The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) was established in 1999 to promote global aviation safety through regular audits of ICAO Member States to determine their ability to maintain effectively their safety oversight systems. The programme is managed by the Monitoring and Oversight office within the Air Navigation Bureau.
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.
ICAO launched the USOAP on 1 January 1999 in response to widespread concerns expressed during the 29th ICAO Assembly in 1992. At that Session of the Assembly, a concern was raised on the apparent inability of some Contracting States to carry out their safety oversight functions.
Assembly Resolution A32-11 directed ICAO to conduct regular, mandatory, systematic and harmonised safety audits of all Contracting States, with the objective of enhancing safety by promoting the implementation of States of International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). It also encouraged its application by Contracting States, together with the greater transparency and increased accessibility of audit results.
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 up missions were completed by 2004.
The audit follow-up missions conducted during this 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.
Assembly Resolution A33-8 expanded the programme to include 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 how 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 the programme's succeess, the 35th ICAO Assembly proposed the continuation and expansion of the USOAP starting in 2005. It was agreed upon in Resolution A35-6, that the programme would be expanded to all safety-related Annexes. Consequently, Annex 9 — Facilitation and Annex 17 — Security were excluded from the scope. The overall USOAP would then transition to a comprehensive systems approach (CSA) to:
- Ensure that the USOAP 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.
- Makes all aspects of the auditing process visible to Contracting States;
- Makes the final safety oversight audit reports available to all Contracting States; and
- Provides access to all Contracting States to all relevant information derived from the Audit Findings and Differences Database (AFDD) through a secure ICAO website.
In addition, the resolution required ICAO to restructure the safety oversight audit reports to reflect the critical elements (CEs) of the safety oversight systems as reflected in the Safety Oversight Manual (Doc 9734), Part A – The Establishment and Management of a State’s Safety Oversight System. Under the CSA, all States would be audited at least once during a six-year period.
* Note: Safety oversight audit and other safety-related information are made available at ICAO’s Safety Audit Results: USOAP Interactive Viewer.
ICAO began conducting audits under the comprehensive systems approach in January 2005. This approach consisted 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) was reviewed prior to the audit to analyze the type of safety oversight organisation established by the State, the implementation of Annex provisions, and the differences from SARPs identified by the States. This allowed 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 as well as the size and required composition of the audit team.
2. On-site phase. An ICAO audit team visited the State to verify 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 ICAO obligations.
3. Post-audit phase. The ICAO audit team prepared the audit report following coordination with the State. In addition, the State developed and submitted corrective action plans (CAPs) to address the identified audit findings.
The USOAP CSA ended in 2010 following a six-year cycle.
Assembly Resolution A36-4 established a new approach to be applied in the USOAP beyond 2010 based on the Continuous Monitoring Approach (CMA) concept. Beyond 2010, the objective of USOAP would be to promote global aviation safety by enhancing Contracting States’ safety oversight capabilities, through the continuous monitoring of their safety performances in order to identify safety deficiencies, assess associated safety risks, implement strategies for their mitigation, and validate States’ achieved safety oversight capabilities.
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, the 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 the ICAO USOAP 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 OLF is a suite of web-integrated applications and centralised database systems, which enables collection of safety-related information and documentation, and monitoring and reporting of safety oversight activities by ICAO and Member States. The OLF provides restricted password-protected use by authorised representatives of Contracting States for completion and update of its State Aviation Activity Questionnaire (SAAQ); completion and update of its Compliance Checklists through its Electronic Filing of Differences System (CC/EFOD), representing the States’ differences compared with ICAO [SARPs] for national aviation oversight); completion and update of its Protocol Question (PQ) self-assessment; completion and update of the States’ Corrective Action Plans; and access to all safety-related information generated by USOAP CMA activities. In addition, the system provides access to a common library of key documents, such as internal ICAO working papers, state letters, electronic bulletins, schedules, ICAO Doc 9734, Safety Oversight Manual, and ICAO Doc 9735, USOAP CMA Manual.
Note: Access to most of the data from the USOAP programme is only available on the OLF at www.icao.int/usoap.
The USOAP CMA continues to evolve to support each State’s efforts in implementing a State Safety Programme (SSP). In 2014, ICAO published its Protocol Questions (PQs) on safety management to be used for audits and other USOAP CMA activities. The first edition of the 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 conducts regional workshops for Contracting States that emphasise the various aspects of the USOAP CMA. The objectives of the workshops are to provide States with updated information on the programme and provide hands-on training on the OLF. This includes modules, demonstrations, and group exercises in the following areas:
- Overview and Updates of the USOAP CMA
- CMA OLF State Management
- Electronic Filing of Differences
- PQ Self-Assessment
- Development, Submission, and Updates of Corrective Action Plans (CAPs)