The data behind improving airport safety

Angela Gittens by Angela Gittens | Feb 4, 2020

The collection and analysis of data is the driving force behind ACI’s advocacy work, supporting our successes in gaining needed policy reforms over the years, particularly regarding safety, the industry’s top priority.

Data was the basis for the amendments to Annex 14 in 2016 regarding minimum requirements for taxiway separations, and in 2018 for other important airfield dimension standards, including runway width, runway shoulder width, taxiway width, taxiway shoulder width, and runway-taxiway separation. These reductions are especially important for the largest aerodromes.

The Safety and Technical Committee and staff worked with ICAO and other industry stakeholders, gathering and analyzing data, to achieve these amendments to Annex 14 that will lower construction and maintenance costs on aerodromes with no impact on safety.

What is the ACI Safety Data Collection Programme? 

In recognition of the value of reliable information, in November 2018, ACI launched its Safety Data Collection Programme, the only worldwide safety data-gathering exercise covering airports in all regions. The programme which is intended to run each year, gathers data submitted by airports on runway safety, taxiway safety, apron safety, wildlife management, and safety training and culture.

With regard to runway safety, the programme covers runway incursions and runway excursions, both of which carry high risks that need to be mitigated by airport actions. As such, ACI strongly recommends that every airport establishes a runway safety team since that has the potential for making significant improvement.

With regard to apron safety, ACI recommends that all airports have agreements with the ground handlers operating at their airport, and ACI has produced a template for such agreements, available free to members. Among other things, the agreement calls for reporting of incidents/accidents by handlers.

With regard to wildlife management, ACI recommends that airports analyze their data and develop a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan for the airport based on that analysis. We note that the majority of events at most airports are bird strikes.

What are the benefits of collecting data?

The Safety Data Collection Programme will allow ACI and its members to make better informed decisions, to prioritize actions, and to ultimately improve airport safety internationally. A global approach allows us to identify hazards, risks and trends that are beyond the view of a single service provider.

Furthermore, the use of standardized indicators with well-defined taxonomy will contribute to the global harmonization of key safety indicators at airports worldwide and will allow the establishment of a baseline for airport safety performance. ACI expects that the compilation of such data over time will facilitate data-driven decision-making and enable a global safety strategy for the airport industry.

2017 Safety Data Collection Report and benchmarking opportunities

The initiative has come from the ACI Safety and Technical Committee’s objective to gather data to better support its airport members to implement and improve safety management systems. I’m pleased to report that the programme’s first year has yielded positive results: 148 airports from all region have participated and this will result in the release of the 2017 Safety Data Collection Report this month.

Through this report, airports will be able to benchmark themselves over global and regional results and be able to prioritize their actions in regard to safety. This will allow airports to set safety performance targets, and benchmark themselves against their own past performance. On top of this, regional and customized reports will be produced on an on-demand basis to provide airports with a baseline to benchmark themselves against their regional counterparts.

What’s next for airport safety data?

ACI will shortly open the 2018 and 2019 safety data collections requesting airports to submit their safety data. The data submitted are confidential, presented in aggregated form only; no airport will ever be identified.

Beyond this, we will develop a safety management system self-assessment tool that will complement the Safety Data Collection Programme. And be reminded that the ACI family of safety best-practice handbooks contain relevant material that airports can use to improve their safety performance.

For all of us in aviation, Safety is our most important service.

Angela Gittens

Angela Gittens

Director General, ACI World
Angela Gittens began her tenure as Director General of ACI World in 2008. She was formerly airport CEO for Miami and Atlanta and Deputy at San Francisco International Airport. In other roles, Gittens led HNTB Corporation’s airport business and strategic planning practice and, at TBI Airport Management, she oversaw the transition to private ownership of London Luton Airport and managed operations contracts at several airports in the US and Canada. She is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and has served on numerous aviation industry boards and committees.
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