How To Create Smarter Aviation Safety Regulations

From the moment I hit publish, it was a stir of heated debate. "Naive," "very poor article," and harsher comments were posted. But something odd happened. Shortly after the barrage of negative comments I began getting "great post" and "insightful read" comments in my inbox.

The terms "regulation" and "aviation" are polarizing topics. Some want tons of regulation, some want none. Some would rather criticize in public and praise in private. So what's the balance? Where do we go from here?

The correct regulatory balance

Let's face it--Aviation is a heavily regulated industry. It's necessary to the safety and security of the aviation system. As IATA would say it's "...a necessary aspect of business operations in a functioning market economy. The aviation industry recognizes that regulation benefits consumers and the industry alike by providing clarity and certainty for all."

With aviation safety and security front and center, that doesn't mean regulations are cost effective. They can add huge cost burdens of doing business.

IATA brought up another good point when they said,,

"where regulation is poorly designed or enforced, it can induce confusion rather than clarity and add expense without creating value. Overly complex regulatory frameworks can limit the choice, competition, and value that the airline industry delivers to consumers. Yet, regulatory authorities are enacting increasingly burdensome regulation on aviation, jeopardizing the ability of the industry to grow sustainability."

The industry is pleading with governments to adopt smarter regulations that are a "transparent, consultative, objective-driven approach to policy making."

Creating smarter aviation safety regulations

In order to create smarter aviation regulations, we must take a two step approach--the design and process principles. The design principle focuses on what smarter regulations should consist of and the process principles describes how smarter regulations should be formulated.

There are 5 areas covered in the design principles:

  1. Consistency & Coherence: "New regulations should be consistent with established and proposed rules and global standards so that there is no overlap or contradiction nationally and internationally. They should also be predictable and applied with clear oversight and responsibility and no hint of discrimination against those they regulate."'
  2. Proportionality: "Regulations should be applied only when their necessity is demonstrated. They should, moreover, be proportionate to the problems identified so that the costs of compliance are minimized."
  3. Targeting: "Any regulation should be specifically focused on the problem governments are trying to solve and targeted at the firms or organizations that are best placed to solve that problem."
  4. Fairness & Distortion: "Regulations should be applied fairly and without distortion to avoid even the perception of creating discriminatory burdens."
  5. Clarity: "Regulations should be designed so that those subject to regulatory compliance can know with certainty which regulations apply to them, what is expected of them, and how much time is available to them for compliance."

For the process principles of smarter regulations, it's important to establish a defined objective with sound evidence justifying it. All alternatives must then be examined. If consultation is brought in, it's important that opinions are transparent and inclusive.

Once regulations are formed, burdening companies to comply should be minimal. A systematic review process and a way to appeal and modify should be a natural part of the regulations process. We cannot have growth with burdensome regulations but we also must keep aviation safety front and center.

What's are your thoughts on aviation safety and maintenance regulations?