The Aviation Safety Reporting System, or ASRS, is a voluntary system that allows pilots and other airplane crew members to confidentially report near misses and close calls in the interest of improving air safety. The confidential and independent nature of the ASRS is key to its success, since reporters do not have to worry about any possible negative consequences of coming forward with safety problems. The ASRS is run by NASA, a neutral party, since it has no power in enforcement. The success of the system serves as a positive example that is often used as a model by other industries seeking to make improvements in safety.
A notable feature of the ASRS is its confidentiality and immunity policy. Reporters may, but are not required, submit their name and contact information. If the ASRS staff has questions regarding a report, it can perform a callback and request further information or clarification from the reporter. Once the staff is satisfied with the information received, the report is stripped of identifying information and assigned a report number. The part of the reporting form with contact information is detached returned to the reporter. ASRS will issue alerts to relevant parties, such as airlines and air traffic controllers, if it feels it is necessary to improve safety. The ASRS also publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting safety issues, and now has an online database of reports that is accessible by the public.
Often, reports are submitted because a rule was accidentally broken. The FAA's immunity policy encourages submission of all safety incidents and observations, especially information that could prevent a major accident. If enforcement action is taken by the FAA against an accidental rule violation that did not result in an accident, a reporter can present their ASRS form as proof that the incident was reported. The FAA views the report as evidence of a "constructive safety attitude" and will not impose a penalty . Immunity can be exercised once every five years, though an unlimited number of reports can be filed.
Due to the self-selected nature of the reports to the ASRS, NASA cautions against statistical use of the data they contain. On the other hand, they do express considerable confidence in the reliability of the reports submitted:
Published in July 2009.
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