Assuring Safety through Operational Approval: Challenges in Assessing and Approving the Safety of Systems-Level Changes in Air Transportation
Author(s)Hansman, R. John; Weibel, Roland E.
To improve capacity and efficiency of the air transportation system, a number of new systems-level changes have been proposed. Key aspects of the proposed changes are combined functionality across technology and procedures and large physical scale of deployment. The objective of this work is to examine the current safety assessment processes for systems-level changes and to develop an understanding of key challenges and implications for the assessment and approval of future systems-level changes. From an investigation of current U.S. and international safety regulatory policies and processes, a general model was created describing key processes supporting operational approval. Within this model, a framework defined as an influence matrix was developed to analyze key decisions regarding the required scope of analysis in safety assessment. The influence matrix represents the expected change in levels of risk due to changes in behavior of elements of a system. It is used to evaluate the appropriate scope of analysis in safety assessment. Three approaches to performing safety assessment of systems-level changes were analyzed using the framework: the risk matrix approach, target level of safety approach, and performance-based approach. Case studies were performed using eight implemented and pending systems-level changes. In this work, challenges expected in safety assessment of future systems-level changes were identified. Challenges include the large scope of proposed changes, which drives a need for a broad and deep scope of analysis, including the multiple hazards and conditions and complex interactions between components of a change and the external system. In addition, it can be expected that high safety expectations will increase the required accuracy of models and underlying data used in safety assessment. Fundamentally new operational concepts are also expected to expand the required scope of safety assessment, and a need to interface with legacy systems will limit achievable operations. The large scope of analysis expected for future changes will require new methods to manage scope of safety assessment, and insights into potential approaches are discussed.
systems-level, safety assesment, air transportation