The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments and industry to focus on partnerships, data analysis and runway safety in the ongoing quest to make flying even safer. IATA’s Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, made the call in a keynote address at the opening of the IATA OPS Conference, in Kuala Lumpur.
Speaking amid the ongoing search for MH370, Mr Tyler also committed IATA to facilitate a unified industry position on global tracking of aircraft and called on governments to make more effective use of passenger data.
“In 2013, there were over 29 million flights operated on Western-built jet aircraft, with 12 hull losses. That is one accident for every 2.4 million flights and a 14.6% improvement on the five-year industry average. Accidents are rare, but the current search for MH370 is a reminder that we can never be complacent on safety. It may well a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight. But it is already clear that we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way. And it is equally clear that governments must make better use of the passenger data that they mandate airlines to provide,” said Mr Tyler.
IATA says partnerships are driving progress in safety with Mr Tyler commenting: “About 100,000 flights are operated safely each day. Every flight that takes off involves thousands of coordinated actions across multiple businesses and organizations. To keep flying safe, we need not only to understand and work with each other every day. We must also compare notes, collaborate and work together to build the future with a common vision.
“No matter how hard we may compete within an industry sector or how differently we may see the world when it comes to thorny commercial issues, we are an industry that is absolutely unified in its dedication to global standards and safety. That has allowed us to evolve a tradition of transparently sharing information, experiences and best practices to make flying ever safer.”
On the subject if data IATA says effective data analysis is a driver of safety improvements. Historically, the major thrusts for safety improvements have come through the well-established system of air accident investigations. Accident investigation will continue to play a key role in safety, but with fewer accidents, it becomes increasingly difficult to produce trend data which is so important to managing safety.
“By unlocking data from the millions of flights that land safely each year, we can get insights to drive safety improvements even further. This is just one example of the potential for data to underpin safety programs. The way forward is to collect data from as many information sources as possible, complemented with the well-developed analytical tools to unlock critical information,” said Mr Tyler.
IATA has established the Global Aviation Data Management (GADM) project. GADM includes data from over 600 sources, making it the most comprehensive collection of industry information, including the Safety Trend Evaluation Analysis and Data Exchange (STEADES) database, audit data from the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations and the IATA Operational Safety Audit. There are also contributions from many others, including the European Aviation Safety Authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“Together, industry and regulators are on the cusp of a great step forward in how we manage safety. We have talked about GADM for years. Now it is becoming a reality. We need as many stakeholders as possible to contribute their data. An increase in the number of users of the data will transform GADM from insight to real safety improvements,” said Mr Tyler.
IATA says information analysis is driving change in the area of runway safety. Previously, the focus was narrowly on runway excursions. IATA believes that by broadening the discussion to runway safety, we now are looking at the whole runway environment — a perspective that includes air traffic management as well as the airport and airline.
“About a quarter of all accidents over the last five years were runway excursions. But when we take a broader look at the issue, about half of all accidents in the same five-year period are actually in the runway environment. Therefore, it makes sense to understand not only what happened when the aircraft landed, together with data from the air navigation service provider for the conditions of the landing, but also the airport data for the conditions around that runway” said Mr Tyler.
The latest version of the runway risk reduction toolkit was launched in late 2013 featuring this broader perspective.
Turning his attention to the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 Mr Tyler commented: “Speculation will not make flying any safer. We should not jump to any conclusions on probable cause before the investigation into MH370 closes. There are, however, at least two areas of process – aircraft tracking and passenger data – where there are clearly challenges that need to be overcome.
MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight. In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover. Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago and some progress was made. But that must be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” said Tyler.
“In our eagerness to move this along, we must also ensure that prudent decisions are made in line with global standards. This is not the time for hastily prepared sales pitches or regional solutions. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) process is the way to move this forward. I have no doubt that governments are eager to come to a conclusion and take action as soon as possible.
“Industry must – and will – play a role in supporting ICAO in this effort with a united position. IATA will convene an expert task force that will include ICAO participation to ensure that the work is well coordinated. This group will examine all of the options available for tracking commercial aircraft against the parameters of implementation, investment, time and complexity to achieve the desired coverage. This group will report its conclusions by December 2014, reflecting the need for urgent action and careful analysis,” said Mr Tyler.
On the subject of Passenger Data he added: “It is important to remember that airlines are not border guards or policemen. The checking of passports is the well-established responsibility of governments. The industry goes to great effort and expense to ensure that governments have reliable information about passengers before an aircraft takes off (Advance Passenger Information or API). Governments need to review their processes for vetting and using this data, such as Interpol’s stolen and lost passport database. This information is critical and it must be used effectively,” concluded Mr Tyler.