Aviation safety can be taken to new levels, says Gilberto López Meyer, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Safety and Flight Operations

Fifteen years after the first IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), the program has grown in scope, participation, and recognition.

This has allowed IOSA to become the perfect complement to State safety oversight programs. The IOSA standards are derived from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and recommended practices, but they do not necessarily conform in their entirety. States are allowed to file differences from ICAO standards, which is where IOSA comes in. Because the program addresses airlines and not the State, it has the flexibility to account for these differences while still being fully aligned with ICAO.

So, for example, when there is an assessment of a State’s regulatory effectiveness under the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP)—which necessarily includes airlines, airports and air navigation service providers—that assessment can perhaps concentrate more on carriers that are not on the IOSA registry. Thus, ICAO provides a top-down safety process while IOSA works as a bottom up process.

It makes sense, therefore, for more regulators to look to IOSA as a critical contributor to aviation safety. The numbers make the argument compelling. In 2017, airlines on the IOSA Registry were nearly four times safer than non-IOSA airlines (0.56 vs. 2.17 jet hull losses per one million flights).

Even so, the levels of maturity and excellence that IOSA has achieved are just the beginning. There are 430 airlines (280 IATA Members, 149 non-members) from 137 different countries on the Registry with more joining every year. Importantly, close to 35% of IOSA-registered airlines are not IATA members. These airlines are not obliged to be in IOSA, but nonetheless clearly find great value in the program. IOSA has become a global standard, recognized well beyond IATA membership.

In 2017, airlines on the IOSA Registry were nearly four times safer than non-IOSA airlines (0.56 vs. 2.17 jet hull losses per one million flights)

However, the drive to further improve safety carries IOSA forward. Continuous improvement of the program is, and must be, the imperative. This has led to the development of the IOSA Digital Transformation project.

Each audit generates a massive amount of data, but the process of managing that data is currently being done manually. In effect, analyses and the resultant enhancements come about through a reactive process. Under Digital Transformation, IOSA will become more proactive and predictive.

Being able to employ automated advanced business analytics will bring a wealth of benefits, including better management of resources and an enhanced level of quality assurance.

Digital Transformation will turn IOSA into a collaborative platform that concentrates its benefits and value. IOSA stakeholders and users will be able to interact with each other seamlessly on industry safety initiatives, standards and operational practices.

The audit program processes will be digitally remastered, making for a more effective overall process from start to finish.

Digital Transformation will result in drastic changes, and the collective mindset will need to change accordingly—at IATA as well as at airlines, auditors, and regulators. The trust and integrity IOSA has built up over 15 years will be the platform for that change. IOSA is a hallmark of airline safety and that will continue to be the case as the bar is pushed ever higher.