International approach to aviation safety

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) ‘s “Global Aviation Safety Plan” (GASP) defines the approach to Aviation Safety agreed by the member states including Uzbekistan and Russia. It expects that by 2025, each member state will have established an effective safety oversight system and have implemented the ICAO State Safety Programme Framework. GASP has a clearly defined framework based on four safety performance enablers:

  • the effective and coordinated implementation of safety management Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs);
  • international and regional cooperation to coordinate the implementation of safety policies, oversight activities and the components of State safety programmes (SSP) and Safety management systems (SMS);
  • investment in maintaining, upgrading and replacing aviation infrastructure as well as in training future aviation professionals;
  • the exchange of safety information to detect emerging safety issues and facilitate effective preventative action whilst ensuring that such information is adequately protected.

ICAO’s GASP is supplement by a number of “Annexes”, including “Annex 8 – Airworthiness of aircraft”, “Annex 17 – security” and “Annex 19 – Safety Management”.  Annex 19  outlines in more detail the requirements for SSPs and SMSs as they apply at national and enterprise level.

EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency is the European Union’s agency responsible for research into and analysis of aviation safety issues, the authorisation of foreign operators, advising the EU on safety legislation, the implementation and monitoring of safety rules, the certification of aircraft and components and the approval of design, manufacturing and maintenance organisations.

EASA too has a systematic approach. Safety, it explains, affects all aspects of aviation: airworthiness (both initial and continuing), flight operations and the licensing of flight crew, aerodromes and the air traffic management and navigation systems. Although, of course, neither Uzbekistan or Russia are part of EASA, airlines operating in the EU are still subject to EASA rules.

EASA’s approach to aviation safety requires at national and all-European level the implementation of State safety programmes based on:

  • the clear definition of policies, objectives and responsibilities;
  • safety risk management;
  • safety assurance using oversight mechanisms, the collection and analysis of data and safety improvement activities;
  • safety promotion based on training and communication.

At the level of individual operators, manufacturers, maintenance and training organisations, airports and support systems, each is expected to have a Safety management system in place based in general on the same principles as those of the State safety programme.

These principles mark a change in approach to aviation safety. The former approach was reactive, based on the introduction of rules and procedures developed from the investigation of incidents and accidents and then the monitoring of their implementation.

This approach had been historically effective with a significant and steady reduction in accident levels over the last three decades of the twentieth century. EASA, in 2014 noted that there had been steady improvement in aviation safety over previous years, but that there was no room for complacency. EASA noted that as “air traffic is expected to almost double by 2030 and the fact that the average annual rate of fatal accidents in scheduled passenger operations in the European Union has remained more or less stable for the past years … new approaches are necessary to complement the existing and successful safety measures in order to drive further safety improvements in aviation”.

Recognising that aviation had become significantly more complex, in part because of the introduction of fly-by-wire systems, demanding that more attention be paid to human factors and the role of organizational processes, EASA’s new approach is holistic, with strong pro-active, evidence-based, aviation safety activities requiring a systematic approach to managing the machine-human-environment relationships found in each of the above elements

In stressing the importance of human factors as the most important enabler of change, the new approach is based on involving staff through their representative organisations, ensuring competence based training for those professionals in charge of delivering safety and in establishing a genuine safety culture integrating effective incident reporting and a “just culture”.

The “just culture” recognises that only a small proportion of unsafe human actions are deliberate and therefore deserve sanctions. It is based on creating an atmosphere of trust in which essential safety information is encouraged whilst drawing a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.