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September 2018

Feature Article

Strengthening Aviation Safety through SSP

 by Hiroki Sakamoto

Ensuring safety is a central and fundamental issue in the civil aviation sector. While passenger deaths aboard specific Japanese air carriers have not occurred since 1986, efforts are being made to reinforce the safety management system adopted by airline companies and preventive safety measures are being promoted to appropriately deal with safety-related issues. For example, preliminary reviews are done upon the launch or expansion of domestic airline companies and strict (including unannounced) and systematic on-site safety inspections are properly conducted. Also, due to the increase of foreign airlines following the promotion of the open sky policy, monitoring of foreign airlines entering Japan has been strengthened with on-site safety inspections and other measures.


Since April 2014, the Civil Aviation Bureau of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan (or JCAB) has been implementing the "State Safety Program (SSP)", as the basic principle of aviation safety policy. It sets forth targets for civil aviation safety and measures to be taken for their attainment, in accordance with the Annex 19 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The fundamental structure of SSP is a clear division between Regulator (R) and Provider (P: such as airline companies, airport operators and air traffic control), with the Regulator (R) providing and enforcing safety oversight of the Provider (P).


(Figure) Structure of the State Safety Program (SSP)

In FY2015, JCAB formulated "Medium-term policies for the administration of aviation safety," which outlines the policies and measures for the next five years. In FY2016, direction for further safety measures related to small aircraft was added in light of the frequent occurrence of accidents involving private, small aircraft in recent years.



SSP features three new measures: Safety Target, Voluntary Reporting System, and Analysis of Safety Information.


1)     Safety Target

In order to secure SSP as an effective tool to strengthen aviation safety, JCAB creates a "SSP implementation plan" every year. Regarding this plan, JCAB sets the safety target of  the Japanese Government (once a year), implements specific policies to achieve the safety target with coordination between airline companies, airport operators and air traffic control, and measures and evaluates the level of achievement of the safety target.


2) Voluntary Reporting System

"The Voluntary Information Contributory to Enhancement of the Safety (VOICES) program" has been operating since July 2014 in order to collect more detailed near-miss information relating to aviation safety that is not subject to the mandatory reporting system, and to harness such information for safety improvements. Recommendations such as improving airport operations have been obtained through this program. While dissemination activities have been yielding results and more reports were issued in FY2016 than in the preceding year, attempts will be made to further use the system through continued work to highlight the importance of safety information. Efforts will also be made to improve safety by making use of obtained recommendations.


3) Analysis of Safety Information

JCAB created three committees (airline companies, airport operators and air traffic control) comprised of scholars and experts. They hold meetings regularly to evaluate and analyze safety information from not only mandatory but also voluntary reporting system, compile and summarize information and publicize this information to share it. They are utilized to create preventative measures for both the Regulator (R) and Provider (P) in civil aviation.



Strengthening safety measures is the top priority in the civil aviation sector. Continuous and effective efforts of both the Regulator (R) and Provider (P) through SSP are key in order to establish safe and secure air transport systems.

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