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The FAA Safety Team Takes Aim at Aircraft Accidents

by Les Dorr, Jr.
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

On October 1, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ushered in a new effort to help aircraft owners, pilots, and aviation maintenance technicians avoid mistakes that lead to accidents. Called the FAA Safety Team, or 'FAASTeam' - the program is devoted to decreasing aircraft accidents by promoting a cultural change in the aviation community toward a higher level of safety.

The Team uses a coordinated effort to focus resources on particularly elusive accident causes. The program features data mining and analysis, teamwork, instruction in the use of safety management systems and risk management tools, and development and distribution of educational materials.

Safety in the Numbers

There's plenty of data available on aircraft accidents, but it's often difficult to determine exactly what the data says should be done to reduce accidents. The FAASTeam is developing a Web-based 'Data Mart' specifically to give each FAASTeam program manager the correct data for his or her geographic area. This will include accident data for airmen who live in one area, but actually had an accident in another area.

This is an important new concept. Previously, accident data was summarized by where the accidents occurred. Programs to address those accident causes were developed and delivered in that area - but many airmen who had the problem, and others like them, were not there to receive it. The FAASTeam will reach these airmen on their home turf, not in the area of the accident site.

FAASTeam program managers are being trained to analyze the data and extract system and human factors problems. The issues identified will be combined with information from local FAA inspectors who certify and perform surveillance on airmen and air operators. Together, the data and information becomes the program manager's 'source data.' They will use source data to develop topics and tasks that will be woven into an annual plan of action.

Regional FAASTeam managers will coordinate and prioritize the actions of their program managers into a cohesive and efficient regional plan. All this effort is designed to make sure resources are devoted to activities that will have the biggest impact on the safety culture and accident rate.

The 'Team' in FAASTeam

Teamwork will allow the FAA to multiply its efforts beyond what the program managers can do alone. The FAASTeam will develop symbiotic relationships with individuals and industry groups that have a vested interest in aviation safety. These individuals, called FAASTeam representatives, will work closely with the program managers to deliver our safety message to airmen on a local level. The coordinated effort of all these FAASTeam members is what will cause the safety culture to tip in the right direction.

Grassroots System Safety

The FAASTeam will bring the concept of system safety to segments of the aviation community that have not experienced it before. Aviation operators such as flight/mechanic schools and repair stations identified to have higher risk levels will be provided with training on how to develop their own safety management systems, including the tools necessary to set up their own system. The FAASTeam will provide risk management training and tools to individual airmen and organizations via live seminars conducted by FAASTeam Members and online training found on the FAASTeam's Web application FAASafety.gov.

Innovation = Behavior Change

The Team is developing new products for airmen and air groups, focusing on showing airmen how they can change their behavior to be consistent with the new safety culture. Many of those products will be developed by working with industry FAASTeam members. Others will come from our National Resource Center, collocated with the FAA Production Studios in Lakeland, FL. This facility can take new product ideas from FAASTeam members and turn them into safety products in a variety of media, which can then be duplicated, stored, and shipped (or beamed via satellite) wherever needed.

Decades of Safety Advocacy

For more than 36 years, the FAA has had a program to improve aviation safety. The effort began as the Accident Prevention Program on June 30, 1970. That program introduced the concept of a joint effort sponsored by the FAA and the aviation community to reduce the aviation accident rate. Over the years, the endeavor evolved into the Aviation Safety Program, and convincingly demonstrated that the general aviation accident rate could be reduced. In the 1990s, the program expanded to include aviation maintenance technicians.

While highly successful, the Aviation Safety Program took a 'shotgun' approach, educating airmen on all types of safety subjects that successfully reduced accidents in the past. But today, the easy-to-fix accident causes have all been addressed. The FAA has created the FAASTeam to take aviation safety one-step further.

Les Dorr, Jr., is a Media Specialist in FAA's Office of Communications.