Foundational Knowledge.jpg Nigel Howarth/AWST

Foundational Knowledge

70 years on, Flight Safety Foundation’s work may be more relevant than ever.

Earlier this year, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) released the final report of its six-year Go-Around Decision Making and Execution Project. The report, which was driven by human-behavior specialists The Presage Group, tackled the statistical oddity that only 3% of all unstable approaches result in the prescribed go-around called for in airline SOPs. 

Among the report's more than 40 recommendations is one that has opened some eyes among seasoned flight-operations personnel: Industry should consider changing long-standing go-around policies to make 300 feet above ground level the new “go-around gate,” or point at which an attempted landing is aborted because the approach is not stabilized. Current policies have the gate at 1,000 feet for an instrument approach and 500 feet for a visual approach, so the change is not minor.

Operators are mulling over the recommendation, and at least one large carrier is implementing it. The report outlines the pros and cons, which focus on risk-reduction and myriad observations gleaned from years of research and input from more than 40 airlines, manufacturers, regulators, and other industry stakeholders. 

While the specifics make for informed reading, a major takeaway is the value that such exercises bring to an industry shifting its safety-improvement DNA reactive to proactive.

Many aviation organizations—regulators, accident investigative bodies, universities, industry associations, and even companies—produce valuable safety studies that aim to drive change through analyzing data, spotting trends, and communicating best practices. While aviation professionals profess a lack of bias when it comes to the industry’s most important tenet—safety first—most of the organizations that produce reports are, by definition, not independent. They represent one country, one set of stakeholders, or one group’s point of view. FSF is one of a select few that can truly claim zero inherent bias: it has members from around the globe, in multiple aerospace disciplines, including operators, OEMs, airports, MRO providers, and more. (Its newest membership category is unmanned aircraft systems, and it has multiple takers.)

As aviation pushes the safety bar higher, the need to collaborate across borders, cultures, and points of view will only grow more relevant. FSF, which marshals working groups that expand its skilled staff of about two dozen, is a prime example of the type of organization that industry needs to succeed at making safety proactive. Its work provides qualitative context that dovetails with quantitative insights; data-driven risk-reduction strategies need both to thrive. FSF has developed standards for contracted operations and toolkits for some of industry’s most nagging safety issues, including improving pilot monitoring skills and reducing approach-and-landing accidents.

"There’s more demand" for FSF’s extensive safety study efforts "than there is capacity,” foundation President and CEO Jon Beatty acknowledges. “We really have to keep an eye on priorities and manage our bandwidth.”

Still, FSF presses on. Now it its 70th year, Beatty says the organization that pioneered the accident investigation workshop as well as the concepts of confidential pilot-safety reporting and collecting and distributing aircraft malfunction reports is eyeing other areas where it can make a difference. The more it finds, the safer aviation will be.

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