10 years of ASSI

Image taken from an aircraft window of clouds and shadowsASSI began operation on April 1st 2003.  Apart from the usual infelicity of choosing 1st April as a date for starting anything, it means that ASSI is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Some of you will be familiar with the genesis of ASSI; if so please bear with me while I recount it briefly for others more fortunate than you.  The ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) audit of the UK in 2000 highlighted, among other things, the disconnect between the UK’s responsibilities as a contracting state to the Chicago Convention and the coordination of that responsibility between the UK and the Overseas Territories.  The UK government engaged consultants, who consulted and considered various models, before eventually it was decided that a new organisation, distinct from the UK CAA and the various OT agencies, was the best fit.  The Secretary of State issued a Direction to the UK CAA to establish that organisation, which was eventually named Air Safety Support International.  It was set up as a subsidiary company of the CAA and had two bases: one in Crawley and a Caribbean office in Antigua which later moved to the BVI.

Looking back, it is no exaggeration to say that the early days were characterised by a good deal of suspicion among the OTs towards this new creature and that ASSI, despite meaning well, was often perceived to be less than sensitive to the OTs’ concerns.  So the past 10 years has been a time of getting to know each other better and working out how to cooperate in pursuit of the common goal of safety.  There may still be disagreements, but they are based on a more realistic mutual understanding.

So what has been achieved together over the last 10 years?  Well, the most tangible product has been the Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements (OTARs): derived from the Bermuda Rules and developed to form a sound and comprehensive ICAO-compliant regulatory framework underpinned by modern and slimmed-down legislation, it was particularly pleasing that the 2009 ICAO audit was complimentary about the standard achieved.  Less immediately obvious but equally, if not more, important has been the amount of training and development of both OTAA and ASSI regulatory staff.  As well as being key to maintaining regulatory competency in a changing world, the various events have provided the opportunity for those attending to get together to share ideas and resolve issues of concern.

There is still a lot of work to be done.  Maintaining the OTARs and their supporting material is a never-ending task and the development of safety management systems in industry and risk-based regulation remains a challenge.  Managing the flow of information to ICAO to satisfy the demands of its Continuous Monitoring Approach to states’ regulatory capability will also take time and effort.  The setting up of new structures for the governance of the company and the new safety and performance council incorporating all the Territories’ DCAs will no doubt generate new impetus and an opportunity to further improve collaboration.  There remains, too, the goal of all Territories achieving the capacity to regulate themselves.

What will be the big issues in 10 years’ time: who knows?  That’s for someone else to worry about in 2023.  Perhaps even Mike Butler may have retired by then.

Photo by Michael Richert, RGBStock.com
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