FAA acting Administrator Michael Huerta endorsed the Air Charter Safety Foundation’s demonstration Aviation Safety Action Plan (ASAP) program as “an excellent step forward” in general aviation safety efforts and is encouraging general aviation leaders to participate in ASAP and other safety data-sharing programs that are typically used by Part 121 carriers.

Huerta made the appeal last week during the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) Aviation Business Roundtable, where he also provided an update on the progress of key NextGen initiatives that will directly improve general aviation operations.

Huerta told roundtable attendees that FAA is focused on identifying safety risk, and called voluntary reporting systems “a critical tool” in that effort. ASAPs have long been in place for Part 121 and large operators, but ACSF last summer formally launched a program with FAA for smaller operations. The ACSF ASAP is designed to encourage employees to report safety issues to management and FAA to help monitor safety trends.

“The result is terrific – an abundance of safety information that otherwise would probably not have come to light,” says Huerta, adding FAA is working with participating carriers to determine corrective actions to safety concerns that are raised.

Huerta also urged general aviation leaders to join the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program (ASIAS), in which operators share data more broadly with each other and FAA.

NATA President Tom Hendricks formerly participated on the ASIAS Executive Board when he was in his former role at Airlines 4 America, Huerta notes, and added that earlier this month, FAA, airlines and labor unions partnered with the National Transportation Safety Board to share safety information through ASIAS. “This sharing will help NTSB determine if an accident is a unique event or an indicator of where there might be risks in the system,” he says. The data gathering will also support safety management systems, Huerta adds.

As for NextGen, Huerta says FAA has a goal of publishing Area Navigation and Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance approaches (LPV) for all qualified runway ends by 2016. LPV enables precision approaches to many airports where it was not practical to use ground-based equipment, he says. “Other than approach and runway lighting, LPV does not require radio navigation aids on the ground such as a localizer antenna for an Instrument Landing System,” he says, adding, “These approaches improve safety and access at a substantially lower cost than installing and maintaining an ILS.” FAA has published nearly 3,000 LPV approaches, including at 1,290 airports that don’t have ILS, he says.

In large metropolitan areas, Huerta says its Metroplex initiative is providing benefits to the general aviation community. Under the initiative, the agency is designing satellite-base procedures and separate flight paths for reliever airports. “These paths allow pilots to bypass busy hubs and fly where they need to fly,” he says. “When we deconflict the airspace in urban areas, this helps general aviation traffic, because it creates better access to GA airports.”

FAA is “making progress” in Houston, North Texas, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Central and South Florida, Northern and Southern California, and Washington, D.C., he says, adding more cities will follow.

FAA is taking a more holistic approach to improving these procedures by bringing all the stakeholders to the table to improve air traffic flow around all of the airports in a Metroplex, Huerta says. “The old way of doing business was to improve air traffic control procedures at one airport, separate from the others,” he says. “But we’ve taken a different approach.”