The White House unveiled a new Federal Aviation Administration program yesterday to give airline pilots and mechanics a no-penalty way to report safety-related incidents and problems.
The Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) is patterned after a successful American Airlines program begun in 1996. It is intended to encourage pilots and mechanics to volunteer information that could help prevent accidents. In return, the FAA and the airline promise not to take action against pilots and mechanics in most--but not all--cases.
The FAA said the program would not cover serious infractions including substance or alcohol abuse, intentional falsification, intentional violations and criminal activity. The FAA also would take action if its inspectors discovered a problem before it was voluntarily reported.
"There is no threat that the company will come back and discipline the employee, and there is less chance the FAA will initiate enforcement action," said Ron McGarry, assistant manager of the flight standards division in the FAA's Southwest region, who has oversight of the American program.
Nick Lacey, the FAA's director of flight standards, said the program is intended to gather information on "day-to-day mistakes" that the FAA would never know about, as well as mistakes that almost happened. He said one example would be a poorly marked runway-taxiway intersection that could lead a pilot to enter the runway without clearance.
It would not cover "buzzing the Statue of Liberty at 300 feet in a 747," he said.
Under the program, a three-person committee made up of representatives of the airline, the union and the FAA would review each report and emphasize corrective action rather than punishment. All information would be put into a database to search for trends or repeated problems at the same location.
Don Carty, chairman of American Airlines, said the American program has been a "huge success" and that "a large number of voluntary reports have been made" that have solved or prevented many safety problems.