NTSB ADVISORY


                      NTSB PRESS RELEASE


National Transportation Safety Board

Washington, DC 20594

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 19, 2008       




Washington, DC -- The National Transportation Safety Board is concerned

that Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) have recently been

discontinued by some major air carriers.  ASAP, which has been in

existence among many air carriers since the early 1990s, encourages pilots,

mechanics, and flight dispatchers to voluntarily report any safety-related

incidents and, in return, receive immunity from disciplinary action.


These programs identify and correct safety issues before they cause

accidents.  Once the information is reported, a team of representatives

Safety Taking Leave

Since October, the Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP) of American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Comair have all ceased operation. The programs have apparently ceased operations due to a lack of trust in the process. ASAP is an opportunity for members of a participating employee group to voluntarily disclose their mistakes without punishment. While this may seem to be an awfully easy way out, it does come with conditions. For example, the mistake cannot be the result of intentional disregard for safety or intentional violation of regulations. The object is to obtain safety information that might otherwise go undisclosed while having the potential to prevent an accident. This program got its start at USAir in the late 80s and was known as the "Altitude Bust" program.

Labor groups and airlines are accused of letting politics and bargaining get in the way of this very effective way of collecting safety information. The President of the Flight Safety Foundation offered that aviation "safety systems do not belong on the bargaining table." Safety professionals, the acting Administrator of the FAA, and the Vice Chairman of the NTSB all find the cessation of these programs a blow to aviation safety.

Representatives of the Allied Pilots Association (American Airlines) and Airline Pilots Association (Delta and Comair) claim the airlines have punished employees despite their agreements to forgive these errors. The airlines claim they have acted in accordance with the agreements. The agreements, in the form of memoranda of understanding, must be executed by the airline, the labor group being represented, and the FAA. The program may be halted at anytime by any one or all of the participants.

from the airline, unions, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

reviews the information provided and recommends methods to improve

safety.  The success of ASAP has led to recent discussions between the

FAA and the air traffic controllers to implement ASAP.


“The Safety Board is concerned that these proactive, voluntary disclosure

programs, in which pilots, mechanics, and dispatchers become additional

‘eyes and ears’ dedicated to aviation safety, are no longer available at

several major air carriers,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V.

Rosenker.  “ASAP programs are a critical tool for addressing potential

safety issues,” he added. 


In 2007, the NTSB issued a recommendation to the FAA to, “strongly

encourage and assist all regional air carriers operating under 14 Code of

Federal Regulations Part 121 to implement an approved ASAP.”


The recommendation (A-07-11), which was intended to expand the

benefits of ASAP to regional air carriers, has been classified “Closed --

Acceptable Action” based on significant efforts made by the FAA to

encourage the adoption of ASAP.


The Safety Board believes that proactive safety programs, which

encourage voluntary disclosure of safety issues, are crucial to ensuring

aviation safety and identifying problems before they lead to accidents.

Their elimination could put aviation safety at risk.


“The NTSB strongly urges all parties to do what is needed to reinstate

proactive safety programs and keep existing programs viable and fully

functioning,” Rosenker said.