Following the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) investigation of a Boeing B-727 accident in December 1974, it recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establish an incident reporting system to identify unsafe operating conditions. In April 1975, the FAA responded by establishing the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (ASRP) which led to the present day Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ASRS is a voluntary, confidential incident reporting program in the US. The reporting of unsafe conditions and practices to ASRS since then has risen from about 3,000 to 32,000 reports per year, most of them from pilots.
One feature of the program designed to identify and alert the aviation community to potential hazards and system deficiencies is the alert message process. A recent evaluation of the program by the FAA and NASA revealed the need for improvements. Implementing them, however, are not without its challenges. This paper describes some of them as well as the role of ASRS with other recent safety initiatives taken by government and industry. Overriding factors in making significant progress toward planned objectives are immunity and confidentiality limitations which are an integral part of the program to encourage reporting by the aviation community. How these important components are treated by the FAA, NASA and the aviation industry will determine the future of the program in the 21st Century.