Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) chief commissioner Greg Hood says the greater use of data to identify trends will be a big focus in the period ahead.
While the ATSB will continue to investigate major accidents and incidents, there will also be an emphasis on uncovering potential safety issues as part of efforts to be a more predictive organisation.
“To ensure we remain relevant and effective, we will start to refocus our efforts that deliver significant safety benefits to Australia,” Hood told delegates at the Australian Airports Association (AAA) national conference in Canberra on Wednesday.
“We will also seek to improve our efficiency by becoming more data driven. The ATSB has one of the richest national information datasets of all safety-related occurrences in aviation.”
“My goal is to utilise data to such an extent that we continue evolving from being a reactive organisation, to a proactive organisation and ultimately to being a predictive organisation.”
One area of study currently underway that reflected the ATSB’s push to, in Hood’s words “interrogate the data more aggressively”, concerned weather forecasts and observations.
The ATSB study was looking at how the reliability of weather forecasts affected the ability of flight crews to conduct a safe landing.
There have been a number of “unforecast weather episodes” relating to flights into major Australian ports that have led to unforeseen diversions, holding and “in some cases landing below the published minima” in recent times, Hood said.
“By understanding the relationships between weather reliability and aircraft operations, we will be able to essentially predict higher risk time periods and locations and drive down the probability of an accident occurring,” Hood said.
“Our research is seeking to understand how the reliability of weather forecast affects the ability of the flight crew to conduct a safe landing.
“Compared to Europe and North America, weather in Australia is pretty good and the likelihood of an accident happening because of weather conditions unsuitable for landing is much lower but in making it even lower, the probability of a major accident happening reduces considerably.”
Hood reaffirmed the ATSB’s commitment to continue to investigate the majority of accidents and serious incidents involving the travelling public.
“That is in my statement of expectations with the government and this is where there is the greatest risk of loss of life and the greatest likelihood of finding significant safety issues that lead to important safety actions,” Hood said.
Also, Hood said the ATSB would seek to direct investigation, research and education resources towards areas where there was the largest risks to transport safety.
“In doing so we will be more able to selectively allocate our limited resources to investigating those accidents and incidents that have the greatest potential for improving transport safety,” Hood said.
“If there is no obvious public safety benefit to investigating an accident the ATSB is less likely to conduct a complex, resource-intensive investigation.
“There are diminished safety benefits to investigating occurrences where there are obvious contributing factors such unauthorised low-level flying, wire strikes or flying visually into poor weather conditions.
“Instead, educating pilots on the dangers of high-risk activities is where we focus most of our efforts with an emphasis on using social media as a key communications tool.”