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Safety Performance Analysis System (SPAS)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

For over 20 years, Volpe has been working closely with aviation safety decision makers in developing and deploying information systems to monitor the performance of aviation certificate holders and aircraft.

One of these multi-year initiatives, called the Safety Performance Analysis System (SPAS), is a data analysis system that collects safety-related performance and operational data from multiple sources, analyzes the data, and tracks the safety performance of air operators, air personnel, air agencies, and aircraft.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors (ASIs) worldwide and analysts use this web-based tool to evaluate current and historical data, pinpoint certificate holders and events with a greater than normal safety risk, monitor trends in safety performance, and quickly detect and address potential problem areas.

The Challenge

The FAA’s mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aviation system in the world. Destination 2025, the FAA’s vision for the nation’s aviation system by 2025, states, “Safety is FAA’s top priority. A forward-looking approach is needed to analyze trends, data, and systems to manage risk before it leads to a future incident or accident.” 

The Solution

To provide aviation safety inspectors and analysts with rapid access to certificate holder information located in key Flight Standards Service oversight programs across the FAA and other government agencies, Volpe has developed an integrated set of analysis tools. These planning and assessment data packages:

  • Provide rapid access to detailed aviation safety data from diverse sources
  • Aggregate and summarize available data
  • Automatically track, analyze, and flag trends
  • Identify potential areas of concern

SPAS enables safety inspectors to evaluate safety risk, develop surveillance plans, assess safety performance, conduct system safety processes, and make oversight decisions about individual certificate holders.

Volpe continues to develop and deploy enhancements to SPAS based on FAA requirements, user needs, and technological advances, providing FAA inspectors with critical analytical capabilities needed to assess the safety performance of certificated aviation operators and agencies.

The Impact

SPAS remains the primary risk analysis and decision-support system for the FAA’s oversight of air operator and air agency certificate holder safety performance. The system is a key component of FAA’s systems safety initiative to improve aviation safety and reduce the number of accidents and incidents.

SPAS helps aviation safety inspectors identify potential problems and high-risk areas by:

  • Flagging situations where performance has deviated from an “expected” state, and automatically alerting inspectors to conditions that suggest or directly indicate a reduced margin of safety
  • Helping inspectors visualize and understand safety performance, trends, and patterns
  • Putting data into perspective, enabling inspectors to get a sense of:
    • How “bad” or how persistent a situation appears to be
    • How one certificate holder’s performance stacks up with that of their peers
    • How one’s current performance compares to previous performance levels
    • How a change in an operational condition (such as an increase in fleet size) may be affecting the ability to conduct safe operations
    • How effective a corrective action appears to be
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