherever possible create, programs and regulations based on lessons learned and best practices. That’s why meetings like this one are so important. They give us the chance to talk about and share valuable safety knowledge from a variety of sources, including the Air Traffic Safety Action Program and Aviation Safety Action Program – ATSAP and ASAP – that encourage air traffic and airline employees to voluntarily report safety-related mistakes or potential problems without fear of retribution.
Being able to share this kind of information helps all of us. It helps us to work smarter, to focus our resources, and to take a proactive approach to safety. And that’s more important today than ever.
We already have about 50,000 flights operating in our national airspace system on any given day, and we expect air travel to continue to increase over the next 20 years. US airlines will reach the one-billion passengers-per-year mark within the next decade.
So how are we going to meet that demand and ensure the safety of the NAS when we’re all facing severe funding constraints and we’re all challenged by already stretched resources? Obviously, we have to find ways to work smarter. We know the days of a “find and fix” approach to safety just won’t cut it anymore. So we’re shifting from analyzing accidents to monitoring NAS operations so we can identify emerging threats before they lead to serious incidents or accidents. And we have a number of tools in place to do just that.
Today, we have 35 member airlines participating in our Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program. With ASIAS, we’re able to gather crucial safety information from a number of data sources. We’re starting to use sophisticated analysis tools to analyze that data to detect trends, identify precursors, and assess risks. And we’ve just scratched the surface. We truly believe establishing the next generation of safety enhancements hinges on ASIAS.
Just as Infoshare is linked to ASIAS for early identification and the deeper study of safety issues, ASIAS is linked to the Commercial Aviation Safety Team. CAST brings together stakeholders to apply data-driven analysis to develop effective mitigation strategies and establish safety priorities. And we’ve made incredible progress – CAST has already adopted 76 voluntary safety enhancements.
Most recently, using the capabilities of ASIAS, CAST members agreed to implement solutions for safety issues associated with Terrain Awareness Warning Systems and Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems.
Let me explain. Pilots and airlines reported that they were getting numerous nuisance warnings from their TAWS. Working together with industry, ASIAS reviewed multiple data sources to get a clearer and fuller picture of the problem.
We fused data from government and industry sources to identify the underlying factors contributing to TAWS alerts. We utilized FOQA data to identify the location of the alerts. Then we analyzed Minimum Vectoring Altitudes – MVAs – in relationship to these alerts. We overlaid radar tracking data from arriving flights. Then we overlaid the terrain database combining, or fusing, it with the MVA and TAWS data. After all of this, we were able to see a causal relationship in the design of MVAs, arrival flight paths over mountainous terrain, and the TAWS software logic that couldn’t be seen from any one data source.
The original data point – the pilot’s reports of TAWS alerts – is just that: a single piece of information. But, fusing the data sources, including the MVAs, radar tracking data, and more, provided a larger picture and a more complete understanding of the issues.
Combining all of this data, we were able to identify needed changes in the way the FAA designs MVAs and vectors traffic. We also identified improvements in the design of TAWS software and much more.
Let me give you another example. Here at Infoshare we heard you were concerned about TCAS resolution advisories. We’ve looked at all major airports where airline concerns were expressed. We literally mapped all of the TCAS RAs over a certain period of time for all of the arrivals and departures at every runway in the United States.
How’d we do that? We used FOQA, ASAP, and radar data. After analyzing the data, we found out that unwarranted TCAS RAs can desensitize flight crews because we’re getting resolution advisories in situations where aircraft are adequately separated in accordance with air traffic control rules and procedures. And aircraft arriving on closely spaced parallel runways under visual conditions may get a TCAS RA even if both aircraft are adequately separated for the arrival.
To address this, we’re studying the cost and the way ahead to reduce TCAS RAs near general aviation aircraft corridors and airports. We’re also looking at the cost and steps to reduce TCAS RAs on parallel approaches. We’re modifying airspace design and air traffic control procedures and implementing new TCAS and NextCAS equipment.
These are just a couple of examples of improvements we’ve made based on industry collaboration, hard data, and hard work. The good news is the process is working. We’re effectively analyzing data, identifying trends, developing safety enhancements that are meaningful to the entire industry, and mitigating risks.
Because, as safety professionals, when we know – because the data tells us so – we have to act. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
We’re no where near understanding the true power of these analysis capabilities. What we do know is that they work. As we continue to expand them, we’ll be able to identify safety enhancements that will benefit the entire industry and, most importantly, make air travel safer for our customer – the flying public. That’s something we can all get behind.
I often say, and some of you in this room may have even heard me say it before, this is an exciting time for our industry. We’re experiencing growth, and we’re meeting new challenges by embracing innovation, creativity, collaboration, and cooperation. We’re learning to work together. And we have the involvement necessary, across our industry, to identify and implement changes that are truly meaningful.
So I encourage you to make the most out of these next three days. Listen to each other. Share your insight, and learn as much as you can.
You’re going to have the opportunity this week to hear your peers talk about their lessons learned and best practices. And you never know when you might hear something that will make that light bulb go off and make you think to yourself, “Yeah, I know exactly what they’re talking about because we’ve had that same problem,” or “I bet what they’re doing would work for us too.”
And that’s what this meeting is all about. It’s about learning from each other so we can all do our jobs a little bit better and provide the safest possible flight every single time.
Because safety is our industry’s priority, I know that’s a commitment we all share. So on behalf of the FAA and, especially, on behalf of my industry co-chair, Captain Don Gunther, thank you for being here and thank you for bringing your unique insight and experience to the table this week.
I look forward to continuing to work with you, to learn from you, and to make air travel even safer with all of you. Thank you.