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Audit Reports

Date

FAA Is Not Realizing the Full Benefits of the Aviation Safety Action Program

Project ID
AV2009057
File Attachment

On May 14, 2009, we issued our report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). We conducted this audit following a complaint from an FAA inspector regarding the acceptance of a fatal accident into ASAP. ASAP is a joint FAA and industry program that allows aviation employees to self–report safety violations to air carriers and FAA without fear of reprisal. Incidents reported through ASAP by aviation employees are reviewed for acceptance by an Event Review Committee (ERC), which may also recommend corrective actions. Our audit objective was to assess FAA’s implementation of ASAP and identify any improvements that will help FAA to maximize the program’s safety benefits. While ASAP is a potentially valuable safety tool, we found that FAA’s ineffective implementation and inadequate guidance have allowed inconsistent use and potential abuse of the program. Further, FAA has not devised a method to fully compile data reported through ASAP for analysis on a national level. Therefore, little is understood about nationwide trends in the types of violations reported under ASAP, and ASAP reports do not help FAA determine whether systemic, nationwide causes of those violations are identified and addressed. As a result of these issues, ASAP, as currently implemented, is a missed opportunity for FAA to enhance the national margin of safety. To realize the full benefits of ASAP, FAA must improve the program in the following areas: (1) revising ASAP guidance to clarify which incidents should be excluded from the program, (2) emphasizing to employees that ASAP is not an amnesty program, (3) clarifying the ERC’s authority and role in ASAP and ensuring ERC members are unbiased, (4) requiring inspectors to examine repetitive reports of ASAP–related safety concerns and enhancements to ensure effective corrective actions, and (4) developing a central database of all air carriers’ ASAP reports that FAA can use for trend analysis at a national level.

Recommendations

Closed on
No. 1a to FAA
Revise current ASAP guidance to exclude accidents from the program.
Closed on
No. 1b to FAA
Clarify what constitutes an "intentional disregard for safety."
Closed on
No. 2 to FAA
Require that FAA representatives on ERCs receive ASAP reports in a timely manner and concurrently with other ERC members.
Closed on
No. 3 to FAA
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.
Closed on
No. 4 to FAA
Revise its ERC training to emphasize the need for FAA's ERC members to remain impartial and require periodic refresher training in this area.
Closed on
No. 5 to FAA
Clarify FAA field office management responsibilities to ensure personal relationships between inspectors and airline personnel do not influence decision-making.
Closed on
No. 6 to FAA
Standardize current ASAP guidance regarding quarterly report submissions and ensure they include, at a minimum, summary information regarding the ASAP reports submitted.
Closed on
No. 7 to FAA
Require inspectors to examine repetitive reports of safety concerns and enhancements to ensure that corrective actions are completed in a satisfactory manner.
Closed on
No. 8 to FAA
Develop a central database of all air carriers ASAP reports that the Agency can use for trend analysis at a national level.