The International Air Transport Association (IATA) established the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Programme, now internationally recognised and accepted, as an evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. The aims of the IOSA programme are:
- To improve airline operational safety through the industry’s first globally accepted audit programme using internationally harmonised standards.
- To improve airline efficiency by eliminating redundant audits.
IOSA is based on industry-proven quality audit principles, and is designed to ensure that each audit is conducted in a standardised manner to achieve consistent results.
All IATA members are IOSA-registered and must remain registered to maintain IATA membership. Conversely, IATA membership is not a requirement to undergo an IOSA audit. According to IATA, there are dozens of airlines on the IOSA registry that are not IATA members.
Programme Evolution and Governance
IOSA was established in 2003 to meet airline industry needs for common globally-harmonised operating safety standards.
Prior to implementation of IOSA, airlines audited one another on their ability to deliver safe operation. The audits had varying standards with no consistency. Implementation of IOSA has led to airlines from all regions having incorporated IOSA Standards into their airline operations. IOSA is a major component of industry efforts to improve aviation safety, and is now recognised globally as the benchmark safety audit programme.
IOSA is not intended as a substitute for state regulatory authority oversight. However, IOSA audit reports can provide valuable additional data that can assist States in risk assessment and in planning their own inspections. A growing number of governments are planning to incorporate IOSA as part of their certification process.
The IOSA programme is subject to oversight by the IOSA Oversight Committee (IOC) - an entity within the IATA governance structure established to ensure that:
- The IOSA programme team uses processes compliant with recognised quality standards;
- The IATA member airlines play an active role in the IOSA programme;
- The IOC roster is representative of the global industry.
The IOC is comprised of representatives from twenty-five member airlines and ten regulatory authorities. The IOC reports to the Operations Committee, which in turn, reports to the IATA Board of Governors.
IOSA provides a common set of audit standards that are centrally managed, continuously updated, and consistently implemented by experts and industry professionals. IOSA standards are derived from all relevant ICAO standards, in particular Annexes 1, 6, and 8, as well as from regulations of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and industry best practices. The IOSA standards are based on eight areas that contribute to airline operational safety. These are:
- Corporate Organisation and Management Systems (ORG)
- Flight Operations (FLT)
- Operational Control - Flight Dispatch (DSP)
- Aircraft Engineering and Maintenance (MNT)
- Cabin Operations (CAB)
- Ground Handling (GRH)
- Cargo Operations (CGO)
- Operational Security (SEC)
IOSA Standards are specified systems, policies, programs, processes, procedures, plans, sets of measures, facilities, components, types of equipment or any other aspect of operations under the scope of IOSA that are considered an operational necessity, and with which an operator will be expected to be in conformity at the conclusion of the Audit.
During an audit, determination of nonconformity with specifications contained in an IOSA Standard results in a finding, which in turn results in the generation of a Corrective Action Report (CAR) by the Audit Organization (AO) that conducted the Audit.
To close a finding, an operator will be required to respond with a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) that is acceptable to the AO, and then implement corrective action in accordance with the CAP. The implementation of corrective action will be verified by the AO.
Trend data flowing from IOSA audits can be used together with data from other safety programmes in IATA to help focus industry awareness on areas in need of safety improvement.
Audit Organisations and Process
IOSA audits are carried out by organisations accredited by IATA. Accreditation of an audit organisation (AO) is therefore the process used by IATA to regulate and control the conduct of audits and to ensure the necessary level of IOSA programme quality and standardisation.
The IOSA audit report is the official final record of an audit containing information regarding the conduct and results of the audit, implementation of corrective actions and closure of all findings. The IOSA audit report is the property of the auditee airline, but is subject to extensive quality control verification by IATA.
Interested parties wishing to view an IOSA audit report can go to the IOSA registry and request a report. IATA handles all requests in a secure and confidential manner on behalf of the auditee airline. Each request is verified and, prior to releasing the report, the auditee airline must provide final approval.
Airlines that have undergone an IOSA audit by an IATA accredited audit organisation and have cleared all findings, enter the IOSA registry. The IOSA registry is a listing of all IOSA registered operators and is updated on a continuous basis. IOSA registration is a confirmation of the commitment of an airline to deliver a safe operation based on the standards contained in the IOSA standards manual.
It is important to note that IOSA is an audit of an airline’s operational procedures and documentation - it is not a physical inspection of aircraft. To maintain their status on the IOSA registry, airlines must undergo, and complete, an IOSA audit every two years.
Benefits of IOSA
With the implementation and international acceptance of IOSA, airlines and regulators will achieve the following benefits:
- The establishment of the first internationally recognised operational audit standards;
- A reduction of costs and audit resource requirements for airlines and regulators;
- Continuous updating of standards to reflect regulatory revisions and the evolution of best practices within the industry;
- A quality audit programme under the continuing stewardship of IATA;
- Accredited audit organisations with formally trained and qualified auditors;
- Accredited training organisations with structured auditor training courses;
- A structured audit methodology, including standardised checklists;
- Elimination of audit redundancy through mutual acceptance of audit reports; and,
- Development of auditor training courses for the airline industry.