You’ve probably read in AeroSafety World about the importance of safety data sharing in aviation. This has been a priority of Flight Safety Foundation for many years, and Foundation founder Jerry Lederer spoke of the issue as long as ago as the 1960s.
As the newest leader of this venerable organization, I join my predecessors in calling for increased data sharing around the world.
Aviation professionals understand that data sharing is crucial to the advancement of aviation safety. While data sharing is advanced and robust in the United States, efforts in other parts of the world need our focus. The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) Regional Aviation Safety Group–Pan America (RASG-PA) is leading the way in introducing some of the ideas modeled in the United States through the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST).
With the recent cooperative agreement that the Foundation signed with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, we look forward to increasing our work with RASG-PA and other safety groups to further implement data sharing, using many practices already proven effective.
But voluntarily reported safety data is threatened by outside forces. In 2010, ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission established the Safety Information Protection Task Force (SIP TF) to provide recommendations for enhanced protection of data. Several months ago, the SIP TF completed its work and submitted the recommendations to the Air Navigation Commission.
These recommendations include common-sense protections that would ensure that voluntarily submitted safety data are used for safety analysis and risk management rather than for punitive purposes.
It is time for states to understand the importance of protecting safety data. We’re not trying to protect our own if they have done wrong — all proposals to protect data clearly state that negligent or criminal activity will not be protected from punitive consequences or prosecution. But being able to collect, de-identify and analyze data to better understand risk factors means robust risk mitigation. If you cannot be assured that safety data will not be turned over to an over-eager judicial system, would you voluntarily provide it?
We’ve seen the safety of aviation reach the highest level. Robust data sharing without fear of prosecution must be the norm in the industry to continue to raise the level of safety.