FAA's transition to a risk-based oversight philosophy is progressing well, but the change remains "in its early days" and the agency is listening to industry feedback as part of making the new approach more effective, FAA Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami said.
Addressing an aftermarket-focused audience at MRO Americas here April 10, Bahrami said improving the new Safety Assurance System (SAS) tool is a particular focus. Rolled out about five years ago, SAS is the primary tool that FAA inspectors use to collect and share data. In theory, the system will help FAA prioritize surveillance based on what's happening at airlines and repair stations, putting more emphasis on certificate holders that show signs of risk, such as inconsistent procedures. But SAS's most important element--data collection--continues to present challenges.
"There was quite a bit of energy around some of the [data collection tools]" at the most recent InfoShare safety lessons-learned gathering, Bahrami said. "We're going to have to go back and take a look at some of those issues."
FAA is still training its workforce on how to use the system, and is learning how to better apply it. "The idea behind the system is good, but we're learning," Bahrami said. "We're still in the very early stages."
SAS is the core of a major philosophical shift that has FAA working more collaboratively with industry on several fronts.
Data-sharing is a major one, and Bahrami emphasized the importance of industry participating in initiatives such as the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing Program (ASIAS). More than 100 operators participate in the data-sharing program, but only two--AAR Corp. and Haeco Americas--are MRO providers. This needs to change, Bahrami said, especially as aftermarket analytics becomes more prevalent, and issues that could affect safety--such as a part failing regularly that could lead to an in-service incident--are unearthed.
While there is more to do, Bahrami lauded operators for embracing the risk-based safety approach. As an example, he noted that the March 9 deadline for U.S. airlines to have Safety Management Systems (SMS) in place passed quietly--every carrier complied. FAA mandated SMSs for airlines in a 2015 rule.