|Traditionally, safety investigation boards (SIBs) have revealed those small events that link together to create disproportionate and disastrous effects. Proactive safety (ProSEF) is taking corrective action based on leading safety indicators that fall outside of traditional historical metrics of incident and accident reporting.
We are transforming Air Force safety by studying leading indicators of mishaps, while continuing to investigate trailing indicators as revealed through SIBs. After all, mishap precursors are often detectable prior to mishaps, but often only through concerted (proactive) effort. Historically, we have practiced "active safety," which can be described as managing known hazards. Proactive safety entails searching for and measuring precursors that are hidden or not obvious to all.
Proactive safety is an attempt to systematically and scientifically understand the gap between desired and actual flight performance. Traditionally, we have only understood that gap after the findings, causes and recommendations of a SIB are released. But, why wait for a mishap to occur in order to investigate mishap precursors? To understand the gap between desired and actual flight performance, there must be a continuous exchange of real operational information between aircrew who are embedded in an organizational culture, safety professionals who can detect unsafe trends, and leaders who can implement hazard management and measure the success of their efforts. Proactive safety brings together technology and human ingenuity to analyze and take action on previously undetected or insufficiently assessed hazards.
Over the past 50 years, the aviation industry has developed three key programs for detecting such mishap precursors prior to accidents or serious incidents, and though we are not the airline industry, the initiatives that have proven very successful for civilian aviators can be modified and used in military settings as well. Over a decade ago, the Air Force started analyzing the routine recordings of aircraft data to detect mishap precursors, a program known as Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance (MFOQA). We have 10 Mission Design Series (MDS) currently participating in MFOQA, with more on the way. Three years ago, the Air Force started a program for voluntarily reporting threats and errors to flight operations, an initiative we call Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). We have received hundreds of reports about threats and errors that never would have been exposed otherwise. This past year we started training experienced pilots to fly as jump seat observers to detect systemic safety problems in our operations, a program we call Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA).
Proactive safety programs reach their peak potential for mishap prevention when used together. Each program has particular strengths. MFOQA is excellent at scientifically measuring what is happening. ASAP provides unique insights into why specific hazards exist. LOSA provides a broad-view of cultural and systemic issues that impact flight safety. We currently have several MDS communities using all three programs, which results in a nuanced and in-depth ability to prevent mishaps.
There are two widespread misconceptions about proactive safety. First, though some people think these programs are for heavy drivers only, our F-16 and T-6 MFOQA programs and the F-15 and F-16 ASAP reports provide excellent safety insights. Second, some aircrew members worry that these programs will be used against them. All three programs are non punitive approaches to mishap prevention. The air Force believes very strongly in protecting the identity of participating aircrew and in protecting aircrew from punitive action, except for cases of suspected willful disregard of regulations and procedures.
On this website you will find detailed descriptions of MFOQA, ASAP and LOSA. Each program has provided us with outstanding mishap prevention information. In fact, some of you reading this page may be alive today because of those programs. But we need your input into all three programs and your help to continue growing the programs and saving lives.
Welcome to the cutting edge of mishap prevention. Welcome to proactive aviation safety!