Path To Safer System Must Include Information Sharing

To “speak with honesty and candor” requires understanding the final goal: What must be shared to improve the overall system in a way that promotes safety?

Look around. Where are you? At your desk? Using a smartphone while waiting to board an airplane or for coffee to brew? Did you pick up a magazine in a waiting room before a meeting? Who’s with you? Are you with legislators, regulators, industry colleagues and ARSA’s team? You might be in the nation’s capital at the association’s 2018 Annual Repair Symposium?

Wherever you are, you should join the constant work of pursuing aviation safety (and if you aren’t at the symposium, you can follow along or catch up at How do we chase this lofty aim? Let’s take direction from the “rules of the road” the FAA provides for its regular “InfoShare” assemblies:

The FAA’s rule: “We will work to implement rational solutions to safety issues identified through information sharing.”

The reality: The message for industry members, legislators and regulators is that safety is good business. Open engagement is foundational to aviation safety, but too often we fall short of being truly open. We fear giving away competitive advantage. We fear admitting to a past mistake or oversight. We fear that by speaking up we will reveal more about our ignorance than our knowledge. Whatever the fear is, whatever causes our limitations and closes our mouths, we have to get over it to make each other better—and to make the system better.

With that challenge in mind, the agency’s “rules” issue is the real call to action:

The FAA’s rule: “We acknowledge the level and method of information-sharing rests with the participant; it is expected that each participant will speak with honesty and candor.”

To “speak with honesty and candor” requires understanding the final goal: What must be shared to improve the overall system in a way that promotes safety? After ARSA Executive Director Sarah MacLeod presented a training session in 2014, she received an insightful comment that reflects on our collective work. The thoughts, shared by a longtime aviation safety inspector, should be considered by anyone seeking to “get along” in aviation, particularly with the government:

“I used to think that [ARSA] just . . . took pleasure in slamming the FAA. Now [after participating in MacLeod’s training], I know you take pride in slamming the FAA, but only when [it] need[s] slamming or need[s] to be challenged. But as a result of your work, the giant, bureaucratic organization is forced to do the right thing, and this always yields support to repair stations as well as maintenance airmen.”

If you are with us in the nation’s capital during the symposium, this kind of direct engagement is front and center. There won’t be any “slamming,” but there will be informed expressions of how governments and the industry work together to enhance safety.

Wherever you are, we all must be proactive in this work together. Advancing aviation safety requires direct, honest engagement. On this road, that is the most important direction. 

 Brett Levanto is the vice president of communications for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.


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