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ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP)

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Description

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) was established in accordance with Strategic Objective A3 to "Conduct aviation safety oversight audits to identify deficiencies and encourage their resolution by States." The programme is managed by ICAO Safety Audit Oversight Section.

Objective

The objective of USOAP is to promote global aviation safety. It does this by auditing Contracting States, on a regular basis, to determine the States' capability for safety oversight. It makes this determination by assessing the effective implementation of the critical elements of a safety oversight system and the status of States' implementation of safety-related ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), associated procedures, guidance material and safety-related practices.

Background

The ICAO USOAP was launched in January 1999 in response to widespread concerns expressed during the 29th ICAO Assembly in 1992. At that Session of Assembly a concern was raised on the apparent inability of some Contracting States to carry out their safety oversight functions.

The ICAO Assembly resolution A32-11 of 1999 directed the establishment of USOAP comprising regular, mandatory, systematic and harmonised safety audits. It also encouraged its application by Contracting States, together with the greater transparency and increased accessibility of audit results.

Scope

The scope of the Programme was initially limited to Annex 1 — Personnel Licensing, Annex 6 — Operation of Aircraft and Annex 8 — Airworthiness of Aircraft. The initial mandate of the Programme was to audit all Contracting States and report to the next regular session of the Assembly in 2001. The initial cycle of audits and audit follow ups was completed in 2004.

The audit follow-up missions conducted during this time period allowed ICAO to validate the implementation of the corrective action plans submitted by audited States, to identify any problems encountered by States in such implementation, and to determine the need for external assistance in regard to specific safety issues.

The programme was expanded to provide cover of Annex 11 — Air Traffic Services, Annex 13 — Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation and Annex 14 — Aerodromes. Furthermore, during its 171st Session (March 2004), the Council considered to facilitate the evolution of USOAP from an Annex-by-Annex approach to a comprehensive systems approach, which would cover all safety-related Annexes and focus on the overall capability of States for safety oversight.

In recognition of success of the programme, during the 35th ICAO Assembly a proposal was made for the continuation and expansion of the USOAP as of 2005 and was agreed upon with Resolution 35-6, that the programme should extend its cover to all safety-related Annexes (except Annex 9 — Facilitation and Annex 17 — Security) and also provide transition to a comprehensive systems approach for the conduct of safety oversight audits to:

  • Ensure that the comprehensive systems approach maintains as core elements the safety provisions contained in Annex 1 - Personnel Licensing, Annex 6 - Operation of Aircraft, Annex 8 - Airworthiness of Aircraft, Annex 11 - Air Traffic Services, Annex 13 - Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation and Annex 14 - Aerodromes.
  • Make all aspects of the auditing process visible to Contracting States;
  • Make the final safety oversight audit reports available to all Contracting States; and
  • Provide access to all Contracting States to all relevant information derived from the Audit Findings and Differences Database (AFDD) through the secure website of ICAO.

* Note: Safety oversight audit reports and other safety-related information are made available at the ICAO Flight Safety Information Exchange (FSIX) website.

Framework

The conduct of audits under the new and comprehensive systems approach was launched on January 2005. This approach consists of the following three phases:

1. Pre-audit phase. The information provided by the State in the State Aviation Activity Questionnaire (SAAQ) and Compliance Checklists (CCs) is reviewed by safety oversight audit to analyze the type of organisation for safety oversight established by the State, the implementation of Annexes provisions and the differences from SARPs identified by the States. This allows ICAO to tailor the audit in accordance with the level and complexity of aviation activities in the State and determine the duration of the audit and the size and required composition of the audit team.

2. On-site phase. The State is visited by an ICAO audit team to validate the information provided by the State and conduct an on-site audit of the State’s system and overall capability for safety oversight. This includes an audit of the organization, processes, procedures and programmes established and maintained by the State to help it fulfil its safety oversight obligations.

3. Post-audit phase. Encompasses all the activities following the on-site audit, including the preparation of the audit interim report, the development by the State of its corrective action plan and the completion of the audit final report. In accordance with Assembly Resolution A35-6, the audit final reports are made available to Contracting States in their entirety through a secure website, along with information derived from the AFDD.

Beyond 2010

The comprehensive systems approach for the conduct of the audits, under a six-year cycle ended in 2010.

The ICAO Assembly Resolution A36-4 established a new approach to be applied in the USOAP beyond 2010 which is based on the concept of continuous monitoring. Beyond 2010, the objective of USOAP is to promote global aviation safety, by enhancing Contracting States’ safety oversight capabilities, through continuous monitoring of States’ safety performances in order to identify safety deficiencies, assess associated safety risks, implement strategies for their mitigation and re-evaluate States’ safety oversight capabilities achieved.

In 2010, the 37th Session of the Assembly adopted Resolution A37-5, affirming that the evolution of USOAP to the Continuous Monitoring Approach (CMA) should continue to be a top priority for ICAO to ensure that information on the safety performance of Member States is provided to other Member States and to the travelling public on an ongoing basis. A two-year transition period (2011 - 2012) was declared while the tools and guidance required for USOAP CMA were developed.

In January 2013, USOAP CMA was fully launched. Its top objectives at that stage were monitoring States’ safety oversight systems for the first time on a web-based platform called Online Framework (OLF); validating States’ progress through various on-site and off-site validation activities; and, continuing to use auditors to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of States’ safety oversight systems.

The USOAP CMA continues to evolve to support each State’s efforts in implementing a State Safety Programme (SSP). ICAO published in 2014 its “new Protocol Questions (PQs) on safety management” to be used for audits and other USOAP CMA activities. The first edition of PQs was introduced informally in 2015–2016 to conduct voluntary and confidential assessments of SSP implementation at the request of several ICAO Member States.

In July 2017, ICAO introduced a second edition of PQs — called SSP-related PQs — designed to reflect Amendment 1 of Annex 19, the 4th edition of the SMM and lessons learned to date. Since June 1, 2018, all USOAP CMA activities have applied the 2017 edition of PQs, which accommodate periodic updates based on stakeholder feedback.

Anticipating the applicability in November 2019 of Amendment 1 to Annex 19, ICAO allowed a number of States — on a voluntary but non-confidential basis — to be the first to experience USOAP CMA audits during the rest of 2018 as well as 2019 on that basis.

Currently, ICAO’s worldwide workshops for the authorised representatives of Contracting States emphasise the following aspects of this evolution:

  • In 2019, workshops outlined every State’s main obligations for achieving and maintaining eight critical elements of a state safety oversight system that can be identified through audit areas and through evidence that they prepare to buttress their online responses to the PQs. This includes readiness for ICAO’s new Implementation Assessment of the State Safety Programme. Key obligations (components) are collection of safety information, determination of state safety risk profile, prioritization and conduct of required USOAP CMA activities, and updating evidence of effective implementation and the status of significant safety concerns raised within ICAO;
  • Key guidance comes from Doc 9734, Safety Oversight Manual, Part A — “The Establishment and Management of a State Safety Oversight System” (3rd edition, 2017);
  • As noted, Online Framework — USOAP CMA’s restricted website <www.icao.int/usoap> — is defined as “A suite of web-integrated applications and centralised database systems which enables collection of safety-related information and documentation from different sources, and monitoring and reporting of safety oversight activities by ICAO and Member States”;
  • Online Framework enables password-protected use by authorised representatives of Contracting States for completion/updates of its State Aviation Activity Questionnaire; completion/updates of its Compliance Checklists through its Electronic Filing of Differences System (EFOD, i.e., differences compared with ICAO standards and recommended practices [SARPs] for national aviation oversight); completion/updates of its Protocol Questions; completion/updates of State Corrective Action Plans; responses to Mandatory Information Requests; and access to all safety-related information generated by USOAP CMA activities;
  • PQs are now the primary tool ICAO uses assess each State’s safety oversight capabilities for each critical element. OLF meanwhile enables States to conduct PQ self-assessments and, as a result, to succeed in preparing evidence of effective implementation of SARPs; and,
  • OLF provides access to a common library of key documents such as internal ICAO working papers, state letters, bulletins, schedules, ICAO Doc 9734, Safety Oversight Manual and ICAO Doc 9735, USOAP CMA Manual.

As of 2020, ICAO will perform audits using the amended SSP-related PQs on the States which will meet the criteria to be established by ICAO.

Note: Access to most of the data from the USOAP programme is only available to a very restricted audience.

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Further Reading

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