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Performance Success Stories

How the FAA and Airlines Sleuth for Safety

Highlights:
  • The ASIAS system enables users to perform integrated queries across multiple databases, search an extensive warehouse of safety data, and display pertinent elements in an array of useful formats.
  • Voluntarily submitted safety data is key to reducing risk in aviation and is protected from public release.
  • The FAA and the airlines are working on a data fusion capability. The idea is to correlate safety data relating to a particular flight into a “flight story.”
How the FAA and Airlines Sleuth for Safety

NextGen Update

NextGen Implementation Plan (PDF)

System Safety Management
Contains activities that enable development and implementation of policies, processes and analytical tools that the FAA and industry will use to ensure that changes introduced with NextGen enhance or do not degrade safety while delivering benefits.
Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
Addresses ways to leverage emerging technologies, such as satellite-based Area Navigation and Required Navigation Performance, to improve access and flexibility for point-to-point operations.

It’s elementary: you can never have too much data to improve safety, as long as you can make sense of it.

Using the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program, the FAA and the U.S. airline industry aggregate safety information from 185 sources across industry and government, including 46 commercial air carriers and 27 corporate operators. The ASIAS system enables users to perform integrated queries across multiple databases, search an extensive warehouse of safety data, and display pertinent elements in an array of useful formats.

The computer-enabled analysis looks at millions of operations to identify safety issues and trends, as well as to measure the effectiveness of implemented safety mitigations. The results offer a new take on safety issues that often have nationwide implications, beyond a single location or a single airline.

ASIAS also plays an important role in the safety analysis of new NextGen procedures designed with the help of airlines and other aircraft operators to save fuel while reducing emissions and noise.

For example, the FAA has introduced into the National Airspace System (NAS) more than 7,000 Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures, which use satellite-based navigation. With PBN, flight crews use advanced aircraft avionics to operate within tightly contained flight paths. With appropriate design and operations, this type of precise air navigation enhances safety.

“The use of these PBN procedures is expected to increase significantly as part of NextGen, so it is important to understand and mitigate the safety issues and define areas of safety improvement," said Vivek Sood, FAA technical advisor for vulnerability discovery and safety measurement programs.

ASIAS is a jointly led industry and government partnership that got started in 2007. It relies on the principles of using voluntarily supplied safety information in a de-identified, aggregate and protected manner, solely for the purposes of improving safety. Voluntarily submitted safety data is key to reducing risk in aviation and is protected from public release.

“Either party in the partnership could have done part of this by themselves,” said Don Carter, senior manager of safety risk management for Southwest Airlines, who serves on the Issues Analysis Team, an ASIAS governing group. “But this is symbiotic. Neither one of us could have done it nearly as well alone as we could do it in partnership.”

Southwest’s goal is to use ASIAS as part of the implementation of a safety risk management process that can identify and mitigate hazards that exist in daily operations, Carter said.

Now the use of ASIAS data is being expanded and becoming more useful. The FAA and the airlines are working on a data fusion capability. The idea is to correlate safety data relating to a particular flight into a “flight story.”

“It is more than a flight track,” said Scott LeMay, the FAA’s ASIAS program manager. “We will not only know where the aircraft was in space and time, but we will be able to more directly associate pilot and controller reports, weather, aircraft attitude, and system settings on the flight deck, etc. to go along with a safety issue we are studying. This will be accomplished in a uniquely protected environment and results are only available at an aggregate system level.”

To put analysis into action, ASIAS also works with the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), which includes air carriers, industry associations, labor organizations, manufacturers, regulators and air traffic controllers. CAST helped to reduce the fatality risk for commercial aviation in the United States by 83 percent in 1998-2007.

“Once we understand the contributing factors, we work with the CAST team to identify systemic mitigations so that those factors don’t occur — whether they be in procedure design, operational guidance, training or communications,” said LeMay. “CAST monitors the implementation of those voluntary solutions and relies on ASIAS to measure the effectiveness.”

With ASIAS and its partners, safety will continue to improve for NextGen and the National Airspace System.

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This page was originally published at: https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/snapshots/stories/?slide=36