Introduction to the Areas of Change

Areas of Change (AoCs) are defined as a consensus set of known transformational phenomena covering a broad set of domains in the future that may affect the safety of key domains in aviation. The AoCs are generic descriptions of the major changes that will be an integral part of the aviation system or affect it from the outside in the years to come. AoCs are not hazards per se.

The AoCs consist of the following two fundamental types. The current catalogue does not differentiate between the two. That is left to the judgement of the user.

  • Generic technical, functional, and/or procedural industry/government initiatives intended to serve various high level objectives such as Safety, Capacity, Environment, and Security, and are usually part of packages such as SESAR and NexGen – so-called “piloted” or intended changes.
  • Contextual/environmental conditions and future circumstances contextual factors– the inexorable, “un-piloted,” contextual changes or milieu in which the future aviation system will be immersed. One example is the changing demographics of operational personnel in the aviation system.

AoCs can be taken into consideration within the safety assessment future systems (for instance a future aircraft type, ATM system, airline, ANSP, etc.), as AoCs contribute defining the context or environment in which these future system will be operated. For instance, the iNteg-Risk Emerging Risk Management Framework sponsored by European Institute for Integrated Risk Management stipulates that a risk is “considered ‘new & emerging’ if the risk was previously not recognized and is caused by new processes, new technologies, new ways of working, or social organizational change…” The AoCs represent a way of capturing such changes.

Users of this AoC catalog should be guided by the following questions:

  • How will a particular AOC affect the safety of a future system or of proposed operational improvements? This inventory of change phenomena will better define the context for the safety assessment and certification of new designs/products. AoC safety impact can be positive, neutral or negative (and so isn’t necessarily negative).
  • How do the AOCs, in isolation or in combination, introduce or affect hazards and risks that could adversely impact the safety characteristics of the future system being assessed?
  • How do the interactions between AoCs introduce or affect hazards and risks? A fundamental premise of this approach is that interactions and gaps and overlaps among the system to be assessed and the AoCs are the most likely catalysts for revealing and understanding future hazards unanticipated by traditional approaches.
  • How do the AoCs affect the prevention, mitigation, and recovery controls provided within existing and proposed operational improvements.

Examples of application

Earlier versions of the AoC list have been used to conduct a study of the topic, Increasing Crew Reliance on Flight Deck Automation by the FAST in 2004.
They were also used to identify a list of critical hazards that were predicted to result from implementation of the EUROCONTROL ConOps 2011.
AoCs were used more recently in 2010 to identify the safety vulnerabilities of a select set of Safety Enhancements for the U.S. Commercial Aviation Safety Team.

The use of AoCs is also mentioned in the Methodology to Assess Future Risks, a deliverable of the European Aviation Safety Plan (EASp) published by EASA in 2013.