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ASAP: more than just another program.


Everyone in naval aviation should be familiar with the Aviation Safety Awareness Program (ASAP). Recent enhancements to the program have sped up inputs and produced better metrics, but in many cases, the power of ASAP has gone untapped. We still have misunderstandings regarding ASAP and its goals.

After two years managing the ASAP program at AirLant, I'd like to clarify some of the misunderstandings.

It's not a magic box. Many squadrons have expressed frustration that the ASAP program doesn't provide the answers needed to address problems. I agree that the program's charts and search results won't hand you a list of problems neatly compiled for review and action, but I disagree that the answers aren't in ASAP. The problem is that users aren't reviewing the reports with a critical eye, looking for threats that need monitoring or immediate action. Reports are reviewed in a timely manner, but reviewers skip over the most important part of the review: determining the hazard and required action.

The FAA equivalent of our ASAP program directs a committee at each airline to review all ASAP reports and determine action. At AirLant, we hold a comparable monthly roundtable for each of our type wings. The goal is to help develop the skills and structure needed in each community to fully exploit the power of ASAP. The response to the roundtables has been overwhelmingly positive. We've seen an increase in identifying and eliminating hazards documented by ASAP. Squadrons and wings are quickly realizing that a review conducted across the entire wing shows surprising trends and similarities in report topics. Hazard identification is more effective when viewed in aggregate.

Take-away No. 1.

The ASAP report review and subsequent actions are essential to removing hazards and reducing mishaps. Aggregate wing-wide reviews are more effective for signaling negative trends.

There's no need to swing for the fences. For some reason, naval aviation has adopted a mindset that unless ASAP can provide spectacular saves, then it's not working as intended. That's wrong. ASAP's successes are rooted in small, incremental advances in safety. Many times the masses are unaware of the hazard or the fix.

I've seen this across all communities. Regardless if it's an unmarked tower removed from a low-level route, improved course rules, or just an advance heads-up of unique airfield issues, few realize that ASAP was instrumental to the action. The process is slow and requires hard work behind the scenes, but it has an undeniable cumulative effect. The organizations within our enterprise that have embraced ASAP have clearly demonstrated that a well-run ASAP program will eliminate hazards one small step at a time, and that can (should) lead to reduced mishaps.

Take-away No. 2.

Although you shouldn't expect the sensational from ASAP, a well-run program will show surprising, workmanlike results.

The trend is your friend. One of the most common pushbacks I receive regarding ASAP is, "We already know about the hazards in ASAP." I agree that sometimes ASAP contains well-known hazards, but many are not documented or tracked. You can't manage what you don't measure. A simple way to find a trend in ASAP is to look for "blooming," or a spike in reporting. Generally, aviators do not gratuitously report, and when there is unusual reporting activity it's a good indication a problem is at hand. The same goes for hazards that are well-known, already have been addressed and the trends noted in ASAP.

ASAP is an excellent way to monitor the mitigation effort. If there is a decline in ASAP reporting on a particular subject, then most likely the fix worked. If the same number or more reports show up, then it's a clear signal to "fix the fix." In every case where ASAP has been challenged because the threat is well-known, no one has been able to deliver precise metrics as to how the mitigation efforts have improved the situation. To discount this aspect of ASAP is ignoring one of the largest benefits of the program.

Take-away No. 3.

ASAP, especially when aggregated at the wing or regional level, is our best resource for quickly identifying hazards and precisely monitoring mitigation efforts.

One of the largest complaints I've heard is that ASAP is unnecessary because we already have many ways to report hazards. That's true, but few have the power of ASAP. Hazreps can be time-consuming and not appropriate for smaller items. Those smaller items reported in ASAP can eventually reach critical mass due to volume, and some commands have used trends established by ASAP as the basis for hazreps. Frequently with ASAP, a fix is in place before a hazrep needs to be released. Naval aviation commonly uses the hazrep system for high-threat hazards, but not for systemic threats. ASAP has allowed the conversion of recorded systemic threats into tangible trends on which to act. In other words, the small stuff (think "leading indicators") that wouldn't make the hazrep cut is now recorded and trended. Those small problems can establish big trends, and it's obvious there is significant benefit in fixing small problems before they spiral out of control. Using leading indicators and taking swift action is why ASAP has succeeded at commercial airlines, and it holds the same potential for us.

Anymouse reports are also referenced as a reason why ASAP is redundant. Unfortunately, anymouse reports are not recorded in a larger database where they can be trended within a T/M/S, geographic area, demographic or other population which may make the data reveal conclusive trends. An anymouse generally stays within a squadron, and the lesson learned from it rarely goes beyond that command. In contrast, the central database and easy access to data searches and charts make ASAP well-suited to widely disseminate trends and information.

The lower volume of hazreps and the limited scope of anymouse programs do not outweigh ASAP's benefits.

Take-away No. 4.

ASAP is uniquely positioned to quickly identify and monitor hazards with better fidelity than any other safety tool available.

As an enterprise, we are just beginning to recognize the potential of ASAP. Some communities have embraced and profited from ASAP. With continued education, improved software and emphasis by our leaders, I'm confident that naval aviation will be well served by ASAP. I'll close with a few bullet points to add to the take-aways:

* A review of reports to determine action is as important as the report itself.

* An aggregate review, such as type-wing review, is even better at spotting negative trends.

* Any review should be periodic and provide a means to communicate findings and actions. (Current CNAL/CNAP policy allows a maximum of seven days between reviews).

An ASAP program without action is like a plane without wings; it won't fly.

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Author:Weidman, Kurt
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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