June 18, 2012

NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting Service (ASRS) marked a significant milestone earlier this year, proving its worth to the aviation industry and keeping its promise to exchange vital safety information for anonymity.

In March, the ASRS received its 1 millionth report from an aviation professional who encountered a situation that could affect the safety of others.

“In 1 million reports in 36 years, we’ve never violated the confidentiality of any person reporting,” said NASA ASRS Program Director Linda Connell. “We’re hearing from every aspect of aviation.”

Connell said the ASRS has made vital contributions to safer flight.

“One of the bigger things we’ve done over all these years… is the ‘sterile cockpit’ rule. That rule came out of reports that were being gathered here with this system,” she explained.

Since January, 2011, NASA ASRS has issued 116 alerts to Part 91 operations. Of more than 60,000 reports generated through the service every year, Connell said approximately 26 percent involve general aviation aircraft.

Connell credits much of the success of ASRS with the shield it can provide participants against Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) penalties – in certain, specific circumstances.

According to FAA Advisory Circular AC 00-46D:

The filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. Subtitle IV, or the FAR, is considered by FAA to be indicative of a constructive  attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, although a finding of a violation may be made, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;

The violation did not involve a criminal offense, or accident, or action under 49 U.S.C.;
Section 44709 which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which are wholly excluded from this policy;

The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S. C. Subtitle VIII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of 5 years prior to the date of the occurrence; and

The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA under ASRS.

“This is a strong inspiration to get information in to us,” Connell noted. “It gives the FAA a lot of data and allows for safety improvements. We’re able to alert the nation on a wide number of issues and make changes in a rapid way.”

That wealth of information is at the fingertips of aviation personnel nationwide through alert bulletins, a searchable online database and its publication CallBack.

“If I’m flying to a new airport, I look at recent reports from that area. I can read the charts and guides, but these are real-time examples of problems I might not have known about otherwise,” Connell said.

Pilots, flight crews and mechanics operating new aircraft also benefit from ASRS data, she added. The information can also be compiled into flight and maintenance simulations.