You can learn more about the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS) on this page and understand the safety priorities and actions for Air Operations at European Level. Of course the next step is to consider how this is relevant to your own organisation.
The biggest question you might be asking right now is, "What are the top risks and safety issues that my organisation should focus on over the coming months?" Of course this is immediately followed by "What actions should we be taking to ensure these risks are mitigated effectively?" For specific safety issues a good starting point is the A-Z Section of the Air Ops Community Site. There you will find lots of useful information on many different topics.
For this article we will focus on the top safety issues rather than the solutions themselves. A major challenge for any organisation is to identify their top risks in the continually changing and evolving environment that the industry finds itself in during this ramp-up phase of the pandemic. The key thing to remember is that the situation is different for every organisation so you need to consider the context of your operations when you do this. Information you get from our EASA analysis, or indeed from anywhere else, needs to viewed from your own point of view.
There are two main sources of information you could use to identify your top risks:
- As a starting point, you can use the Revised EASA COVID-19 Safety Issues Report to understand the typical issues that were identified from EASA's collaborative analysis with industry in the Collaborative Analysis Groups (CAGs).
- As this report is a generic list of safety issues, it is vital that all organisations understand their own specific risks and mitigate them effectively. This relies on reports and information from within your organisation. Staff n all functions and at all levels must be able to feed your Safety Management System (SMS) with information about the different safety issues, risk and challenges they see in day to day operations.
Unless you have a working Just Culture and you encourage open conversations about safety and wellbeing then you will miss out on lots of vital intelligence and information to help keep your operation safe in these challenging times.
The top safety issues identified from the EASA collaborative analysis
The Safety Issues Report covered over 50 different topics and risks that were identified from the work of the EASA Safety Risk Management Section and the industry partners in the different Collaborative Analysis Groups (CAGs). There are 4 key CAGs covering the fixed wing side of things, CAT Aeroplanes (Air Ops), Aerodromes and Ground Handling, ATM and Human Factors.
This analysis is being continually monitored and updated by the teams involved. From the latest analysis, the top safety issues that you should consider against the risks in your own management system are:
- Reduced adherence to procedures in the new working environment: A lot has changed during the COVID-19 Pandemic. As more staff return to work there is a lot for people to remember, in a continually changing environment. One major challenge is to ensure that any procedures in place are still relevant and something people are still able to do. At a practical level it is important that organisations make it as easy for staff to do the right thing and follow procedures. At the end of last year we hosted a videocast/ podcast on this topic, which you can watch on the Conversation Aviation channel here or listen to on Spotify Podcasts here.
- Impact of the pandemic on the ground handling industry: Analysis has shown that the ground handling industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. There are often less resources and less experienced people than airlines and airports may be used to. This makes it important for organisations to work together to help mitigate any risks that may arise on the ramp. Here in the EASA safety promotion team we are working with many ground handling stakeholders to help you understand the key challenges and implement possible solutions. More to come on that very soon.
- Reduced available financial resources: It will come as no surprise that the pandemic has reduced the financial resources available to most aviation organisations. When it comes to your SMS, this is a risk that you need to consider and manage. If there is the need to reduce resources somewhere in the business, you need to talk about that with your staff and take action to cope with. Hoping for the best just isn't an option.
- Shortage of operational and technical staff: A follow on impact of the reduction in financial resources is that for many organisations there is a shortage of staff - again something to consider and manage. Hopefully as operations increase there is will chance to improve the situation and this is another challenge to effectively integrate new staff into the operation, perhaps in numbers that you have never seen before.
- Increase of cyber security issues related to the pandemic situation: While you might be used to considering traditional safety issues within your SMS, analysis has shown an increased risk of cybersecurity issues. This is an emerging risk and EASA has recently started a new Cybersecurity Community to help people who need more information in this area.
- Unusual approach profiles in the pandemic circumstances: The reduction in air traffic during the pandemic has led to various changes in approach profiles. This has led to reports of some challenging or rushed approaches. During the Ramp-up Campaign last year, we specifically focused some guidance on this topic to specifically consider the implications when pilots accept shortcuts.
- Increased presence of wildlife of aerodromes: The significant reduction in movements around airports has led to an increased amount of birds and wildlife that led to an increase in birdstrikes in the summer of 2020. At the same time, the period from Easter to Summer is traditionally the most challenging for this risk so it 's important you pay particular attention to it. We have done a great deal of promotion material on this top that you can find on the Air Ops Community Site.
- Long gap in flying following type-rating training: One of the challenges that has been identified from a flight crew perspective is that for many people there has been a long period of time since their type-rating training. It is important to support all returning staff members to have the skills and knowledge they need to perform their duties safely.
- Reduction in training effectiveness due to COVID-19 restrictions: Another issue associated with training, skills and knowledge is the impact that the various COVID-19 restrictions have had on the ability to conduct effectively training. It is important to consider how staff have been affected at an individual level and do everything possible to address any gaps that exist.
- The scale of aircraft storage and subsequent destorage may lead to technical failures: Many aircraft have spent long periods of time on the ground during the pandemic. The task of bringing aircraft back into service safely should not be underestimated and there is naturally an increased risk of technical failures. Check out the discussion with a number of maintenance organisations on this risk during last year's Ramp-up Safety Week.
- Aviation personnel fatigue: The pandemic has been tough on us all. We all find ourselves in different situations both personally and professionally. When this is added to the operational challenges of the pandemic there is a very real challenge of fatigue and its impact on human performance and safety. For organisations it is vital to manage this risk carefully and for individual's use the resources in the EASA Wellbeing Hub to practice self care as much as possible.