ATO Safety Management Conference

A focus on the current dispute in the USA between the FAA and NATCA. Both sides are in constant dispute. This weeks case study shows the FAA's grasp on the current situation. A Speach made by Robert A. Sturgell in Atlanta which is available to view below.
Good morning, and thanks, Tony [Mello]. Let me start out by talking a bit about where we are as an agency. Weve taken some hits lately as a result of the actions of a very few people who didnt do their jobs. Weve all seen pretty clearly that just one pebble can create a ripple that can put the entire system in check. Thats why in addition to the discussion about safety management systems today, Im asking you to ratchet up your own levels of personal accountability. Personal integrity is the one thing that no one can give you and no one can take away. Its all yours. Having spent time with the ATO as your acting COO, I know that this room is filled with professionals for whom safety is always job one. Im asking you to continue to model that behavior. Im asking you to make sure that you convey the message to our newer hires just entering the workforce. By and large, the FAA has a workforce thats not shy about expressing opinions. Thats a good thing. But no matter where we agree or disagree, we need to make sure everyone understands that integrity is indeed the long pole in the tent. Make sure that they know that doing the job, sharing safety information, keeping professionalism front and center that theyre all part of what it is were paid to do. Keep the safety issues separate from the other issues, and work together to resolve them. Respect each others opinions. Know that sometimes people will disagree with the final decision. As public servants, were held to a higher standard. The thing that Ive come to value most about the FAA is that by and large, we do hold ourselves to the highest standard out there. Thats why were the world leader in safety. Thats why the New York Times just last week called us the model for safety and regulatory compliance. In a separate article in that same paper on that same day, the talking heads who love to criticize said that the FAA needs to be taken apart and put back together. That would in effect be taking apart the safety system thats the envy of the international aviation community. Ive learned to take much of that rhetoric with a grain of salt. Im encouraging you not to be distracted or demoralized by press clips that sensationalize, or people for whom the glass is always half-empty. The bad actors will be addressed, but I want you to continue to do your jobs the best way possible, to uphold the highest standards. We would not have achieved the safety record we have today without our workforce having a foundation of honesty and integrity. But we also cannot be complacent. Always work for continuous improvement. With that said, we need to embrace safety systems. Without a doubt, Im convinced that the future of safety is to be found in safety management systems. Theres absolutely no question that if were going to advance, were going to have to let data drive us. As far as aviation safety is concerned, data is the coin of the realm. We collect the data and follow where it points us. With all of the technology we have on the table, the days of depending on anecdotes are done. Theres a reason why weve invited 2152s and technicians and engineers, and every other series you can think of. We need to make sure that the ATO intensifies its role in the safety management culture. As Ive said before, SMS isnt something you pull off the shelf when the need arises. Its got to be maintained. Its got to be ingrained. Safety management systems give you many data points from which to draw conclusions to help you make decisions. There are lots of times in our lives where we move forward with life decisions, career decisions, based on one piece of information, often a single piece of anecdotal information. I want you to think about a guy named Jimmy Morris. He was a pitcher who blew out his arm just before making it to the big leagues. Ten years later, the high school team he coaches is pushing him to try out one more time. Except Jimmy doesnt think he has what it takes. Lets watch this clip. [The Rookie] There you have it. Because he was basing his course of action on a single data point, an anecdotal slice of information that wasnt quite right, Morris was about to throw away a chance at the major leagues. The rest of the story, much to the pleasure of the people who make movies, is that he does try out. And when the scouts with accurate radar guns show him at 96 and 97 and 98 miles an hour, well, even at 35 years old, he gets the chance to make it. And he does. Operating without an SMS can put you in the same place. SMS gives you a fuller picture. It provides you with intelligence before a problem starts. SMS takes small pieces of data and helps you rack and stack what might seem like minutia. But when you put it all together, the individual puzzle pieces form a different picture altogether. Even with air carrier accidents that have dropped by about two-thirds in the last dozen years a fatal for every 4.5 million departures we need safety management systems to take us to the next level. SMS helps us keep our eye on the ball every single day. We need to identify potential hazards and then analyze the risk levels they present. Then we rank the hazards and assess the risk. Then comes the mitigation options. It is a closed-loop process. Risks are mitigated and mitigations are monitored to provide continuous system safety. Its a structure of voluntary, non-punitive reporting methods set up with an organization to foster safety awareness all across the board. Weve pushed for these across the globe. As the world leader in aviation safety, were setting the same bar for ourselves. The success of this endeavor is up to each one of us and the standards we hold ourselves to.