Future Aviation Safety Team (2017)

FAST performs analyses on ongoing or future changes affecting the global aviation system, aimed at revealing previously unidentified hazards. The FAST concept is to anticipate trends that may create an environment for the emergence of new safety hazards before they appear, and suggest mitigations for those hazards should they occur.


In 1999, the JSSI Steering Group established a dedicated working group to develop and implement methods and processes to support the systematic identification of future hazards. That group was called the Future Aviation Safety Team (FAST). While the FAST is no longer operating under formal remit, NASA and NLR support continued prognostic safety analysis work by its former members. The current “ex officio” FAST core team includes ten aviation professionals with various backgrounds and expertise from Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

In 2004, Bob Kelly-Wickemeyer, Chief Engineer, Safety & Certification, Performance & Propulsion (Boeing retired) credited the FAST with originating the forensic-diagnostic-prognostic safety triad described above (Kelley-Wickemeyer, 2004). This paradigm has since been embraced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, 2013).

Area of Change lists

The team developed a list of ‘Areas of Change’ (AoC), presenting nearly 150 specific changes that could potentially influence aviation safety. In this context, changes must be understood as broadly as possible. An AoC is a description of the change, not an identification of the hazards that result from the change.

Go to Results and you will find the latest AoC list, dated April, 2014. Improvements are twofold:

  • An interactive version of the AoC list, see this enables searches using key words;
  • A PDF version of the same list, including more accurate names for the change phenomena, enhanced descriptions, specific hazards related to the AoC, authoritative references to substantiate the AoC such as URL's, books research references, etc. (to remove the AoCs from the speculative realm), and Notes and Comments column capturing related material.

Analysis done to validate the 2004 methodology

To verify if the AoCs identified in 2004 have indeed become relevant for aviation safety, the FAST analyzed worldwide fatal accidents that occurred between 2004 and 2014. The Aviation Safety Network database (https://aviation-safety.net/database/) was used as the initial source of accident information. This analysis demonstrates that changes catalogued many years previously were directly implicated in the majority of fatal aviation accidents over the past ten years. AoC “Reliance on automation supporting a complex air transportation system” was a major factor in 10 years of world-wide accidents (confirmed study hypothesis) in that this AoCwas amongst the top 8 AoC’s. The reports and presentations that resulted from this work can be found under Documentation.

FAST going forward

The fundamental philosophy advocated by the FAST is the use of:

1. Areas of Change (or similar catalogs of emerging phenomena within a particular discipline in aviation) and
2. An objective methodology to prioritize the AoCs and their associated hazards.

Such a methodology incorporating both subject matter assessments and quantitative data is one of the few practical ways to highlight the real, emerging issues that will face the aerospace industry in the future. Changes can introduce both safety risks (or issues) and/or risk controls because of planned, “piloted” changes such as SESAR/Next Gen by aviation stakeholders. Other, more-subjective means may not arrive at credible predictions for a variety of reasons, mostly because of personal predispositions, confirmation bias, recency effects and black swans (1). FAST plans to make use of the extensive experience of aviation safety practitioners and front-line personnel to be able to describe future hazards in the absence of future data, this two-track approach will be further outlined in a white paper. This same expert opinion can also reveal interaction effects among changes and operational environments through systematic evaluation of the major changes internal and external to aviation. The FAST forward plan is as follows:

  • Update & refresh the current AoC list, see http://www.nlr-atsi.nl/fast/aoc/;
  • In order to perform a new prioritization, will make an AHP web based tool available to solicit maximum buy- in from experts;
  • The results of the prioritization will be published in a report & presentation on the FAST website, see http://www.nlr-atsi.nl/fast/

FAST is ready to support other prospective safety efforts.

Upcoming Activities

  • Support/Input to Emerging Risk section of the European Aviation Safety Plan (EASp)
  • Support analysis of the comprehensive set of current safety systems in aviation for the NASA Integrated Systems Analysis & Assessment Capability (ISAAC) team.

Point of contact

Questions can be sent to any or all of the following persons:

1) A Black Swan is defined as a random event satisfying the following three properties (Taleb, 2004): large impact, incomputable probabilities, and surprise. First, the occurrence has a disproportionately large impact- the impact being extremely large, no matter how low the associated probability. The expected impact times its probability, if quantified, would be significant. Second, the events have a small but incomputable probability based on prior information. Third, a vicious property is its surprise effect: at a given time of observation there is no convincing set of pre cursors pointing to an increased likelihood of the event.