Re: URGENT: Information please! Aviation Safety Reporting System

From:         barr@ash.mmm.ucar.EDU (Keith Barr)
Date:         25 Aug 93 02:53:21 PDT
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In article <airliners.1993.558@ohare.Chicago.COM> Pete Mellor writes:
>In his book "Normal Accidents", Charles Perrow refers to an autonomous,
>no-penalty, Air Safety Reporting System managed by the National Transportation
>Safety Board (NTSB) in the US. He cites the existence of this database, and
>its use for early detection of design problems.
>According to John J. Nance, "Blind Trust" (Quill William Morrow, New York,
>1986), p.275, the *Aviation* Safety Reporting System was set up by NASA on
>behalf of the FAA in 1975. The FAA guaranteed immunity to any pilot
>who filed a report on the ASRS, but NASA could manage the system independently
>and additionally guarantee anonymity. Around 1978 the immunity provisions were
>substantially restricted, as a result of a campaign for "pilot accountability"
>by Administrator Langhorne Bond.

The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is administered by NASA for the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  ASRS was set up so a database could
be created that would contain data pertinent to safety in the U.S. Airspace

Pilots, Controllers, and Mechanics are allowed to file ASRS reports on
anything they see/participate in that, in their opinion, affects safety.

I will explain the way the system works from a pilot perspective, because
that is the one I am familiar with.   Lets say during a flight an aircrew
for an airline is on an IFR flight from point A to point B and is given
a clearance to climb from 5000 to FL230.  Passing through FL180 they forget
to reset their altimeter setting to 29.92, and when they level off at
FL230, they are actually at FL235 (FL stands for flight level, by the way,
and FL230 is roughly 23,000 feet above sea level), so they are 500 feet off
their assigned altitude, which is a violation of the Federal Aviation
Regulations.  The controller immediately notices the altitude problem and
tells the pilots that he is showing them 500 feet high.  At that point they
realize the altimeter is set wrong, so they reset it and descend back to

Once on the ground the crew files ASRS reports, with their names, and
a complete explanation of the occurance.  They send these reports to NASA,
who reads the report, and if more information is required, NASA will attempt
to call the pilots involved.  After NASA is satisfied that they have all
the information they need, the portion of the form that identifies the
pilots is removed and mailed back to the pilots.  It is important to note
that the report will not be de-identified if it is reporting an accident,
a willfull violation of the regs, or a transgression of civil law.  In
these cases, the report is immediately forwarded to the FAA.

Since there was a violation of the regs in our little story, and lets just
say the controller was having a bad day, and he decided to report the
occurance to the FAA, who then immediately opens an enforcement
investigation.  If the FAA decides that there was indeed a violation, and
they determine that certificate action is required (suspension or
revocation), the pilots can hand in their identification strip to the FAA
as a "get out of jail free card."  This dis-allows the FAA from taking any
certificate enforcement action, on the basis that the pilot knows he
made a mistake, and had a safety conscious attitude toward the occurance,
or he wouldn't have reported the mistake to ASRS.  Pilots are limited to
using the ASRS escape once every five years, although they are allowed to
file as many reports as they want.

Periodically, NASA compiles reports from the ASRS and reports to the FAA,
making specific comments about the safety of the aviation system.  The FAA
is then allowed to use the information in any way they see fit.

Hope this helps.
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