UK regional carrier Flybe has launched a new type of operational safety assurance system, in collaboration with the country's air navigation service provider NATS.
Designed to survey whether flightcrew and air traffic controller behaviour follows standard operating procedures and best practice, the system is based on a NATS-developed quality assurance programme it calls Day2Day.
Flybe's adaptation of the system, which it calls FLOSS - the Flybe operational safety survey - has been carried out on a trial basis for 18 months, and the airline will adopt it as part of its pro-active risk management programme from November.
The survey is carried out by trained observers during normal line flying or, for controllers, on normal operational shifts.
The observers' task is to make a record of all activities - those that are carried out and those that are not - on the assumption that 35% of aviation risk lies in the controller or pilot interface.
At Flybe the observation is not aimed at individuals, but at general pilot behaviour during flying, navigating and communicating tasks.
"These observations of flightdeck activities can be used to determine not only the activities that are completed correctly and successfully by crews, but also activities or situations that need to be highlighted before they can become a safety concern," the carrier explains.
Flybe flight safety manager Neil Woollacott says: "We know what we expect our pilots to be doing. We're finding out whether they're actually doing it."
This can boil down to minutiae: how pilots manipulate the knobs controlling the autopilot, for example. The survey has revealed that this issue has been behind a number of "level busts" - where aircraft have passed through their assigned altitude. Corrective training subsequently reduced this problem.
Flybe and NATS will be embarking on a new series of observations using FLOSS methodology during the 2012-2013 winter season, the carrier says. "While specific data remains confidential to Flybe, the sharing of best practice findings will undoubtedly prove of eventual benefit to the industry at large," it adds.