Flight Safety Foundation Assessment Targets Downturn’s Added Risks

Credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) is leading an effort to quantify safety risks that the downturn’s operational interruptions have introduced into parts of the aviation system so industry can adjust long-term safety programs in response to the new issues. 

The special Global Aviation Safety Assessment (GASA) started by assessing regional and country-level programs in place that target generally accepted high-risk issues, such as reducing controlled flight into terrain, in-flight loss of control, and runway excursions. The program then will integrate data from traditional sources, such as safety databases, as well as targeted surveys to help shed light on how the pandemic-related downturn is affecting the programs. 

“The study we are embarking on is going to seek to define where there might be new contributing factors that end up bringing in an impact in multiple [areas] across these accident categories,” Henry Gourdji, FSF’s director, safety strategy and policy, said during the organization’s International Air Safety Summit Sept. 2.  

These new risks could stem from a variety of sources, ranging from states re-prioritizing safety-program resources as part of COVID-19 response plans to personnel issues such as “distraction, loss of well-disciplined behaviors, and effects from personal health and well-being,” Gourdji said. 

Work on the program began about a year ago, said Gourdji, a former ICAO senior executive credited with starting and growing the organization’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP). GASA’s scope focuses on air transport and business aviation flight operations in four growing regions—Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. GASA is working with ICAO, global regulators, and stakeholders such as IATA, regional airline groups, and business aviation associations to establish baselines and identify risks in each region. 

The initial phase focused on defining scope by assessing risks and established safety programs to combat them, establishing agreements with stakeholders, and identifying data sets. Phase two, currently underway, will add data through surveys and regional workshops, and seek initial feedback from stakeholders. The concluding phase will include development of a final report with specific recommendations. Gourdji hopes to have the report ready before ICAO’s Fall 2022 council session. 

“I believe the assessment that we are performing would certainly allow us to address more carefully existing safety risks and emerging issues while factoring in the current disruption, caused by the global pandemic,” Gourdji said. “And of course it’s going to help us lead to mitigating approaches. From there, we believe that there will be real value in creating some form of annual reporting.” 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.