Appearances can be deceptive

People in front of window in airport terminalI used to have oversight of two airports of the same size with the same operators serving them. You would expect a similar level of reporting? Well, one airport reported a lot, and the other near to nothing. Which one would you want to fly out of? The one with all the incidents or the one with none? What would you think if you were the Regulator? More oversight is required on the airport with all the incidents?

The reporting airport had a good Safety Management System with a just, open and reporting culture, and so lots of reports. Should anything occur they would contact the Regulator to inform them, file their reports, and more importantly explain how they were managing the issue from the things they had learnt. They would involve airlines, ground agents and anyone in reporting, assessing and managing hazards. This was the day job for all working there.

The non-reporting airport only seemed to have the odd big incident. The hazard log was not great or dynamic and the airport team tended to work in isolation from others working there.

As a Regulator, I was quite confident that I always knew what was going on at the reporting airport and they were actively managing safety. I felt I had to visit the other airport more and examine them more closely.

To pretend that aviation operates consistently without any near misses and/ or incidents is not realistic and such a view creates a situation where aviation safety will not improve through learning. One airport was trying to learn from every report - continuous improvement - whilst the other did not. So which one would you want to fly from?

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