Independence Day and the Importance of Systems Safety

Five years ago, FAA Deputy Director John Hickey spoke to ASA about the importance of systems safety.  He explained how we can achieve success in a system, and how the system can maintain success even in the face of change.  In the context of a safety management system, the system allows the personnel to change, without undermining the safety expectations of the system.

The elements of systems safety have come under fire, recently.

For example, you can see articles written about the need for the FAA to eliminate the designee program.  Articles suggest that it reflects an abdication of the FAA’s safety duties; but I have seen one excellent article explaining why the program works, and what we need to do in the future.

The designee program has been moving to a more systems-oriented focus for decades, now, with a emphasis on organizational designees (ODA).

The core of systems safety is creating systems that manage compliance and manage the right processes.  When those processes are incorrect, though, the result can be undesired.  Just as aviation has always sought to gather data and improve its systems, now is a time to continue to improve our systems.

ASA has always been focused on systems safety, with our emphasis on quality assurance systems implemented in accordance with ASA-100 and audited under the ASAAP program.  Distributor accreditation is a systems-based program that was audited by the FAA and found to improve safety in the industry.  Although the accreditation system is voluntary, it has become incredibly successful in the aviation industry because it is so effective in protecting the aircraft-parts-related safety of the aviation community.

On the fourth of July, American celebrates its Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 4, 1776; but Americans point to a later document, the U.S. Constitution, as the backbone of the nation.  The U.S. Constitution became effective on July 4, 1789 – 230 years ago.  It established the system of America’s government.  Some people have posited that it might be more convenient to work outside of the Constitutional system, but that Constitutional system has worked well for America for quite a long time.  And when it has been found wanting, America has amended the Constitution rather than throwing it away.

As we approach the July 4th celebration of American independence, take a moment to think about how we can continue to improve aviation systems safety.

ASA will be examining safety systems as they apply to aircraft parts distribution at the Annual Conference in Montreal on July 14-16.

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. Since 1992, he has represented aviation trade associations and businesses that include aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers, distributors, and repair stations, as well as both commercial and private operators.

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