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A Closer Look at IOSA’s Two Decades of Airline Safety Oversight

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) stands at the forefront of the industry’s commitment to airline safety. Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, at the IATA World Safety and Operations Conference, the airline association underscored the significant strides achieved by the IOSA program over the past two decades.

Credit: Chalabala

A Beacon of Safety Excellence

Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Safety, and Security, emphasized the role of IOSA in enhancing safety and streamlining audit processes. “While it is a condition of membership in IATA, more than 100 non-IATA member airlines also see the value of participating, and we welcome others. Likewise, while more than 40 governments use or intend to use IOSA in their safety oversight programs, many more do not.”

As a testament to its effectiveness, airlines registered under the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit consistently report lower accident rates than their non-registered counterparts. The data is compelling. It reveals a rate of 1.40 accidents per million sectors for IOSA-registered airlines since 2005. Contrast this with 3.49 for those outside the registry.

Moreover, in 2022 alone, IOSA registered carriers displayed exemplary performance, with an accident rate four times lower than non-IOSA airlines. IATA calls on regulators and airlines worldwide to recognize IOSA’s value and incorporate it into safety oversight programs.

A Legacy of Commitment to Airline Safety

The International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit was officially launched in 2003. It quickly garnered attention and respect in the airline industry. Qatar Airways was the inaugural member. By 2006, IOSA had become a compulsory requirement for IATA membership. Its influence doesn’t end there. Numerous global and regional airline associations also mandate IOSA membership.

The rigorous audit process underpinning the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit examines airlines’ adherence to IOSA standards and recommended practices (ISARPs), anchored in guidelines set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Notably, the development of the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit was a collaborative effort involving major aviation regulatory authorities, including Australia’s CASA, Europe’s EASA, the US FAA, and Transport Canada.

In a progressive move, IATA shifted the audit paradigm in 2022 to a risk-based model. This model customizes audits based on an airline’s operational profile. The audits target high-risk areas and assess the maturity of safety-critical systems.

IOSA By The Numbers

  • 417 operators are part of the IOSA registry.
  • Over 4,000 IOSA audits completed.
  • 922 standards listed in the IOSA Standards Manual (ISM).
  • 14 nations have embedded IOSA into their regulations.
  • 15,000 redundant audits eliminated via audit report sharing.

A Safe Flight Forward

While the airline industry navigates post-COVID recovery, the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety Audit serves as a safety compass.

Careen says, “IOSA is the globally recognized airline operational safety auditing standard. We are taking it to the next level by tailoring the audit activity to the operator’s profile and focusing on high-risk areas. As IOSA evolves to deliver greater value for the operator and the industry, we hope additional airlines will see the value of this important safety program. We strongly urge more governments to make it a formal part of their safety oversight.”

Here’s to safer skies ahead.

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