Members of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have endorsed a wide-ranging plan set of recommendations to expand its Safety Oversight Programme (SOP) and give it policing powers for the first time.

During a landmark conference on 10-12 November in Montreal, attended by 148 of the 185 member states, proposals were drawn up which include giving ICAO the role of carrying out "regular, mandatory, systematic and harmonised safety audits".

The US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), which already have their own oversight programmes, also endorsed the moves. ICAO signed a memorandum of understanding with ECAC on the issue during the conference, while the FAA, which has been operating its own International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme since 1992, covering nations with carriers operating in US airspace, has also been working closely to support ICAO's efforts.

The conference recommended the formation of a Global Aviation Safety Plan, with greater "transparency" and sharing of information in all safety-related areas, including air-traffic-control, in all ICAO contracting states. Currently, the programme is voluntary, unlike the IASA, and is limited to assessing the extent to which ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices are applied in the licensing of personnel, aircraft and flight operations.

The formation of a secure global database of safety-related information was also endorsed, as were plans to encourage funding organisations to work with ICAO's technical co-operation services, particularly in the area of infrastructure.

ICAO also urged nations to consider the model standard bilateral clause on safety, adopted by ECAC in July, for inclusion in bilateral transport agreements.

In a related move, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has offered to develop a standardised independent aviation-safety audit based on its Aviation Safety Services Programme for airlines, airport operations and repair stations. The FSF says that it has conducted ten such audits over the past two years.

Source: Flight International