Generally speaking, how safe is global civil aviation?

Nikki Limtanakool: At a glance, 2017 was a great year for civil aviation safety. But an analysis of safety data records suggests that, in 2016, the serious incident rate increased by 35% compared with the ten-year average. Moreover, records tell us that many near-misses could easily have developed into full-blown accidents. In short, accident data alone does not depict the true state of global aviation, nor does the accident rate show the risks that the industry carries. In other words, while the number of accidents is low, work remains [to be done].

Accident data alone does not depict the true state of global aviation, nor does the accident rate show the risks that the industry carries.

Why is the ICAO moving towards a performance-based oversight approach?

Given the pressure from traffic growth – which is expected to double over the next 15 years – ‘compliance-based oversight’ (CBO) is not sufficient to maintain the global levels of aviation safety. With CBO, the focus is on compliance with minimum safety requirements. But there are a relatively small number of accidents in the world compared with overall occurrence information recorded. This imposes several limitations on records, notably that they give insufficient insight into risks and hazards before they actually happen. For these reasons, ‘performancebased oversight’ (PBO) has been central to ICAO’s future. Over recent years, regulators have shifted towards this performance-based approach through the introduction of ‘safety management systems’ (SMS), which require organisations to take a systematic approach to identify, assess, and mitigate risks, defined by ‘safety performance indicators’ (SPIs).

Having a robust SMS is vital to this process. How does ASQS’s web-based SMS make gathering data straightforward and effective?

One of the key enablers of effective SMS is structures that allow organisations to systematically collect and analyse safety-related data to identify and mitigate risks, and hazards, to systematically monitor the effectiveness of safety measures against SPIs, and to communicate and exchange safety data, within organisations and to external parties. Data collection focuses on obtaining quality data, which is supported through standardisation of reporting formats and terminology. Data analysis and exchange focus on the processing of collected data.

To support successful SMS implementation, aviation service providers need effective tools to manage large amount of data. An application such as IQSMS – a webbased safety, quality and risk management system – makes data-handling processes simple and effective. For starters, it complies with relevant legal requirements, including ICAO Annex 19, ICAO Doc.9859 and Regulation (EU) No.139/2014. The safety data reported to the system allows for the direct transfer of reports to regulators via the ‘.e5x’ file format, the compliant output file. Second, the application brings SMS best practice to the organisation: it was developed by a team of experts with many years of experience in aviation safety. Third, the application is user-friendly, and supports web and mobile use.

How will aviation safety change in future and what are you doing to prepare?

Technological innovations are expected to disrupt aviation safety. New technologies could lead to organisational, functional or procedural changes. These changes are not necessarily hazards, but might lead to new root causes of accidents. Because of advances in data collection technology and infrastructure, a vast pool of historical data will become available. Future safety gains will increasingly come from the ability to integrate data that is currently kept in isolated silos.

Big data is also important. For example, SafeClouds, a European Commission big-data-based safety research programme, aims to improve aviation safety by leveraging data science techniques. Having a robust system to collect, manage, analyse and monitor safety-related data is therefore more important than ever. To prepare for these disruptive technologies, safety data systems like IQSMS are designed with API-based architectures, which is ready to interface with other systems.