IATA Plans Ambitious Timetable For Global Audit System

IATA Plans Ambitious Timetable For Global Audit System

Development Of Standardized Audit Will Cut Airline Costs

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is making rapid progress in its quest to develop a universal airline safety audit system, an ambitious effort that has been described as the most extensive initiative undertaken by the aviation industry for many years, but one that could save billions of dollars.

IATA is in the process of creating an advisory group, consisting primarily of industry representatives, to guide the creation of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Seven working groups will then be created to draft the required checklist and standards.

In another crucial development, the participation of influential international regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) creates optimism that the standard will eventually win acceptance worldwide, perhaps as early as 2003.

The impetus to create a universal standard began about a year ago, when IATA and the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) decided to work together on the project, IATA Director of Safety Paul Woodburn told World Airline News.

Many in the airline industry have become concerned at the proliferation of safety audits that airlines must carry out every year, and the cost imposed by these audits. Most of the audits are not recognized across borders or by different organizations, meaning that “if an airline completed an audit last week, it may have to do another next week,” Woodburn said.

If the IOSA gains international acceptance, then airlines would receive a certificate that would be valid for one or two years, and during this time it would cover the requirements of all existing safety audits.

The IOSA concept was established earlier this year during joint meetings between IATA and FSF. The two groups agreed that the scope of this audit would include everything that contributes to airline safety performance, from management practices and quality assurance to dangerous goods handling. “The philosophy is to look at all aspects of an airline’s operations,” Woodburn said. “This would be the mechanism by which operators can assure their ability to deliver safe performance.”

In a recent statement, IATA Director General Pierre Jeanniot stressed that his organization is the best equipped to develop the standard. “As an independent international body with global influence, credibility, and access to worldwide technical resources, IATA is well positioned to develop and lead the implementation of harmonized and cost-effective industry-wide operating and audit standards,” Jeannoit said.

Regulatory Authorities Lend Support

The advisory group that is being established will have representatives from all geographical areas of the world, including airlines with extensive auditing experience, and representatives of the major global alliances.

ICAO, FAA, and JAA have agreed to join the group, and regulatory agencies from nations such as Canada, Australia, and Holland have also expressed interest, Woodburn said.

Currently, IATA is “topping up” membership of the advisory group. It has held two meetings so far this year, and another is scheduled for the end of June.

The advisory group will supervise the development process, and will give guidance and advice to the task forces, said Woodburn. Each of the seven task forces will cover a specific subject.

As with the advisory group, IATA is seeking task force members from the airline industry and regulatory bodies. IATA does not have the resources to develop the IOSA itself, so it needs to rely heavily on its member airlines that have experience in auditing. “We need to make sure that people with flight operations experience that are talking about flight operations [auditing],” said Woodburn.

The task forces will eventually produce an audit checklist and a required standard. An audit process developed in the U.S. by the Air Transport Association for the purpose of auditing codeshare partners will be used a starting point, because it is a “very comprehensive document.”

Task force members will table their own respective audit procedures, so that the resulting document would theoretically be more comprehensive than any single audit. This checklist will be used to form the IOSA standard of requirements.

The checklist and required standard represent the first phase of the project, which IATA hopes to complete by early next year.

In the second phase, standards for IOSA auditors will be developed, so that the credentials of the auditors will also be universally recognized, and training curriculums can be created.

International Acceptance Is Key To Success

The third – and most important – phase of the project will be gaining the necessary national and international acceptance of the new audit, and transitioning from existing audit systems to the universal system.

The fact that many influential regulatory bodies are involved at the beginning of this process should facilitate this acceptance, Woodburn said. He believes that the international use of the audit could begin in 2003.

Global acceptance of the IOSA may be driven by industry rather than regulators. One scenario could be that once it has been developed, global alliances could insist that any airline wanting to join would have to undertake the IOSA. This would in turn put pressure on civil aviation authorities to adopt the more comprehensive standard.

Once the standard is recognized and implemented, it will be easier to progressively raise safety performance worldwide by increasing the stringency of the IOSA, Woodburn pointed out.

An international audit would require a new organization to be set up to administer it, said Woodburn. Although IATA would hold records of the audit certificates, the actual reports would be highly confidential and would be stored by the new organization. In addition, this organization would monitor performance of the IOSA and its auditors, as well as updating its requirements.

One audit process that would probably not be replaced by a universal system would be ICAO’s auditing of national aviation bodies to ensure they comply with ICAO standards. Its “top down” review of national bodies would be compatible with the “bottom up” scrutiny of carriers that the IOSA would bring.

In spite of its benefit to industry and the breadth of support it is gathering, Woodburn admits that the task facing IATA is very complex and “a tall order.” Developing the IOSA will be “larger than anything the industry has contemplated in recent years,” he said.

– Adrian Schofield

IATA has divided its standardized audit into seven major areas for development purposes. A task group will be assigned to each topic. The seven areas are:

* Senior management accountability, safety management, quality assurance processes (including emergency response management).

* Flight operations

* Cabin safety

* Flight dispatch

* Ground operations, including ramp handling, cargo, and dangerous goods

* Engineering and Maintenance

* Operational security

Source: IATA

Mushrooming Audits Cost Industry Millions

The introduction of a standardized audit would reduce the number of audits carried out by airlines, which would therefore reduce the cost to industry of the audit process.

The Flight Safety Foundation has estimated that there are currently more than 10,000 audits carried out globally every year.

However, IATA believes that the number of annual audits is far greater – perhaps as high as 70,000 a year, and growing.

Based on that figure, IATA estimates that safety auditing of airlines costs around US$3.6 billion a year.

Costs include sending auditors to the airline, the time involved in report writing, and the hours that carriers have to devote to facilitating the audits.

Realistically, the IOSA will not stop all audit activity, but should cut audit costs substantially, experts say. Even if audits are only halved, the savings would be enormous. >TK

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