After 62 years of support for the entire aviation industry, it would be pity to see the Flight Safety Foundation go down because of lack of support from the businesses it served for so long.

Just to drag this column away from compulsive British understatement for a moment, such an event would not be merely "a pity", it would be a tragedy. Meanwhile, although - according to the FSF's president and chief executive Bill Voss - any reports of the foundation's death have definitely been exaggerated, no-one should take its continued existence for granted. Voss has framed the challenge: "Ultimately, the industry will have to decide if a small investment in a group that puts safety work together still makes sense."

Many organisations can claim to have their safety programmes, and they may be both necessary and influential. Take the International Air Transport Association, for example. It runs programmes like its IOSA safety audit, and offers help, expertise and safety-related training. But organisations like IATA inevitably see the world through the eyes of their membership, and they cater to their immediate and strategic needs.

But the FSF is different. It thinks and acts for all of aviation, from manufacturing through to the operators. It has no axes to grind and does not engage in sectoral thinking. It is free to be empirical, which interest-groups never are, even with good intentions. A non-competitive, independent organisation like the FSF has the power and the credibility to call on expertise from all over industry. By standing back from the frontline, the FSF provides a forum where people can gather and brainstorm, away from day-to-day operations.

It is this independence that makes the FSF so valuable. If it were not there, the industry would have to invent it, or see safety management return to the bad old days of making advances only through reactivity, and see standards revert to minimum legal levels.

Safety should be a global endeavour even if it is played out locally. So it needs a global instrument, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation is not suitable for this task. ICAO plays out its essential role as the forum at which standards are agreed, but its role is comparable to that of a regulator. Regulators are corrupted if they engage in campaigning, so ICAO does not - and should not - do that.

Finally, safety advance is best provided by a voluntary body that draws its strength from the industry it serves. The FSF ticks all these boxes. Don't let it fail.

Source: Flight International