In the ASAP program, airline employees can submit voluntary reports without fear of being reprimanded by their employer, and without fear of being legally implicated by the FAA. Reports remain anonymous, and can be paired with data from flight recorders to analyze the entire scope of the situation.
For example, if a pilot witnesses or is involved in flying an unstable approach, he can submit an ASAP report. The report will include information about the event which could be valuable to the flight operations department. If there are many unstable approaches reported into a single airfield, for example, the airline can inform the FAA and/or change their policies regarding approaches into that airport to reduce the risk of error for future pilots.
Years ago, before ASAP programs came along, pilots were reluctant to share information like this for fear of being disciplined or penalized for their actions. With many pilots and institutions on board with the ASAP program, safety reports have become common, giving the FAA and air carrier operations data needed to assess risk and prevent accidents.
With data from on-board flight recorders, air carriers can also analyze actual aircraft data to monitor trends, over-speed events, overweight events etc. This program, called FOQA (flight operational quality assurance) complements the ASAP program at many airlines. This gives the airline another method of finding and fixing problems before they occur, and, more importantly, before an accident occurs.How ASAP Works:
Reports Not Accepted into ASAP:
Not all ASAP reports are protected from punitive action. Employees that show an intentional disregard for safety, purposefully and knowingly cause problems, or are involved in criminal activity will be dismissed from the ASAP program. If necessary, the FAA will follow up with an independent investigation and legal action where appropriate.
That ASAP program has had it's share of troubles, with airlines backing out, citing trust issues between the companies and its pilots.
Still, as of October 2012, at least 95 air carriers were involved in the ASAP program. Many of those airlines have also extended their ASAP programs to maintenance personnel, dispatchers and flight attendants.