A ‘Performance-based’ regulatory and oversight approach, which focuses on desired, measurable safety outcomes, rather than prescriptive processes, can become an important tool to manage and enhance safety in view of the expected significant growth in air traffic.
While a performance-based approach can improve safety, it can also pose new hazards if implemented or overseen inadequately, if perceived as a means to save money and resources, or if allowing for any kind of de facto industry self-regulation. The financial sector, the oil-drilling or the nuclear industries have shown the potentially disastrous consequences if things go wrong.
Hence, a careful, gradual step-by-step approach – with regular feed-back loops – is required to safely transition from a Compliance-based prescriptive scheme to a Performance-based approach. It must be acknowledged that a number of – and possibly even a majority of – stakeholders/users, including national oversight authorities may not be able to transition to such a scheme any time soon or even at all.
This is why a Compliance-based prescriptive scheme must remain in place in order to set a floor of sufficient, clear and strict standards for all stakeholders. In fact, the Compliance-based and the Performance-based approaches are complementary; they should not substitute each other but add on an additional safety layer.
A Performance-based scheme can only be considered if the following conditions are fulfilled:
- Better focus on achieving the desired safety performance;
- Improved understanding of risks and clearer identification of the required mitigations;
- More tailored oversight activities that focus on the areas of greater concern or need;
- Efficiency through a better targeting of resources;
- Better legislative adaptability and flexibility;
- Improved focus on the individuals in the aviation system and their role in safety;
- Possibly more active involvement & interaction of all actors in managing the system.
It is to be noted that these potential benefits can only be achieved if a number of steps are undertaken and certain requirements are fulfilled to ensure a proper introduction of performance-based regulation.
The successful implementation of a performance-based system into aviation will hinge in no small part on the ability of oversight authorities, both NAA and EASA, to provide enough and adequate resources and expertise to provide credible, harmonized and effective safety oversight across the industry and across EU Member States. Performance-based regulation and risk-based oversight will also require oversight authorities to manage their resources much more efficiently, as this type of oversight will be more resource-intensive than checking compliance with prescriptive rules.
Performance based regulation will require a totally transparent approach involving all aviation stakeholders. This includes that stakeholders will need to share a common understanding of the principles and ethics that underlie/create a basis of the system as well as ‘mutual trust’ and cooperation among the three pillars of such a system: authorities, companies and (air crew) employees.
Stakeholders need to acknowledge the fact that not all parts of the aviation system will be able – i.e. mature enough – to follow the path to Performance-based regulation and oversight. For this reason a Compliance-based prescriptive scheme must remain in place in order to set sufficient, clear and strict standards for all stakeholders – to ensure a uniform and high ‘floor’-level of safety across the industry.
Those operators/organizations that fulfill additional, higher safety standards and that commit themselves to the additional burdens and controls of a Performance-based scheme may then be granted additional flexibility, subject to strict continuous oversight by the authorities.
In order to obtain and retain these privileges, the operators/organizations will need to demonstrate continuous commitment and excellence, transparency and willingness to improve. These requirements for operators will have to include, among others:
- A Safety Management System (SMS) that conforms to latest industry standards / best practice and that is proven to function throughout the organisation. This should include FRM (Fatigue Risk Management), LOSA (Line Operations Safety Audit), FDM (Flight Data Monitoring), reporting systems and other tools;
- Adherence and commitment to Just Culture principles1 and clear ethical values and a system to monitor and positively influence the company safety culture;
- A pro-active, transparent cooperation and experience sharing and exchange of information with both the oversight authorities and front-end safety personnel, including pilot representatives.
Read more in our "Civil Aviation Legislation & Oversight: Can it guarantee safety?" brochure