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In the late 1950s concern was expressed about the air safety record in UK. It was at the time of the introduction of jet airliners and the newly formed charter companies were operating very much on a shoestring. One of the steps taken to improve the UK flight safety record was to form a national Flight Safety Committee.
On 29th July 1959, Mr Harold Watkinson, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, announced in the House of Commons the formation of the Transport Flight Safety Committee. The main aims of this Committee were to consider common problems of flight safety, to advise on publicity within the industry and, in particular, to agree a system for the collection, analysis and exchange of information.
Founder members of the Transport Flight Safety Committee were The Ministry of Aviation, Air Registration Board, Air Ministry, BOAC, BEA, British Independent Air Transport Association, SBAC, British Insurance Association, and Lloyds.
In September 1961 the Committee adopted the title “Flight Safety Committee” (FSC) and declared itself independent in terms of policy and finance. Member organisations provided financial support and the Ministry of Aviation provided a Secretary for one year on a trial basis. In 1962 the FSC recruited a full time Secretary and a typist and set up offices in Epsom Square, Heathrow. A bulletin titled “Flight Safety Focus”, was issued at 6 weekly intervals to provide the readership with accounts of accidents, incidents and the lessons learned. In 1991 this was changed to a quarterly magazine titled “FOCUS on Commercial Aviation Safety” which now has a world-wide readership estimated at more than 14,500. It is issued free of charge to all members of the UKFSC and is also available on subscription to interested parties.
Since the early days, the UKFSC has developed whilst remaining true to the original concept and objectives. The meeting format has changed and the membership has grown from the original 9 organisations in 1959 to more than 90 in 2011. Information is freely exchanged and average attendance at meetings is 56. Observers and guests from the UK and overseas are welcome to attend to see how business is conducted.
In the early days financial support was based upon the size of the member airline with the revenue seats available fixing the percentage of the budget paid by each airline. Non-airline members paid a fixed amount decided annually at the AGM and the CAA, the successor to the original Air Registration Board, provided accommodation and administrative support “in kind”.
In 1986 a more equitable subscription formula was agreed and this is still in place today. In 1989 the Secretariat was moved to Fairoaks Airport and the UKFSC embarked upon a process of recruitment and modernisation to cater for the diverse and international membership it now enjoys.
The UKFSC meets in plenary session 6 times a year and is unique in that airlines, regulators and unions, together with experts from most disciplines within the industry, attend to discuss accidents, incidents and problems in a full, free and frank manner under the “Rule of Confidentiality”. This allows the “safety message” to be used whilst protecting the identity of the source. In addition to the SIE meetings and FOCUS magazine, the promotion of aviation safety is conducted through the UKFSC website and the Flight Safety Officer’s Familiarisation Course. The UKFSC is represented in numerous international and national aviation safety forums, the outcomes from which are published for the use of the membership on the website.
The UKFSC has an Executive Board responsible for setting Policy, Finance, Operational Safety and External Affairs. Ad hoc Working Groups and Committees are formed as and when required to address specific safety issues. In addition there is a Maintenance Standing Committee to address all engineering and maintenance aspects within commercial aviation.
In summary, the UK Flight Safety Committee was formed 50 years ago and has matured into a fully representative group of aviation safety professionals that meets regularly to further the cause of Flight Safety.