By MSGT DAN FALUCHO AND MSGT JAKE RENNELS, OPS RAMS ASAP STAFF
When hazards arise that need action or attention, or you experience a situation from which others can learn, the Aviation/Airman Safety Action Program (ASAP) provides a means to identify issues for resolution or to raise awareness in the Mobility Air Force (MAF) community. ASAP is a proactive safety program governed by AFI 91-225, Safety Programs, and is based on a Just Culture approach. This directive means that your ASAP submission and any communication between you and our office cannot be used against you. Paragraph 22.214.171.124 states, “Data collected for or analyses generated from aviation safety programs shall not be used to initiate crew qualification downgrade, take adverse personnel action, or monitor personnel performance. (T-0). Prohibited actions include qualification actions (e.g., decertification, or Q2 or Q3 evaluation ratings as defined by AFI 11-202V2, Aircrew Standardization and Evaluation Program), administrative discipline (e.g., Letter of Counseling, Reports of Survey, Line of Duty Determinati on, or Flight Evaluation Board), non-judicial punishment (e.g., Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 15 action) or judicial action, except as described in paragraph 126.96.36.199.” The exceptions described in paragraph 188.8.131.52 are a willful disregard for safety or an intentionally false statement. ASAPs are not a “get out of jail free” card, but if the ASSAP is the sole source of information, we have you covered-we protect your identity. This program affords submitters, reguardell of their Air Force Speciality Code (AFSC), the ability to report hazards or errors without fear of rerpisal.
Unfortunately, approximately one-third of ASAP reports are submitted anonymously. This omission indicates to us that not everyone is comfortable providing contact information in their ASAP report. For that reason, we would like to discuss the difference between anonymity and identity protection, as well as why we ask for your information and what we do with it. When submitting an ASAP report, the instructions prompt you to provide your contact information. As long as no injury or damage occurred, you are given the option to submit your ASAP report anonymously. AFI 91-225 paragraph 3.1.1 guarantees the protection of your identity if you choose to provide it. It states, “ASAP is an identity-protected, self-reporting program designed to encourage and simplify the reporting of hazards and errors that increase the risk experienced in flight operations.Submissions augment existing safety reporting programs by capturing self-reported issues and events not normally disclosed through traditional mishap prevention programs.”
Identity protection is the guarantee that no one outside of the ASAP program will know who you are. When an ASAP report is submitted, it goes to our ASAP team (the Operations Risk Assessment and Management System [Ops RAMS] personnel assigned to process the ASAPs) and is only visible to them. From there, the ASAP is triaged to redact any information that could be used to identify the crew, such as date/time/location/mission, and other determining details provided in the ASAP report. Usually, the location is de-identified during triage in order to protect a submitter’s identity. A great example of this process is ASAP #14387, a report regarding a crew that overshot a level-off in an aggressive descent. In this report, we de-identified the location of the event.
Conversely, ASAP #14365 is about crew rest at Al Udeid Air Base (AB), Qatar. In this case, the location was not de-identified because it is beneficial for other crews to be aware of potential crew rest issues at Al Udeid AB as well as whether or not it is still a factor. In other words, the only information visible is that necessary to convey the purpose of the submission to the broader audience without compromising the identity of the submitter.
After the ASAP is triaged and de-identified, we send it to the applicable subject matter expert (SME) on the Air Mobility Command (AMC) staff for comments and/ or a resolution; however, in many cases more information is needed. Frequently we get submissions that address significant issues but do not provide all the information necessary to investigate the matter and find a resolution. In addition, sometimes the submitter does not offer a detail because they did not think it was pertinent. Other times, a submitter concerned with identity protection does not provide details that they believe can be used to identify them. These omissions do not present a problem if the submitter provides valid contact information to us. If more information is needed, the Ops RAMS staff will contact the submitter, thanking them for the ASAP and for providing their contact information, with the assurance that their identity will not be released unless given their concurrence. ASAP #14196 highlights a headlamp found in a C-130 fuel tank. In researching the report, our SMEs needed details that were not provided in the original ASAP. Unfortunately, the ASAP was submitted by “Donald Duck,” whom we do not believe to be a member of the C-130 community. The ASAP addressed a significant issue, but our ability to follow up was hindered by the anonymity of the submission. In this case, we were fortunate that the submitter reviewed the updates on the ASAP Scoreboard, saw our request, and reached out to us with more information. We were then able to continue investigating the issue with additional information.
ASAP #13890 did include contact information. There was concern that back-to-back missions were not taken into consideration in the Work/Rest Effectiveness model used in Aviation Operational Risk Management (AvORM). Because we had contact information, we were able to call the submitter. Information not contained in the original report, such as the mission number, was given to us. With this information, Ops RAMS was able to research the issue and found that the submitter’s missions were not linked. Furthermore, we determined that if they had been, AvORM would have produced a more realistic picture of the crew’s effectiveness for the mission. Without the ability to contact the submitter, we would not have been able to find that issue and address it with the AMC/Aviation Safety Division (SEF), the office of primary responsibility (OPR) for AvORM, while protecting the identity of the submitter.
Another benefit of providing your contact information is the ability to provide you with details we cannot post to the ASAP Scoreboard. AMC has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorizing us to share ASAP reports with their air traffic controller (ATC) equivalent program, known as the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP). This information is still identity-protected and cannot be used by the FAA to take any action (such as a violation) against the crew. ASAP #14090 is an excellent example of this information sharing at work. A situation arose when instructions issued by ATC may not have been clear and were misunderstood by the crew. We channeled the ASAP to the FAA ATSAP program to research on our behalf. The FAA provided both the radar and communications recordings of the event. Our MOU with the FAA only allows us to share this information directly with the submitter. If the submitter had provided their contact information, we would have forwarded the recordings to them for their edification.
The ability to contact a submitter while protecting their identity is key to resolving concerns raised in ASAP reports and allows us to provide constructive feedback to the submitter. ASAPs are a fantastic safety reporting tool for raising awareness, highlighting hazards that need to be addressed by leadership, and allowing others to learn from your shared experience via the ASAP Scoreboard.