Since that historic day in July 2008 when a Midway ATCT (MDW) air traffic controller filed the first Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) report, Voluntary Safety Reporting Programs (VSRPs) have taken off for NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
ATSAP, which began as an 18-month demonstration project, was developed during a very contentious labor/management period. It became the first collaborative effort by NATCA and the FAA and has grown into the largest VSRP in the world, generating over 160,000 reports since its inception.
The foundation of a robust VSRP is to provide a non-punitive environment where employees are free to report mistakes or instances of non-compliance without fear of reprisal or discipline. This was quite a cultural shift back in 2008, but has now led to a healthy learning culture through the implementation of recurrent training, Partnership for Safety, and monthly ATSAP and Confidential Information Sharing Program (CISP) discussion sheets. This new working environment is one where employees who share issues and recommendations voluntarily has positively impacted the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) by providing invaluable data that had never been captured before.
The success of ATSAP for employees engaged in air traffic activities was the impetus for NATCA seeking expansion of VSRPs to other bargaining units it represents. ATSAP-X, a program for NATCA Engineers and Architects, was the next initiative, where reports concerning system/equipment/facility designs have led to system improvements.
Federal Contract Tower (FCT) employees represented by NATCA are now able to participate in a program known as SAFER-FCT to address issues and concerns they have for operational improvement. In addition, NATCA bargaining unit members in the Aircraft Certification Directorate have a program as well, called the Safety Reporting Program (SRP).
Participating in a VSRP is one thing, but what about tangible results? Funny you should ask…
There have been over 185 formal Corrective Action Requests (CARs) issued from the VSRPs to address serious system safety concerns, of which 112 have been closed/resolved. The remainder are in various stages of resolution. There have been at least 805 systemic positive changes that have been developed from voluntary reporting and informal changes taking place at FAA facilities at various levels are constant and numerous. In addition, information from NATCA VSRPs helps to develop recurrent training curricula, as well as contribute to the development of the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Top 5.
But that’s not the end of the story.
In 2010, CISP was developed to share ATSAP reports with airline Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) reports. The intent of the initiative was to provide a more comprehensive view of events occurring throughout the NAS by including both pilot and controller perspectives. What began with sharing reports with one airline – United – has now grown to over 28 participants and has shared over 98,000 reports.
Also since 2010, NATCA has been a member of the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program, which compiles and analyzes additional sources of safety data from commercial carriers and general aviation.
All of the data collected through VSRPs has contributed to the safest 10-year period in U.S. domestic aviation history, but we know there is more work to do. Voluntary reports are crucial to keep this safety record growing and improving, so we ask, “keep ‘em coming!”