Les Dorr, Jr.
Federal Aviation Administration, Washington
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Nov. 9, 2006
NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System Turns 30
WASHINGTON -- NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) recently marked its 30-year anniversary. The confidential reporting system is widely used by pilots and other airline employees to identify potential safety hazards.
Established in 1975 under a memorandum of understanding between NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the system collects, analyzes and responds to voluntarily submitted aviation safety incident reports to reduce aviation accidents and improve safety. The confidential reports are also used to identify deficiencies and discrepancies in the National Aviation System that need to be remedied.
"Since the implementation of the Aviation Safety Reporting System in 1976, more than 474,000 reports have been submitted by pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, flight attendants and other airline personnel," said Linda Connell, director of the ASRS. The system is located at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "Many of those reports have had a direct impact on making the nation's airways safer, and we're extremely proud of that safety record."
"ASRS is an excellent tool that has helped us spot rare and infrequent emerging threats and hazards," said FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nicholas A. Sabatini. "To continue putting downward pressure on the accident rate, we need this kind of information about trends, about precursors, and about what is going on every day in the aviation system."
Over the past 30 years the ASRS has issued more than 2,500 safety alerts to the commercial and private aviation community and approximately 42 percent of the alert recipients have taken action to correct the hazardous condition and improve safety.
For example, in 1978 an analysis of ASRS incident data assisted in the development of new procedures and improved runway and airline taxi marking systems by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board. In 1991, another ASRS data analysis helped in the establishment of additional new procedures and improved runway and taxi marking systems.
In another incident, an ASRS safety alert concerning a passenger's bag in a DC-10 aircraft that was smoldering due to an animal-shaped butane cigarette lighter sparked the FAA to issue a notice to airport security personnel to watch for toy-shaped cigarette lighters.
Data from ASRS has helped lead to revisions in formatting and content of aviation checklists and manuals for flight crews. Thanks in part to safety alerts published by the ASRS, the FAA now requires pre-flight inspections for ice on the outside of the aircraft to reduce the potential for hazardous ice-buildup on wings and other parts of the aircraft.
ASRS safety information also helped the FAA develop new regulations requiring increased separation behind Boeing 757 aircraft to reduce wake turbulence and avoid wake vortices. It has led to new safety regulations governing the use of passenger electronic devices to reduce their impact on aircraft communication and navigation systems, and improvements in runway warning lights and markers.
"The ASRS is the largest repository of aviation human factors incidents in the world," Connell said. "The system has conducted more than 5,800 database searches for government agencies, students, research organizations, aircraft manufacturers and a wide variety of other organizations. We're particularly proud that in the 30 years of its existence, the ASRS has never breached the confidentiality of its reporting system."
Through its Web site the ASRS has provided public access to a wide variety of aviation safety information, publications, database reports, and the confidential incident report forms. The ASRS has become a model for safety reporting systems worldwide and spawned the creation of the Patient Reporting System, among others.
For information about ASRS on the Internet, visit: http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/home
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