31 Dec 08 Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP)

By Sholnn Freeman Wednesday, December 31, 2008; Page D02 Washington Post Staff Writer

A program that allows pilots to voluntarily report safety lapses without the fear of punishment has remained suspended at three big airlines, even after a push this month by acting FAA Administrator Robert A. Sturgell to get it back on track. Sturgell is trying to break an impasse between US Airways, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines and their respective pilots unions over rules that pilots say could expose them to more disciplinary action. He sent letters this month to union presidents and the carriers' chief executives urging them to resolve their conflicts. On at least one letter, Sturgell scribbled in the margin: "Get this done." "Both sides need to compromise," Sturgell said in a recent interview. "It's very hard to understand, from my perspective, how a program that has been in place for a decade or more, and providing benefits all along the way, suddenly becomes not a good program."
Some congressmen also are demanding action to restart the programs, known as Aviation Safety Action Programs, or ASAPs. Earlier this week, pilots received a letter from Rep. John L. Mica (Fla.), the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, encouraging the sides to reopen talks. "The Aviation Safety Action Program is an invaluable tool in protecting the flying public," he wrote. "In fact, every day this matter remains unresolved places the safety of the aviation passengers at risk."
One option floated this week in Washington involved convening a meeting of union leaders and top airline executives, possibly the chief executives themselves, as a way to work through the impasse. Of the three airlines, only US Airways has reported that it is in active talks with pilots to restart the program. Designed to encourage pilots and other airline employees to voluntarily report safety concerns without the threat of disciplinary action or punishment, American Airlines became the first carrier to institute a safety action program in 1994. Since then the programs have grown to cover dispatchers, flight attendants and air traffic controllers. The FAA currently has 170 agreements in place with 70 air carriers. So far this year, the industry has generated about 50,000 reports, the FAA says. John Hansman, an aviation professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the programs have become increasingly important to understanding aviation safety, especially given the industry's low accident rate. "We are actually in a period when the aviation system is incredibly safe," Hansman said. "As a consequence we have to look for what we call accident precursors -- identifying things that are unsafe in the system before they cause accidents."
Conflicts started to arise in recent years as attorneys and safety officials started fighting over the complicated language of the agreements. The pilots' attorneys say the airlines appear to be seeking language that would give airlines greater ability to reject reports. Union officials have described the programs as priceless because they uncover information that may have never come to light. Some are small, like paperwork abnormalities or training issues. Others draw greater concern such as a pilot landing a plane or crossing a runway without proper clearances.
Under FAA guidelines, inadvertent safety lapses are supposed to be resolved though corrective action rather than through punishment. Pilots say any changes in the agreements' language could leave them exposed to greater risk of disciplinary action. Tom Westbrook, vice president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents the American Airline pilots, said negotiations are at a stalemate. "Nothing is going on," Westbrook said. "We have been making statements in every forum we can to get word to them that we are prepared to meet. If they'd agree to stop disciplining pilots for safety events, then we'd sign the agreement."
On the other side, airlines say they are trying to block changes sought by the pilots that they say would unfairly expand pilot immunity. "We want to achieve protections for our pilots for unintentional acts and unintentional violations," said Billy Nolen, manger of flight safety at American Airlines. "At the same time we want to ensure accountability that if someone commits a willful act, this program doesn't offer them protections." Disputes also have centered on the handling of individual ASAP reports as well as personality conflicts between individuals involved in the process, including FAA personnel. At Delta, which suspended its program in 2006, progress on new agreements for pilots has been slowed by the carrier's recent merger with Northwest Airlines.
The controversies have forced the FAA into action, even though the agency typically tries to stay clear of airline labor disputes. "This is a safety issue," Sturgell said. "It should not be treated by anybody as a labor-management issue."

My recommended solution to this is to place the process into the hands of trained safety program personnel at the air lines, FAA and pilot associations.

Fly Smart,

20 Dec 08 NORAD Roll Out New Santa Tracking Options

Reported first by aero-news.net
external image USAF-NORAD-Logo-0505a_tn.jpg
external image USAF-NORAD-Logo-0505a_tn.jpg
It's that time of year again... and in between monitoring US airspace and keeping an eye on **wayward Russian Bears**, the North American Aerospace Defense Command is again getting ready to track Santa!
The NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Web site went live December 1, featuring fun holiday games and activities that change daily. On December 24, Christmas Eve, NORAD will begin tracking Santa Claus' journey via live video feeds that begin at 3:00 am PST/6:00 am EST.
The Web site, designed by Booz Allen Hamilton, allows fans of all ages to get up-to-the-minute reports and streaming videos from key stops on Santa's trip around the world. Google software will output live images from NORAD's high-speed digital 'Santa Cams,' and Google Maps and Google Earth will follow Santa as he travels around the world.
All of this information is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish -- and new this year, Chinese. In addition, for the first time, Canada Post will partner with NORAD to ensure children around the world can send an email to Santa through the NTS Web site. The NTS program is carried out with the assistance of many corporate partners.
According to a recently article in Scientific American, kids of all ages will also be able to upload their own pictures from around the world, and Twitter from their cell phones about the momentous event.
"We're just trying to give everyone the opportunity to track Santa on Christmas," said Maj. Stacia Reddish, manager of the NORAD Tracks Santa program.
The NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) program began on December 24, 1955, after an errant phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, CO. The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement. The commander who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested -- the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
This began the tradition of tracking Santa Claus, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958. This Christmas marks the 50th anniversary of NORAD tracking Santa Claus as he goes around the world delivering presents.
external image santa1202a_tn.jpg
external image santa1202a_tn.jpg

The NTS program has grown immensely since first presented on the Internet in 1998. In 2007, the Web site received 10.6 plus million unique visitors from 212 countries and territories. In addition, the NTS Operations Center, occupied by 1,012 volunteers on Christmas Eve, answered nearly 95,000 phone calls and received 140,000 emails from families around the world.

FMI: www.noradsanta.org

Fly Smart and watch out for Santa's wake turbulence...he's a Heavy!

19 Dec 08 Just Culture by Sidney Dekker

Professor Dekker gets it, he knows what we need to move a high risk organization to the next level of safety. He has several books out, all of which I highly recommend.

Fly Even Smarter,

Resilience by Professor Sidney Dekker

Fly Smart

13 Dec 08 ALPA Denounces Public Release of Fatal Accident Cockpit Voice Recording

"ALPA president, Capt. John Prater, has condemned the recent online publication of the cockpit voice recordings from the jet aircraft involved in a midair collision that took place more than two years ago. The audio recordings, which were released by the Brazilian prosecutor in the case, can be found in their entirety in the current online edition of a U.S. magazine.
“This type of exploitation is exactly why airline pilots the world over remain adamant that recording devices installed in our cockpits must be protected and kept absolutely private no matter where we fly,” said Prater. “In the United States and Canada, the release of such information by government investigative bodies is strictly controlled by law, but once a U.S. or Canadian aircraft leaves North America, these privacy protections evaporate.”
Professional pilots recognize the safety benefit of the cockpit voice recorder and allow that intrusion into their workplace to advance aviation safety, not to provide fodder for sensational journalism, explained Prater. The release of the audio recording of the final moments in the lives of the Gol B-737 pilots as they struggled to save their airliner and of the conversation of the ExcelAire crew have no place in the news media. Publication of these recordings in any form by the news media should be prohibited by law in every country.
Recent remarks by U.S. NTSB officials suggest that there would be benefit in additional recording capability. The NTSB has made such a recommendation on its list of “Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements.”
“The carelessness of the Brazilian government in releasing these recordings and the tasteless actions of this magazine in making the recordings available online for commercial gain threaten aviation safety and demonstrate once again that the cockpit recordings cannot be protected,” said Prater. “We cannot begin to have an objective discussion about the safety value of recording additional activity in the cockpit until our pilots have iron-clad assurances from the global aviation community, governments, and regulators that such recordings will be strictly controlled and used only for their intended purpose—enhancing flight safety.”
“ALPA maintains that this problem must be addressed immediately. The union recognizes the need to broaden efforts to improve safety data collection but this must be balanced with the need to protect that data from misuse. ALPA has long underscored that other methods of obtaining higher-quality safety data exist without running the risk of egregious violations of pilots’ privacy. Capitalizing on higher-fidelity data recording, capturing the forces exerted on cockpit controls, and sampling greater numbers of flight parameters more often could all help obtain the objective data that would improve accident and incident investigation.
“ALPA calls on the incoming U.S. administration to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization to immediately set strict protections on the release and use of cockpit voice recordings to prevent this type of irresponsible journalism, which seeks to generate profit, rather than to make flying safer for passengers and cargo,” Prater concluded."
ALPA FastRead
Imagine for a minute that this directly affected you or your family, because it does. We need a FAR to protect ALL reporters who voluntarily submitted safety-related information and limit release of collected data, before a discussion even begins on CIRs. The information collection and distribution architecture is outstripping our capability to manage it. We need policy with protections now in our country, to meet the intent of SMS Policy recommended by ICAO. From there we can attempt to influence other ICAO member states.

You can help by engaging your elected representatives in discussion of this important safety challenge.

Fly Smart,

07 Dec 08 Pearl Harbor Day

By RICK MONTGOMERY The Kansas City Star
Two years ago, a waning fraternity of local men who had survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor thought their 65th anniversary reunion would be the last. “We are all getting old now,” Jack Carson of Overland Park told The Kansas City Star at the time, “and it’s almost too much to get anything done.” A boy named Quinn changed that.
Today, Kansas City Metro Chapter III of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association — now fewer than a half-dozen veterans — will gather again for the 67th anniversary at a Mission community center. The task of organizing and promoting the reunion was seized by 13-year-old Quinn Appletoft, a World War II buff who happened upon the group about eight years ago. Last year, he served as master of ceremonies. Recently, he distributed fliers at two Shawnee Mission schools. His fliers read: “We will remember this day with survivors. … You can hear their stories of this tragic day and look at artifacts.” Refreshments provided. Quinn hopes maybe 10 kids will come. “When you have these guys together, what’s cool is they tell their own stories. I think that’s way better than reading out of a textbook,” he said. Across the nation, aging Pearl Harbor veterans groups have begun to fold their collective tents: A Massachusetts chapter of seven active members held its final meeting in June. In Nevada, the Silver State Chapter No. 1 of the survivors association intends to surrender its charter today. But the Kansas City chapter has been revved up by the kid from Mission and by his classmates. “So long as this boy wants to put it on, we’ll go along,” said survivor Edmund “Russ” Russell, 91, of Lenexa. “Anytime I get a chance to talk to kids about Pearl Harbor, well, they seem to get interested.”
Russell, who on Dec. 7, 1941, was an Army Air Corpsman and a butcher in the Wheeler Field mess hall, said it wasn’t difficult to get a rise out of middle-schoolers when telling of Japanese attackers “flying so low you could see the grins on their faces.” That’s Quinn’s kind of stuff. Since he was about 4, he would sit up in bed and gaze with rapture whenever his dad read the Pearl Harbor story from a children’s history book. “Did all that really happen?” Quinn would ask. He never cared much for fairy tales. Quinn was in kindergarten when he and his father, Ron Appletoft, made their first visit to the reunion of local survivors of the sneak attack that hurled America into World War II. “He was so shy,” recalled Dorwin Lamkin, 86, a neighbor of the Appletofts who was a 19-year-old sailor aboard the USS Nevada when the bombs fell. “Quinn was hiding behind his father’s leg!” But by the time the boy was 11, and those white-haired veterans were ready to hang it up, the kid felt ready to help run the show. “I told the guys, ‘What if my son and I did all of the organizing and all you’d have to do is show up?’ said Ron Appletoft, a former Mission city councilman. Last year Quinn pitched the reunion to two sixth-grade classes at Highlands Elementary School, and a field trip was born. “The guys were really energized by that. They decided they wanted to do it again,” said Quinn’s dad. “The key? It was the kids.” In April, the Kansas City chapter lost Charles M. Hine, 88, who had been on hospital ambulance watch when the attack occurred.
With about 900 World War II veterans dying daily, Kacey Hill, spokeswoman for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, said every community could use a Quinn. “Young people need to be going out and finding these veterans,” Hill said. “Nothing will match the stories of people who lived through it. “Very soon, that won’t be available.” This year Quinn and a buddy named Scotty, both seventh-graders at Indian Hills Middle School, have spread the word to their peers. Quinn plans to introduce a new feature at the event, which starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Sylvester Powell Community Center. “I’m going to give a brief history of Pearl Harbor,” he said, still rather shyly, before clearing his throat and launching into it: “It was a surprise attack in the morning…

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send e-mail to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

To all our men and women in the service of our country, Thank You.

05 Dec 08 Suspension of ASAP at AMR and Delta draws criticism

Citing the value of voluntary safety reporting programmes US safety investigators and fellow carriers are urging pilots and management at American Airlines and Delta Air Lines to push labour differences aside and reinstate the initiatives. An Aviation Safety Action Programme (ASAP) is an agreement between an airline labour group, FAA and carrier management that generally frees employees from FAA penalties when they report incidents or safety concerns. American's ASAP programme for its pilots needed renewing earlier this year, coinciding with sometimes contentious contract negotiations between the carrier's Allied Pilots Association (APA) and management. APA suspended the programme, citing discomfort with management's ASAP proposal. Delta pilots suspended ASAP in December 2006, but the Air Line Pilots Association said it hopes to reach a new agreement with management soon.
Today during FAA's 5th Annual Aviation Safety Forum Continental Airlines staff VP of safety Don Gunther characterized ASAP as one of the richest data sources he's seen noting it alerts all parties involved to "what happens and why". Responding to a question about mandating ASAP to remove the programme from the realm of negotiation Gunther says that while the agreement among the three parties involved in ASAP is "hard to knock out" it is critical to a functioning ASAP. He explains the pact gives someone who reports a concern or incident the confidence that he or she is truly protected by the programme.
Flight Safety Foundation President William Voss during a speech at the conference on 2 December had strong words for ASAP restoration. While acknowledging there are two sides to every story Voss says "I couldn't care less about either. Safety systems do not belong on the bargaining table. Management and labor have to resist using these systems as a bargaining chip both publicly and privately". Pointing out that two US airlines among the largest in the world have ASAP programmes suspended, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt says the reasons for the suspension need to be put aside and pilots and management at those carriers need to move beyond them.
Source: Air Transport Intelligence news

Fly Smart (and share your good ideas with NASA ASRS),

02 Dec 08 William R. Voss Keynote Address FAA International Aviation Safety Forum Washington, DC

Given the events of the recent few months and the past weekend, it might seem hard to remember how our purpose in being here today stacks up against a number of crises. Does aviation safety matter much in comparison? Does aviation even matter? And if they do, how has the picture changed? A year ago, we wondered how we could hold the system together and keep up with the unprecedented growth. As we all returned home, we were confronted with a spectacular rise in oil prices that crippled the aviation industry. Airlines around the world failed by the dozen.
Then, during the last few months, the credit crisis erupted, sending shockwaves through the global economy. Oil reached a high of US$147 in July, only to drop to a low of $49 in November. Add to this all war, unrest and the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai. So, to repeat my opening question: Do aviation, and aviation safety, still matter as much as we’ve always believed, in a world that brings daily threats and shocks?
Yes, they do.
Read the entire external image pdf.png [[file/view/voss_faa_120208.pdf|voss_faa_120208.pdf]]
Fly Smart,