Meet the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention
By Tom Hoffmann, FAA Safety Briefing Magazine Managing Editor
This issue provides loads of helpful safety tips and accident mitigation strategies. But did you know that there is an FAA team tasked with collecting and analyzing accident data to identify trends and help drive creation of these corrective measures? They are the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention (AVP). Their mission: To make air travel safer through investigation, data collection, risk analysis, and information sharing. Let’s meet the team.
AVP comprises four divisions, each with unique duties supporting its safety mission.
The Accident Investigation Division provides the FAA’s direct link to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) during major or significant aviation accident investigations.
A duty officer is on call around the clock to respond to accident and incident notifications. Investigators keep a “go-bag” packed and ready to launch with a moment’s notice.
While the NTSB conducts investigations to determine probable cause and contributing factors, the FAA conducts a parallel investigation that supports the NTSB while also identifying risk in any of the FAA’s nine areas of responsibility. These include performance of FAA facilities or functions, competency of the airmen involved, aircraft airworthiness, adequacy of regulations, and whether any regulations were violated. If the investigation uncovers systemic or critical risks, AVP has the resources to influence an immediate fix within FAA before waiting for the final report from the NTSB.
Next up is AVP’s Safety Analytical Services Division. This group focuses on analyzing and sharing accident and safety data. They provide in-house safety analytics; safety metrics; manage programs like Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS), Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), and the General Aviation Activity Survey; and collaborate with safety teams like the General Aviation Safety Joint Safety Committee (GAJSC). The division also closely supports InfoShare, an aviation safety conference that promotes open discussion of case studies, best practices, and solutions for safety-related issues.
AVP’s Safety Analytical Services Division also manages the FAA’s Safety Community of Interest — Safety Data and Analysis Team (SDAT). SDAT’s primary purpose is to enable objective, data-informed risk-based decision-making across the FAA and its affiliates. This division also uses predictive data analytics to proactively identify and act on emerging safety risks.
AVP’s Safety Management and Research Planning Division is the lead for safety management across the FAA, spearheading the U.S. State Safety Program (SSP), the FAA Safety Management System (SMS), the AVS SMS, and AVS Safety Culture activities. The team facilitates stakeholder collaboration across the agency and within industry to conduct safety risk assessments, identify hazards, mitigate risk, and promote safety. They provide policies, guidance, tools, and training to conduct safety management and safety culture activities. Through the SMS and an enriched positive safety culture, this team enables the FAA to use safety data to target areas of greater risk. AVP also advises and collaborates with ICAO on international standards for safety management and safety culture initiatives. The division’s Research, Engineering, and Development Team manages research that helps develop and/or update FAA safety regulations, standards, and guidance.
Finally, the Management Services and Recommendations Division provides management support and manages FAA safety recommendations programs. Encompassing multiple program areas — including HR, training, and budget — the Management Services Branch helps get the right people and resources to perform AVP’s critical safety missions. The Recommendations Branch manages FAA responses to NTSB and FAA Safety Recommendations, which include FAA employee submissions, responses to the NTSB, and those from foreign civil aviation authorities. Incredibly, this team has made tremendous progress during the pandemic in closing NTSB safety recommendations, as they continue to focus on communicating the steps the FAA has taken to enhance safety.
Since safety culture influences the effectiveness of SMS, ultimately driving safety performance, AVP is a key player in the work of promoting a positive safety culture throughout FAA. All of AVP’s directorates contribute to this important work.
“We focus on learning, flexibility, and open communication,” said Executive Director Kimberly Pyle. “To drive down the accident rate, we must learn from the past, leverage and share the data we have to make changes and take action so that we can all better manage risk moving forward.”
Learn more about AVP at bit.ly/FAA-AVP.
Tom Hoffmann is the managing editor of FAA Safety Briefing. He is a commercial pilot and holds an A&P certificate.