The Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is a voluntary reporting program in which airlines and other Part 121 operators team up with the FAA to enhance flight safety. The goal of ASAP is to detect problems and safety hazards in flight operations before those problems cause an accident.
In the ASAP program, airline employees can submit anonymous, voluntary reports without fear of being reprimanded by their employer, and without fear of being legally implicated by the FAA through their report. Reports remain anonymous and can be paired with data from flight recorders to analyze the entire scope of the situation.
For example, if a pilot witnesses or flies an unstable approach, they can submit an ASAP report. The report will include information about the event which could be valuable to the flight operations department. If there are many unstable approaches reported into a single airfield, for example, the airline can issue guidance or warnings to its pilots, change their policies regarding approaches into that airport to reduce the risk of error for future pilots, and inform the FAA or any unsafe operational hazards in that particular airspace.
Years ago, before ASAP programs came along, pilots were reluctant to share information like this for fear of being disciplined or penalized for their actions. With many pilots and institutions on board with the ASAP program, safety reports have become more common, giving the FAA and air carrier operations data needed to assess risk and prevent accidents.
With data from onboard flight recorders, air carriers can also analyze actual aircraft data to monitor trends, flap or gear over-speed events, overweight events, etc. This program, called FOQA (flight operational quality assurance) at some airlines, complements the ASAP program. It gives the airline another method of finding and fixing problems before they occur, and, more importantly, before an accident occurs.
How It Works
- First, safety data collection methods and program details are agreed upon by the FAA and the carrier involved. An MOU is created to define the scope of the program between each party.
- Employees and company personnel are trained in how to use the system best to ensure privacy, anonymity, and safety.
- An event review committee (ERC) is formed, which consists of at least one member from each party (the carrier, the FAA and potentially a pilot union, etc.)
- An ASAP manager (not on the ERC team) will review reports, enter data to be analyzed, and send appropriate reports to the ERC.
- The ERC will review reports, determine if there are problems or potential problems, and make recommendations.
Which Reports Are Not Accepted
Not all ASAP reports are protected from punitive action. Employees that show an intentional disregard for safety, purposefully and knowingly cause problems, or are involved in criminal activity will be dismissed from the ASAP program. If necessary, the FAA will follow up with an independent investigation and legal action where appropriate.
That ASAP program initially had its share of troubles, with airlines backing out, citing trust issues between the companies and its pilots. Still, at least 95 air carriers are involved in the ASAP program. Many of those airlines have also extended their ASAP programs to maintenance personnel, dispatchers, and flight attendants.