FAA extends reprisal-free safety reporting program

Monday - 3/26/2012, 8:30am EDT

David Conley, President, FAA Managers Association

Download mp3

The Federal Aviation Administration has expanded a project that allows controllers who make a mistake to report the incident without fear of instant reprisal.

The Air Traffic Safety Action Program, or AT-SAP, is now in its third year. So far, the program has received 50,000 reports.

"The advantage that we have under the AT-SAP program is the controller's going to be speaking very, very freely about what was going on, what they were thinking at the time, what types of distractions were in the environment. In the past, the controller may not be so forthcoming," said David Conley, president of the FAA Managers Association, in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

The program has forced a culture change among FAA managers, which Conley said "is not easy."

"When managers have been in the system for five, 10, 15, 20 ... I'm going on 30 years already — you become ingrained with a style of management, with a way of dealing with issues," Conley said.

AT-SAP was rolled out very quickly, and the learning curve for managers was slower to catch up to the program's deployment, he said.

Conley said FAA has stepped up training. He said he would like to see the agency continue the training and boost the number of frontline managers at understaffed airports.

Another challenge is the sheer number of report. The program is receiving, on average, 70 reports a day, Conley said. The incidents range from minor transgressions to controller concerns. Most are not "serious safety events," he said. But the number of reports coming in do require people to review, classify and identify trends from these incidents, Conley said.