In an effort to gauge interest, the FAA is asking Part 135 certificate holders to signal their willingness to establish an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) for their company.
The objective of an ASAP is to encourage employees “to voluntarily report safety information that may be critical to identifying potential precursors to accidents,” the FAA said in a January 1 letter to the certificate holders.
“Under an ASAP, safety issues are resolved through corrective action rather than through punishment or discipline. The ASAP provides for the collection, analysis, and retention of the safety data obtained through the reporting process,” the letter said. It requested that Part 135 operators respond with an indication of interest by February 28 to their certificate management team or the FAA Safety Assurance Office that oversees their operation.
Commercial operators can also email the Alaska Air Carriers Association with any feedback they may wish to share about the safety programs.
AOPA Alaska Regional Manager Tom George noted that ASAPs are similar to the Aviation Safety Reporting System—also known as NASA reports—by which pilots and others can report safety concerns, and in some cases, have penalties for infractions deferred.
Citing NTSB statistics, George said Alaska’s accident rate is 2.35 times higher than the rest of the United States, and the fatal accident rate is 1.34 times higher. A characteristic of Alaska’s Part 135 operations is a substantial number of small operators, many with single-engine aircraft and a single pilot operating in remote areas with limited weather reporting, ADS-B ground stations, and other support.
In 2020, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation that called for the FAA to “work with stakeholders that service the Alaska aviation industry to implement a safety-focused working group to review, prioritize, and integrate Alaska’s aviation safety needs into the FAA’s safety enhancement process.”
AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden welcomed the FAA’s action.
“The Air Safety Institute has been encouraging the FAA to implement an Aviation Safety Action Program specifically targeted to Alaskan Part 135 operators, and accessible to small operators,” he said. “We appreciate the FAA’s movement in that direction, and we encourage Part 135 operators of all sizes to respond to the FAA’s survey.”
The Air Safety Institute analyzed NTSB data for 2019 that showed that Part 135 operations accounted for 18 percent of all general aviation accidents and 38 percent of fatal GA accidents in Alaska—a larger share than in GA operations in the United States. Contributing risk elements included dramatic and rapidly changing weather, hostile terrain, and mission pressures on pilots who provide service in remote areas with minimal infrastructure.
George noted that AOPA continues to advocate for additional weather reporting and ADS-B infrastructure in Alaska. Recent FAA announcements “indicate that they are making moves to address those concerns,” he said.