MH 370

I don’t think that I could start my remarks to a gathering of the industry’s top leaders of operations in any other way than by acknowledging the human tragedy of MH370 which happened less than a month ago. Through the media, the world continues to follow the extraordinary international response.

As humans, we have kept all those on board, their families and friends and our colleagues at Malaysia Airlines in our thoughts through these difficult weeks. And on behalf of all of us here, I extend a special thank you to Malaysia Airlines for hosting this event even in this tremendously challenging situation.

The ongoing search is being conducted at unprecedented scale and the efforts of those involved are no less than heroic. We admire the courageous determination and hope for their safety and success.

There is no escaping the reality of what has happened. Much though we would like, we cannot wish away or alter the past. The best way for all of us involved in aviation to honor the memory of those on board is to learn from what happened to improve safety in the future.

  • From the moment tragedy struck, our colleagues at Malaysia Airlines have been working with the families to help them deal with the trauma of their loss. It is a challenging task, especially in a case with so much uncertainty.
  • And we—the airline industry, its stakeholders and regulators—are in the beginning of the journey to unravel this mystery, understand the cause and find ways to ensure that it is not repeated. In “normal” circumstances this could take a year or more. In this case, given the difficult area in which the aircraft was lost, it will surely be a long journey before we can draw any certain conclusions on mitigation.

Speculation—of which there has been much—will not make flying any safer. The so-called “black box” will tell the story with the information on the flight data and the cockpit voice recorders. The priority is to recover that as soon as possible. And we should not jump to any conclusions on probable cause before the investigation closes.

There are, however, at least two areas of process—not cause—where there are clearly challenges that need to be overcome.

The first is how we track aircraft as they move around the globe. In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the “black box” is so difficult to recover. Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago and some progress was made. That must be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply disappear.

In our eagerness to move this along, we must also ensure that prudent decisions are made in line with global standards. This is not the time for hastily prepared sales pitches or regional solutions. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) process is the way to move this forward. I have no doubt that governments are eager to come to a conclusion and take action as soon as possible.

Industry must and will play a role in supporting ICAO in this effort with a united position. IATA will convene an expert task force that will include ICAO participation to ensure that the work is well coordinated. This group will examine all of the options available for tracking commercial aircraft against the parameters of implementation, investment, time and complexity to achieve the desired coverage. This group will report its conclusions by December, reflecting the need for urgent action and careful analysis.

The second is a security question. Whether or not there is a security dimension to this tragedy, that two passengers could board an aircraft with fake passports rings alarm bells. Airlines are neither border guards nor policemen. That is the well-established responsibility of governments. The industry goes to great effort and expense to ensure that governments who require API (or Advance Passenger Information) receive reliable data. And, along with our passengers, airlines have a right to ask these governments review their processes for vetting and using this data—for example against databases such as the Interpol stolen and lost passport database. The information is critical and it must be used effectively.

It costs the airlines millions of dollars every year to provide API to some 60 governments. I’ve often wondered whether they were using it.

So in the name of the effective use of passenger data, we call on governments

  • To harmonize on the ICAO standard elements and eliminate all other requirements
  • To eliminate the collection of passenger and cargo data on paper forms
  • To create a single harmonized window through which airlines can submit electronic data to governments
  • And to use this data to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of border controls.

Industry Safety Overview

MH 370 is a tragedy. It is also a rarity. Today we are releasing our assessment of global safety performance in 2013 which speaks to that point. In 2013 there were 12 hull losses with Western-built jet aircraft that operated some 29.3 million flights. So, for every 2.4 million flights there was one accident after which the aircraft could not be repaired. Looked at against the five year average performance this is a 14.6% improvement.

IOSA and Safety in Africa

The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) has been one of the drivers of improved performance. All 240 of IATA members are among the 391 airlines on the IOSA registry. And their safety performance in 2013 was over two times better than those airlines not on the registry.

That is why IOSA is a core element of our efforts to improve safety in Africa. The five-year average accident rate for Africa is the highest in the world with one hull loss for every 155,000 flights over the period. Last year African governments agreed to take collective action to address safety through the Abuja Declaration. The goal is to achieve world-class safety levels by 2015. And there are several commitments including alignment of government oversight with global standards and the mandating of IOSA for all airlines operating within Africa.

The good news is that the overall accident rate is moving in the right direction. It is still, however, one accident for every 500,000 flights so there is much more work to be done. Along with encouraging governments to accelerate their efforts, we are working directly with airlines to meet the IOSA standards. In fact, our Board of Governors recognized the need for IATA to invest in expanding IOSA carriers in Africa. And we have provided “coaching” to ten African airlines on IOSA. Of these three have joined the IOSA registry and we expect a fourth shortly.

In parallel two other important programs are underway.

  • First, we are beta testing a Standard Safety Assessment Program. This is not an IOSA-light. But it can be used by airlines when the nature or scale of their operations is outside of the IOSA scope.
  • Secondly IATA members are committed to an Enhanced IOSA program which changes the IOSA audit from a once-every-two-year snapshot of an airline’s safety management into a continuous monitoring tool. We are targeting nearly 40 airlines to comply with Enhanced IOSA standards by the end of this year on the way to having all IATA members fully adopt Enhanced IOSA by September 2015.

Safety Agenda

IOSA is one of our tools for improving safety—and I should say it is an important one. And it is a part of a safety strategy that consists of six broad elements:

  • Reducing operational risk
  • Enhancing quality and compliance
  • Advocating for improved aviation infrastructure
  • Supporting the consistent implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS)
  • Supporting effective recruitment and training
  • And identifying and addressing emerging safety issues

This strategy will be led by Kevin Hiatt, who joined IATA in February as our Senior Vice President for Safety and Flight Operations. Joining us from the Flight Safety Foundation, Kevin is well qualified to lead these efforts. And he succeeds Guenther Matschnigg who will be retiring from IATA after 15 years of dedicated service. Among Guenther’s many achievements is the IOSA program which was built up over his IATA tenure. And he leaves behind solid foundations on which we will continue to evolve and develop our work on safety. I know that you will join me in recognizing his contributions and wishing him well in a well-deserved retirement.

After the coffee break both Kevin and Guenther will review the progress made over the last year and the priorities for 2014. That will kick-off an intense agenda covering the main safety and operational issues of the industry. But before that, I would like to highlight three things

  • Partnerships
  • Data and reducing operational risks, and
  • Runway safety


When I looked through the agenda for this conference, I was struck by the broad range of participants. This opening session reflects that with the involvement of governments, airports and air navigation service providers (ANSP).

This is not a one-off symbolic approach. As you move through the agenda, you will see airframe and engine manufacturers, technology suppliers, academics and other industry partners. Every topic is addressed from multiple vantage points. Even in advance of moving the program, it is clear to see that partnerships are driving progress.

It could be no other way. We are a complex industry. Every flight that takes-off involves thousands of coordinated actions across multiple businesses and organizations. To keep flying safe, we need not only to understand and work with each other every day. And we must compare notes, collaborate and work together to build the future with a common vision.

It makes perfect sense to do that with a global view. The benefit of an airline putting expensive new kit on their aircraft is severely limited if the ANSPs cannot accommodate that technology seamlessly around the globe. An airport can implement a fantastic safety initiative, but the full potential will only be realized when it becomes a standard that airlines can count on across their networks. Global aviation was built on global standards.

No matter how hard we may compete within an industry sector or how differently we may see the world when it comes to the thorny commercial issues, we are an industry that is absolutely unified in its dedication to global standards and safety.

We don’t compete on safety. Every improvement is a gain for the industry. And that has allowed us to evolve a tradition of transparently sharing information, experiences and best practices to make flying safe.

Data and Reducing Operational Risk

That tradition is helping us in what I believe is one of our most important challenges—to reduce operational risk.

Historically, the major thrusts for safety improvements have come through the well-established system of air accident investigations. Indeed, each accident yields new insights in ways to make flying safer. And this system will continue to play an important role. But we should not wait for an accident to happen as the instigator of change. There are so few accidents and they cannot yield trend data that is so important to managing safety.

Just look at last year. There were 36.4 million flights and there were 81 accidents (including all aircraft and accident types). So there are millions of flights that landed safely. And they have a lot to tell us about how we are operating and where the risks to safety exist.

Aviation creates an enormous amount of information. Every stakeholder has something to contribute—governments, ANSPs, airports, ground handlers, manufacturers, airlines, the airplanes and engines themselves, pilots and so on. IATA’s vision is to collect data from as many of those information sources as possible and develop the analytical tools needed to unlock the insight that they can provide. This is our Global Aviation Data Management project or GADM.

Already GADM consists of numerous databases. We have incident reporting in the STEADES database. There is audit data from ISAGO and IOSA. We have operational data and we are also capturing ground damage data—to name just a few of the sources. We have signed important agreements with the European Aviation Safety Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, ICAO and others to join the project. Already GADM includes data from over 600 participants, including 90% of IATA member airlines, making it the most comprehensive source of industry information. We have de-identified data from some 5 million recorded flights and over 1 million incidents in GADM. It’s a powerful tool that is growing stronger with each new piece of data added.

If I go back to our vision, it is to be able to predict and eliminate accidents before they happen. Being able to do that effectively requires:

  • Data from many sources—so that we can understand all the contributing factors to issues by seeing things from many vantage points.
  • Large volumes of up-to-date information—so regular contributions.
  • And a reporting culture that captures as many insights as possible. In most places we have established a good understanding of non-punitive self-reporting. But that needs to extend to even third party reporting—again so that we can see issues from many angles.

IATA has a natural role in hosting this effort—we connect to all the key stakeholders. But we want to make it as accessible in as useful a format as possible. While we will be developing analytical tools to help query the data, it is also a tool for airlines with their own advanced data programs to augment the data capture in order to benchmark performance against their peers.

I believe that we are on the cusp of a great step forward in how we manage safety. We have talked about this for years. Now it is becoming a reality. And we would like all of you in this room—the leaders of our industry’s operations—to be a part of GADM. Contributing your data increases the power of our analysis. And more users of the data—directly or through our interfaces—will turn it from insight to real safety improvements.

Runway Safety

Lastly, I would like to look at an example of information analysis driving change in the area of runway safety. We used to focus on runway excursions as a key point in our safety strategy. That made sense. About a quarter of all accidents over the last five years were runway excursions. And over the years we have worked with several of our partners—ICAO and Airports Council International among them—to produce runway risk reduction toolkits.

Because we were looking at narrow parameters—excursions—these were focused primarily on runway conditions and flight operations. So they emphasized accurate runway information and pilot training as key drivers of improvement. And that has had some measurable impact.

But if we take a broader look at the issue—by querying the data—we see that about half of all accidents in the same five year period are in the runway environment. To understand what happened when the aircraft landed; it makes sense to link that to the conditions of the landing. So data from ANSPs becomes important. And equally data from the airport on the conditions around the runway can add more insight.

This is one small illustration of the power of GADM—looking at an issue from lots of vantage points and against a large data sample. And by taking this approach, late last year we launched—with an expanded group or partners—the latest version of the runway risk reduction toolkit. Quite purposefully the name was changed to “runway safety” in order to emphasize the broader view that is being taken by all those who have a stake in getting planes on and off runways safely.


There are sessions later today on both emerging risks and runway safety. I am following these issues closely---I believe that they offer great opportunities to make a safe industry even safer. But I will let the experts take the discussion further.

Our industry is 100 years old this year. On 1 January 1914 the partnership of a pilot, an entrepreneur and a plane maker started an industry with a single passenger buying a ticket for a 23 minute journey from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida.

That journey changed our world forever. It has facilitated journeys of exploration, connected people to business opportunities, linked far-flung families, brought goods to market, and broadened minds with international studies….just to name a few. The global community in which we all live—and that we take for granted—has been built on the foundations of aviation connectivity.

That gives aviation an important mission which we must fulfill in partnership. And there is no higher priority than safety. About 100,000 flights will be operated safely each day. That is an amazing achievement and a tribute to the work of all in this room. But accidents—however rare—still happen. The tragedy of MH 370 is a reminder that we cannot be complacent on safety.

I wish you a very productive conference.