SAFA  inspections in Europe and ramp checks elsewhere are a fact of life in civil aviation. Inspectors working on behalf of the SAFA programme are conducting, on average, around 100 inspections a day. Whilst their stated policy is to avoid delay unless safety requires it, anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that delays are occurring regularly whilst minor items are being recorded or explained by the crew.
Available data published by EASA seem to confirm these stories; the amount of findings is more or less equal to the amount of inspections, and in roughly 15% of the cases corrective actions before flight had to be taken. While these figures date back from 2012, there is no reason to believe this situation has improved since then.
In addition to the delays that the SAFA inspection may incur, there is considerable administrative effort required in closing open findings in the SAFA database. Delays cost passengers, administrative red tape costs time and both cost money. Better avoid situations than taking care of them on the tarmac.
If prevention is better than the cure, operators should have programmes in place to ensure that a SAFA inspector has less to find. When something is found, the operator and crew should have a simple but comprehensive plan for rectifying the issue and getting it closed. Solutions should be used as part of your Safety Management System. With comprehensive procedures in place you can reduce the likelihood of a ramp check/induced delay, and ultimately save money.
The featured image comes from the SAFA website from the European Commission.
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 The Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft Programme. Checks may include:
- licenses of the pilots;
- procedures and manuals that should be carried in the cockpit;
- compliance with these procedures by flight and cabin crew;
- safety equipment in cockpit and cabin;
- cargo carried in the aircraft; and
- the technical condition of the aircraft.