FAA's New Approach Has Appeal

Data mining, analysis will help push aviation safety to a higher level.

I applaud the Federal Aviation Administration's FAA Safety Team (a/k/a the FAASTeam), which was rolled out Oct. 1, because it represents out-of-the-box thinking. Ask yourself this: When was the last time I spoke the words "safety" and "out of the box" in the same sentence? Too often, our industry watches the same trailing indicators, recycles old approaches, and spurns new technologies. Yet we insist we want better results.

FAA said it seeks a culture change that will take aviation safety to a new level by helping aircraft owners, pilots, and mechanics avoid mistakes that lead to accidents. The keys to the plan are data mining, input from local FAA inspectors, and a change in how the agency analyzes accident data. "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," FAA said in its announcement. "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 managers will develop topics and tasks for use in an annually prepared plan of action, then regional managers and representatives will deliver the safety message to airmen locally. "The coordinated effort of all these FAASTeam members is what will cause the safety culture to tip in the right direction," FAA said.

Will it work? Conventional wisdom might say U.S. aviation safety is already superb and shouldn't be toyed with. I take the opposite view: It's not good enough, and a new approach is the best way to push it higher. For a closer look at how this will work and for updates, visit www.FAASafety.gov.

This column appeared in the December 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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