By: Scott “Gripper” Brenton, NUAIR Security Chief
At NUAIR, we believe that safety is not only a core competency, but we also see it as a competitive advantage for our operations. Our team of professional airmen and support personnel work hard to establish and maintain a safety culture that meets or exceeds industry and FAA standards.
As part of this ongoing mission, we believe it is important to share some exciting changes that many UAS operators may not yet be aware of:
NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) now has a category for unmanned aircraft!
For those who may not be familiar with it, NASA created ASRS in 1976 to address the lack of a consolidated system for reporting and collecting data on aircraft incidents and accidents. That year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) established the ASRS to collect, analyze, and respond to voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident reports to reduce the likelihood of aviation accidents.
ASRS receives, processes and analyzes incident reports voluntarily submitted by pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians and others. The reports, which can be submitted online through the NASA website, can describe both hazardous occurrences and hazardous situations. Information is gathered from these reports and disseminated in various ways to all stakeholders.
A key aspect of ASRS is that it is voluntary, confidential, and not punitive.
The objectives of NASA’s ASRS are to:
- Identify gaps and discrepancies in the national airspace system, with the aim of improving the current aviation system.
- Provide data for the planning and improvements of the future national airspace system, with objectives to improve the human factors research base and provide recommendations for future aviation procedures, operations, facilities and equipment .
The ASRS program has been a remarkable success over the decades and has arguably led to a decrease in the number of incidents and accidents as well as an increase in the overall safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). in its entirety. From the early days of the program, there were an average of about 400 reports per month. In recent years, the number of reports received has grown at an enormous rate, averaging over 2,248 reports per week and over 8,990 reports per month. The ASRS database now contains over 1.7 million reports.
Over time, a particular challenge began to arise around 2010, when the unmanned aircraft industry began to expand with the proliferation of small, medium and large class unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Not only was the FAA challenged with new UAS concepts regarding rules and policies, but the existing ASRS program had been designed solely around manned aviation reports. A UAS operator wishing to voluntarily report through ASRS would log on and almost immediately become frustrated with the system as the existing categories and fields either did not apply or did not have an equivalent field for piloting unmanned aircraft.
In an effort to address these shortcomings, a group of the Unmanned Aviation Safety Team (UAST), an organization with which NUAIR continually collaborates, took the initiative to lobby NASA, conduct research and, ultimately, to propose changes that would allow the community UAS to better participate in such an important safety program. As a result, UAS safety reports can now be submitted online.
As you can see, anyone, whether a recreational UAS operator, a part 107, part 135 operator, or even a public operator, can file a report. Researchers can also access the ASRS database and filter decades of voluntarily reported data that otherwise might not have been reported in an alternative, potentially punitive, investigative process.
The inherent advantages of this voluntary system have given rise to a wealth of data. Operators can benefit from historical research to simply pull together lessons learned, or in my world, they can work to improve their internal Safety Management Systems (SMS) by pulling together recent data on trends, equipment, policies and other operational considerations.
Screenshots of the NASA ASRS UAS form
The ASRS process begins with an internal review and analysis of all reports which are then filed, reviewed and reviewed for any immediate or critical impact within the NAS. Critical reports can generate a nationwide ‘alert message’ whereby safety information is immediately transmitted to organizations in positions of authority (such as FAA, DOT, NTSB, etc.) for assessment and possible corrective actions. If deemed less than critical, information is still distributed by category for action which could include prompt response, publication in the ASRS database, publication in the award-winning monthly newsletter Recall, or used to generate new targeted studies within research organizations.
As you can imagine, the ASRS model has been replicated internationally in the wider aviation community. The International Confidential Aviation Safety Systems (ICASS) group promotes confidential reporting systems as an effective method to improve flight safety in commercial air transport and general aviation operations.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has revised Annex 13 – Accident Prevention and created Annex 19, Chapter 5, which deals with Member States establishing a voluntary incident reporting system. This international support strengthens global efforts to ensure that aviation safety for manned and unmanned flights meets the highest standards.
At NUAIR, we remain committed to upholding the highest professional standards in air and land safety. We participate in the ASRS program and continue to provide support to agencies such as UAST, NASA, FAA and others. We strongly encourage you to participate as well.
You can help prevent a future UAS aviation incident or accident – use ASRS and fly safe!
D. Scott Brenton
NUAIR Head of Security