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Aviation Safety, towards a new age

Compliance vs. Performance

By Didier Moraine, ECA Director

Here we are. Safety Management System (SMS) and Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) became a reality on 28 October in every European airline. No doubt that this will be quite a change of paradigm. From the rostering and safety department point of view, it will not be sufficient anymore to schedule a flight duty within the prescriptive limits. A risk assessment on fatigue will have to be performed for every flight duty in accordance with the Safety Management System procedures.

Welcome to the wonderful and promising world of Performance-based regulation! After the success we know in the financial (sub-prime), nuclear (Fukushima) or petroleum industries (BP), EASA, pushed by the airlines associations, is shifting also to a performance-based regulation.

In a nutshell, it can be defined as a regulatory approach that focuses on desired, measurable outcomes, rather than prescriptive limits or procedures. Performance-based regulation leads to defined results without specific direction regarding how those results are to be obtained. Of course, the current regulatory system will not be replaced tomorrow by a full performance-based environment but forthcoming regulations will rely on the operator’s ability to provide performance measures that ensure an adequate safety risk management. The regulator’s work will also be greatly simplified. The main role of the National Aviation Authority (NAA) will be to periodically audit the operator SMS, and EASA will be responsible for the auditing of the NAA. Therefore, SMS implementation should not been seen as a compliance issue but rather as a performance issue.

This whole system will heavily rely on the good practices followed by the industry and will require a major cultural shift in the NAAs’ work. In crude terms it means less compliance focused ‘auditing’ and more ‘reviewing’ of effectiveness. Without this change, some operators may be tempted to reduce costs by downgrading existing rules, based upon doubtful risk management. As crew representatives, our big challenge will be to figure out how to report efficiently any malfunction or abuse. EASA did not really open the door on this issue...

Tags: SMS, All Airlines, Cockpit Flash

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