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ATSAP


The Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) is the non-punitive Voluntary Safety Reporting Program (VSRP) for ATC personnel. It is:

SafetyReporting
  • Based on Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAPs) in place at many airlines for use by their pilots, cabin crew, mechanics, and dispatchers
    • Defined in FAA Order 7200.20A and the ATSAP Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

ATSAP launched in 2008 as a collaborative effort between NATCA and the FAA and was fully implemented in 2010. ATSAP enables air traffic controllers to voluntarily identify and report safety and operational concerns. ATSAP is non-punitive and the data collected is shared between aviation stakeholders through the Confidential Information Share Program (CISP) and the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS). By providing a more complete representation of National Airspace System (NAS) operations, NATCA, the FAA, and participating airlines can more accurately identify potential hazards and develop more robust mitigation strategies.

ATSAP

Below are more detailed descriptions of the ATSAP programs ↓↓↓

ATSAP

ATSAP Overview

The U.S. National Airspace System is the safest in the world. Aviation safety professionals are committed to making it even safer by increasing safety culture through a voluntary confidential non-punitive reporting system called the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP).

ATSAP allows controllers to report errors without fear of reprisal. Safety events are not always near-collisions or potential aircraft accidents. In most cases, they are breaches of procedure or safety buffers that require investigation to determine cause and how to prevent recurrence. The open reporting of safety concerns by controllers and other FAA employees results in an environment where errors are openly reported as never before.

ATSAP also allows controller to report safety problems or potential safety problems. Safety problems are issues at a local, regional, or national level. They are not normally related to individuals and may be determined to be systemic. They may include:

  • Poor airport signage or markings
  • Unsafe policies or procedures
  • Equipment, software, or automation problems
  • Unclear publications used to provide ATC services
  • Traffic management initiatives that don’t address sector needs
  • Airspace configuration
  • Human factors (fatigue, distractions)
  • Staffing issues that impact the safety of the NAS
  • Inadequate training practices

With over 140,000 reports, ATSAP is the largest ATC Voluntary Safety Reporting Program in the world. ATSAP proactively improves the overall safety of the NAS. Each quarter, corrective actions based on ATSAP reports result in an average of 35 improvements in current operations.

NATCA’s collaborative efforts with the FAA to increase reporting through ATSAP and to address safety issues that contribute to high-risk events are essential. Continued collaboration will continue to help NATCA and the FAA develop and implement meaningful strategies to continue to reduce risk in the NAS.

Following an event, or identification of a safety problem, employees can file a report online through the ATSAP website.

How it Works

The Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) helps resolve safety issues that otherwise might not have been identified or resolved. FAA modeled ATSAP after another voluntary safety reporting system used by selected air carriers known as the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). Similar to ASAP, employees are promised that no punitive or disciplinary actions will be taken as a result of reporting errors that could impact safety, provided those errors are not the result of gross negligence or illegal activity.

Reports filed by employees through the ATSAP website are reviewed by ATSAP Analysts, who remove personally identifiable information from the reports, link multiple reports on the same event, and attach other available information regarding the event. Then, Event Review Committees (ERCs) consisting of a member of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) management, a NATCA representative, and a member of FAA’s Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service (AOV) evaluate each report submitted to the program to determine whether it meets the requirements set forth in the MOU between FAA and NATCA. If so, the ERC accepts the report into ATSAP, determines what actions need to be taken to resolve the safety issue, and uses the report to track trends being seen across the NAS.

It doesn’t matter what position you are working, all eligible employees (those at facilities in the program) directly engaged in and supporting air traffic services may file an ATSAP in order to report any air traffic safety event or problem, whether experienced or observed.

Following an event, or identification of a safety problem, employees can file a report online through the ATSAP website.

History of ATSAP

The Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) was established in July 2008 as a voluntary non-punitive reporting program to encourage FAA air traffic employees to report safety events and safety concerns, with the intent of capturing all events that might lead to a breakdown in safety. NATCA and the FAA introduced the system to address systemic safety concerns rather than treat individual errors punitively. It was hoped that it would create an atmosphere where air traffic professionals feel confident that reporting errors will not result in punitive measures. The goal was to increase reporting of safety events and problems so they can be utilized to evaluate, propose, and implement changes to further the goal of risk mitigation.

“The best way to increase safety is to find every error and use this data to increase the safety of the system and, ultimately, the passengers and users of the system,” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said in Congressional testimony on the program.

ATSAP was modeled after the very successful program used for airline pilots, known as the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). Like ASAP, ATSAP created an environment in which employees can report mistakes (operational errors, operational deviations, and other reportable events) to management without fear of reprisal from their employer.

As ATSAP was implemented, the facility operational error limits, or quotas, were removed in an effort to get more realistic and honest reporting. Each facility had a yearly maximum number of operational errors that they were expected not to exceed. A manager’s performance was tied to the number of operational errors as a metric during their performance evaluations. Thus the more reported operational errors charged against a facility, the greater the negative impact on the facility manager’s evaluation and pay. By removing this disincentive to report operational errors, reporting of errors increased.

FAA completed ATSAP implementation at all air traffic control facilities in October 2010. It continues to provide safety data that otherwise would never see the light of day without voluntary participation.

Following an event, or identification of a safety problem, employees can file a report online through the ATSAP website.

What’s an ATSAP analyst?

An Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) Analyst is an air traffic control specialist who applies comprehensive knowledge of air traffic control operations and procedures to classify air traffic events and incidents. Classification is by causal and contributing factors and categories to the analysis of safety events reported through the ATSAP system.

Using their experience as a Certified Professional Controller (CPC) in a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) terminal or en route facility, ATSAP Analysts analyze sensitive data relating to operational errors and deficiencies reported by NATCA members and non-compliance with regulations. ATSAP analysis directly affects the safety of air traffic operations and the National Airspace System (NAS).

ATSAP allows controllers to report errors without fear of reprisal or punitive measures. As part of efforts to enhance the safety culture of air traffic control and meet Congressional mandates, voluntary non-punitive programs have been implemented for the open reporting of safety concerns by controllers and other FAA employees. The result of this has been an environment in which safety events and problems are openly reported, as never before.

Following an event, or identification of a safety problem, employees can file a report online through the ATSAP website.

ATSAP-X

ATSAP-X: In addition to controllers within the ATO, FAA employees from several other bargaining units – such as Engineers and Architects, Flight Procedures Team, and Staff Support Specialists located in the ATO Service Centers – are encouraged to file reports about system design issues that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. Issues include air traffic control system irregularities, airspace design and coordination, STARS/SID conflict with standard operating procedures, equipment issues, flight restrictions, and Federal Aviation Regulations waivers or authorizations.

FCT ASAP

SAFER – Federal Contract Towers (SAFER-FCT): The Federal Contract Towers (SAFER-FCT) Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is an agreement between the FAA, NATCA, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Inc. (PATCO Inc.) and the federal contract tower companies that foster a voluntary, cooperative and non-punitive environment for FAA Contract Air Traffic Controllers to openly report safety events and concerns.

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