The Future of Aviation — Getting Ready Today for Tomorrow: Safety and Operational

Director General/CEO of IATA Alexandre de Juniac

By Alexandre de Juniac, IATA DG/CEO

I have been asked to share my thoughts on “The Future of Aviation — Getting Ready Today for Tomorrow.” Because of limited time, I will focus mainly on the safety and operational aspects of this subject.

Over the next 20 years, we expect to see a near doubling of air travelers from the 4 billion or so who traveled in 2017. Accommodating this new demand, while also improving our safety and efficiency, will be a massive undertaking. New technologies will present exciting opportunities, but also some challenges, as they always have.

Fortunately, we can rely on some guiding principles developed over a bit more than a century of our industry’s existence:

  • First, we must be safe, and safety must be paramount in everything we do
  • Second, we must continue to rely on global standards and best practices
  • Third, we must approach each challenge with a collaborative mindset, engaging with all aviation stakeholders
  • And fourth, we must take a data-driven approach to improving safety and efficiency

Let’s begin with safety, our highest priority.

We are coming off a very good year. As noted in our just released 2017 Safety Report available on our website, there were no fatal accidents involving jet passenger flights in 2017. This was the second time in three years that we achieved this safety milestone. Furthermore, airlines domiciled in the sub-Saharan region of Africa experienced zero fatal accidents—jet or turboprop—for a second consecutive year.

Globally, the 2017 fatal accident rate was the equivalent of one fatal accident for every 6.7 million flights. If we look at it another way, using fatality risk, on average, a person would have to travel by air every day for 6,033 years before experiencing an accident in which at least one passenger was killed.

Yet there is room for improvement. We experienced six fatal accidents involving turboprops and cargo flights in 2017, and we’ve had three commercial airline fatal accidents so far this year. In addition, we had some well-publicized events in which safety margins were compromised and the outcomes could have been far worse than they were. Each fatality is a tragedy. And that rededicates everyone in the aviation industry to our common goal: for every flight to take-off and land safely everywhere in world.

Experience has taught us that global standards and best practices are vital to sustaining safety improvements.

This is demonstrated in the performance of airlines on the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry. Over the last five years, the accident rate for IOSA airlines has been nearly three times better than for airlines not on the registry.

We are celebrating the 15th anniversary of IOSA this year. In that time, IOSA became the recognized global standard for operational safety. Along with raising the bar on safety, through the joint use of audit reports it has enabled airlines to focus resources on more meaningfully improving safety, rather than undergoing duplicative audits. IOSA’s benefits extend well beyond the IATA membership, for which they are a requirement. In fact, one-third of the airlines on the IOSA registry are not members of IATA.

IOSA continues to evolve. In 2015 we moved to a continuous management process across the two-year audit cycle. A focus in 2018 is the IOSA digital transformation project. Today, each audit generates a massive amount of data, but the process of managing that data is done manually. As a result, analysis and resulting enhancements come about through a reactive process. Under digital transformation, IOSA will become more proactive and predictive. By introducing automated advanced business analytics to the IOSA process, we will unlock a treasure trove of added value. This will include better management of resources, the ability to measure the effectiveness of standards, and an enhanced level of quality assurance.

Digital transformation also will turn IOSA into a more collaborative platform. IOSA stakeholders and users will be able to interact more seamlessly on industry safety initiatives, standards and operational practices. It will enable airlines to benchmark themselves against the industry, while the increased reliability and trust worldwide should lead to further reduction of duplicate audits by safety regulators.

In the ground handling arena, the new operational audit model for the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations, ISAGO, came into being last September. With these changes we have moved to a professional auditor work force and a business model that more fairly apportions audit costs among the parties. We are also looking at expanding the scope of the ISAGO audits in the future. This could encourage an additional reduction in the number of duplicate audits, which I know is a frustration for our ground service partners. And because ISAGO audits will be conducted by professionally-trained and certified auditors with IATA oversight, we expect to see growing acceptance of ISAGO audits by regulators and airlines.

Underlying our global standards is a working together approach.

IOSA and ISAGO were developed through a joint effort involving many stakeholders. This also describes our activities at ICAO. The development of the global aircraft tracking standard is an excellent example. IATA and our member airlines participated in the extensive ICAO processes leading up to the establishment of the global tracking provisions that took effect in 2017 and that will be applied from November of this year, for aircraft operating over oceanic and remote airspace. And while many airlines already track their aircraft through a variety of methods, IATA stands ready to offer its support to our members as they work to achieve compliance with the new requirements.

Another area where it is vital that we cooperate to meet tomorrow’s challenges involves the accident investigation process. With fewer accidents, it becomes even more important to learn from each one. IATA has raised concerns in the past about the number of accidents where an accident report is not published.

Recognizing that not all states are able to maintain the resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation, we are working with stakeholders to see how we can provide assistance to airlines or states as may be needed, in order to help with this issue. We are also participating in the ICAO Accident Investigation Panel, and looking to see where there may be additional opportunities to identify areas where IATA can assist with this important work.

I’d like to provide one more example of where a partnership approach is vital to preparing for the future. Aviation is seeing a significant and positive disruption from new actors. Tech giants including Amazon, Google, Uber, Space X and others, are now part of the global aviation community. In most, but not all cases, the relevant activities of these companies center on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, which I will refer to as drones.

Drones are an enormous commercial opportunity for this industry. However, their operations need to be accommodated without having any negative impact on safety or airspace efficiency. The focus on the air traffic management (ATM) of drones is increasingly becoming a necessity, not only for the development of the unmanned traffic management (UTM) architecture, but also to ensure safe integration into the overall airspace structure. Developing a UTM system will not only necessitate technology requirements, but also safety and security standards and safeguards. IATA is actively involved in concept development for UTM. During this conference we will have the opportunity to discuss and help shape future airspace operations. At the same time, we need to see how these new concepts will safely interface with existing ATM, and how these systems will evolve.

I’ll leave you with one more thought about drones and the future. No one knows what the implications for our businesses are. We have seen what has happened in other industries that were unable or unwilling to respond to the introduction of new technologies or ways of working. We must always keep an open mind to innovation and change. The alternative is that others more willing to try new things will define our future for us.

The final principle is around increasing our use of data to drive our safety and operational decisions.

Especially as the number of accidents declines, future advances primarily will lie in achieving a better understanding of what happens in the more than 100,000 flights operating safely every day, through analysis of flight information and other data resources. IATA’s Global Aviation Data Management initiative is a crucial part of this effort. The GADM program now includes information from over 470 different organizations. Over 90% of IATA members are contributing to at least one of the GADM databases.

In a related initiative, IATA and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) recently signed a Memorandum of Collaboration to establish a Safety Predictive Analytics Research Center in Singapore (SPARC). SPARC will leverage operational safety information from GADM to assess potential hazards and identify safety risks. End users across the aviation community can then work collaboratively at the system level to address and implement appropriate safety measures to mitigate the risks, or even to prevent the occurrences of safety hazards.

While these are long-term initiatives, we are working on an accelerated timeline to generate real time data on turbulence that will enhance safety. When our innovative turbulence data repository is operational early next year we expect to see a significant decrease in turbulence-related injuries.

Our ability to grow the use of data to drive safety and efficiency improvements also depends to a large degree on resolving questions around data ownership and privacy protections. Later this morning you will hear an important discussion about the escalating challenges in these areas.

Conclusion

I will end my remarks on a favorite theme. Aviation is the business of freedom. It is woven into the fabric of modern life and is the irreplaceable highway in the sky for those striving to bring the benefits of modernity to their own part of the world. All of us are fortunate to participate in an industry that contributes so much value to how we live. That value is created each and every day by the team of 2.7 million people who work in the airline industry. Let’s also remember to deliver that message to young people who are examining their future career choices, so that we can ensure a workforce of tomorrow that is eager and inspired to carry on the work of the business of freedom in the years to come.

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