Maintenance ASAPs On the Rise!

By MR. LALO MAYNES, AMC FLIGHT SAFETY

Throughout the Air Force, in Air Mobility Command (AMC), and within the aviation industry, head injury is the number one reported injury to the body. I wonder if mechanics who struck their heads had submitted an Airman Safety Action Program (ASAP) report describing “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” their incident occurred, how many injuries could have been prevented. You can help prevent future mishaps by simply telling your story and describing how it happened.

ASAP reporting in the maintenance community is slightly increasing but needs much more participation so that AMC staff can effectively resolve problems maintainers experience in the work environment. Airmen need not ignore problems or situations they experience. Thinking “Someone else will fix it,” makes us part of an ongoing problem because by saying nothing, we accept complacency. Soon this accepted problem becomes normal. Safety professionals call this “The Normalization of Deviance,” which has been cited in reports for many major accidents across the globe, including the tragedies of the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, Three Mile Island, and the aviation disaster at Tenerife, Spain.

The Air Force and AMC need your participation in the ASAP program. During an interview with Maj Gen David Sanford, Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, Headquarters AMC, I asked, “From a senior leader perspective, what do you believe to be the best avenue to reach or educate our young Airmen on the importance of ASAP reporting?” Sanford replied that currently, ASAP is briefed during maintenance human factors training and annual refresher training. He believes the best avenue to reach Airmen would be for the Wing Safety office to coordinate with Maintenance Group Commanders to visit units to educate personnel and provide statistics and trend analysis per DAFI 91-202, The US Air Force Mishap Prevention Program. A positive attribute of ASAP is its accessibility from any device with an internet connection. Otherwise, reminders through shift changes, commander’s calls, fliers posted around the units, and scannable QR codes are crucial to educating our Airmen.

I also asked, “Are Maintenance Group Commanders asking Wing Safety to provide ASAP feedback, such as actual benefits of using ASAP?”

Sanford replied, “Well, here’s where relationships matter, specifically in this example, between the Maintenance Group and Wing Safety. This shouldn’t be a one-way pull system as both entities need to invest time and energy into ASAP and safety holistically. There are responsibilities for both parties: Maintenance Group to ask and inquire and pull information, then disseminating [the information] to the lowest level through appropriate avenues and channels [such as] commander’s call, chain of command, shift changes, etc. Wing Safety is the ultimate advisor to units within the wing, so it must be invested and involved by pushing information out, specifically DAFI 91-202 [The US Air Force Mishap Prevention Program], and being available to the units for questions, comments, and concerns.”

During our discussion, Sanford also suggested, “If you experience a problem or issue that you think needs to be addressed, then please allocate time at the end of your shift to submit an ASAP.”

Today, this program is being used by all of the major U.S. airlines, with continued success as each program matures. According to the Federal Aviation Association’s website, the U.S. aviation industry has been using ASAP since November 2002.1 In the United States, as of April 2022, there are 438 private aviation companies who participate in this program. ASAP can be used in any organization that is willing to be transparent with their reports. If you are hesitant to file, your ASAP report can be filed anonymously.

When a report is submitted, it goes to the Operations Risk Assessment and Management System (OpsRAMS) office where personnel are assigned to process ASAPs. Those reports are visible only to them. The ASAP team provides identity protection to guarantee that no one outside of the ASAP program will know who the submitter is. The ASAP is triaged to redact any information that could be used to identify the submitter, such as date, time, location, mission, or any other determining details provided in the report. After the ASAP is triaged, it is sent to the applicable subject matter expert on the AMC staff for comments and resolution.

The ASAP program is explained in DAFI 91-202, The US Air Force Mishap Prevention Program. Paragraph 5.10. says, “The ASAP is a voluntary, web-based capability to report error and hazards by Airmen in all functional areas.” This program is an integral part of AMC’s efforts to reduce mishaps and improve operation and training focus.

Maintenance and Aerial Port personnel and aircrews are encouraged to report any issues they encounter operationally that could lead to an accident or incident, ensuring proper attention can be levied to mitigate the risks. Additionally, Airmen are encouraged to report their honest mistakes so that others can learn from them and not make similar mistakes in the future. All ASAP reports are posted on the ASAP Scoreboard in the Air Force Safety Automated System (AFSAS) website at https://afsas.safety.af.mil.

The purpose of ASAP is to allow self-disclosure of threats, errors, and hazards without fear of disciplinary actions.

This concept is defined in DAFI 91-225, Aviation Safety Programs, paragraph 1.2.3.3.: “Data collected for, or analyses generated from aviation safety programs shall not be used to initiate crew qualifications downgrade, take adverse personnel action, or monitor personnel performance.” This program affords submitters, regardless of Air Force Specialty Code, the ability to report hazards or errors without the fear of reprisal. There are a few conditions under which the ASAP identity protections may be excluded, such as criminal acts, substance abuse, intentional falsification, and intentional disregard for safety or security.

When submitting an ASAP, your submission can be anonymous; simply leave out your contact information. However, submitting an ASAP anonymously prevents the ASAP team from contacting the submitter if more information is required to resolve the issue. Of the maintenance-related data collected by the AMC ASAP team, 57 percent of submitters included their contact information.

All ASAP data is stored in AFSAS. Between January 2019 and May 2023, the total number of aircrew-reported ASAPs was 4,505. During this same period there were only 94 ASAPs submitted by maintainers. The left column on the graph in Figure 1 indicates the total number of ASAPs. The bottom denotes the year (numbers in parentheses are the total number of reports that year), and the right column, the “Contact Info Rate,” is the percentage of reports that included submitters’ contact information.

With an increased abundance of data, the ASAP program will provide leadership, trainers, and supervision with an aggregate view of issues affecting the safe and efficient execution of the mission. In a previous article in The Mobility Forum, Bill Krouse from AMC’s OpsRAMS office stated, “An active ASAP program enriches the search tool incorporated in the ASAP software to allow an individual to search for and likely find numerous ASAPs about a specific event, location or MDS [Mission Design Series].”2 As safety professionals, our job is to conduct studies and analyze gathered data. The purpose of that analysis is to help prevent mishaps and present conclusions based on useful data. ASAP captures that data by way of incidents Airmen submit.

What is the easiest way to submit an ASAP event? On your cell phone or laptop, go to either the Google Play store or Apple’s App Store, search for “Airman Safety App,” and download the ASAP application.

When composing the ASAP report, submitters should be constructive and factual, while remaining positive and professional. Please remove emotion from your narrative and provide the facts as you know them. If needed, the ASAP Team at AMC will endeavor to resolve any differences in perspective and work with all involved to mitigate the risks that have been identified.

AMC Flight Safety urges Maintainers, Aerial Port personnel, and all other flight line personnel who are interested in improving the safety culture within their units and across AMC to not ignore that hazard you experienced on the flight line or in your work center. Submit an ASAP and let others learn from what you have experienced.

A special thank you to the AMC OpsRAMS ASAP Team and MSgt Justin Hunter for collecting data for this article.

  1. https://www.faa.gov/initiatives/asap/asap-participants ↩︎
  2. Krouse, Bill. “Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) Reports: Why Should I File One?” The Mobility Forum 27, no. 3 (Fall 2018): 9–10. ↩︎