Aviation stakeholders have done a superb job in ensuring that flying continues to be the safest form of long-distance transportation, but there is no room for complacency and coming challenges should not be underestimated.

That was the message delivered during the opening plenary session at the IATA Safety Conference in Dubai, UAE.

Citing the enormous challenges that confronted the industry over the past two years, including a 95% decline in international traffic at the depth of the crisis, IATA’s Senior VP Operations, Safety and Security, Nick Careen said that, “It is a remarkable testament to the quality, processes, and skills of the aviation industry and its people, that the faith placed in our industry to safely transport billions of passengers each year is undiminished.”

Careen pointed to the the safe return of thousands of parked aircraft to service over the past 12-18 months, in spite of significant workforce and supply chain-related challenges, as a singular achievement.

Emirates Airline President Sir Tim Clark agreed, noting that, “We should be proud of what we, as an industry, have collectively achieved…but we should never rest on our laurels.” But he added that “future readiness” concerns him. He identified “signs of an industry failure to provide the right infrastructure for the future. And more worrying, a dearth of leadership.”

In particular, he asked “How can we operate safely if we are not investing in systems, in technologies, in people, and in brick-and-mortar infrastructure?” He also cited the need for support programs to build a pool of skilled aviation workers. And he took aim at “the biggest manufacturers in commercial aviation,” who are “failing to deliver aircraft programs to the standards and timelines expected to replace aging fleets.” He also asked, “How did we end up in shambles at the 11th hour, with the patch work of NOTAMs and AMOCs to deal with the roll-out of 5G telecoms in the United States?”

US Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Billy Nolen cited the value of Safety Management Systems to aviation as he highlighted the need to provide increased support on mental health issues, and cyber threats. He said FAA is eager to expand its safety collaboration with industry.

IATA’s Director Safety Mark Searle provided a summary of the 2022 first half safety data, showing that the positive trend in safety improvement continued. IATA’s three pillar Safety Strategy takes a “holistic approach” to continuous improvement through safety leadership to build a strong safety culture; identifying risks and working with industry to mitigate them, and more active industry engagement, to bring collective industry knowledge, skills, and experience together.

Echoing earlier comments by Careen, Searle also cited the transition to a risk-based model for the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), under which audits will be tailored to each airline’s risk profile.


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