Quality assurance (QA) is the activity of providing, through an audit process, the evidence needed to establish that all activity is being conducted in accordance with the applicable requirements, standards and procedures. It should be carried out by a unit which is fully independent of the executive management who have responsibility for delivering the function being assessed. There should be appropriate means to ensure that response to findings is monitored and documented. In the aviation industry, a Quality System comprises the set of policies, processes and procedures required for the planning and execution of safe and efficient air operations. The system integrates the various internal processes and enables the organization to identify, measure, control and improve the effectiveness and safety of its activities.
According to ICAO Annex 6, Part I "Operation of Aircraft" aircraft maintenance organisations shall ensure good maintenance procedures and practices meeting the regulatory requirements by establishing an independent quality assurance system to monitor compliance with and adequacy of the procedures, or by providing a system of inspection to ensure that all maintenance is properly performed.
In the airline industry, implementation and operation of a quality assurance programme is usually the prime responsibility of a Quality Manager.
• An operator shall establish one Quality System and designate one Quality Manager to monitor compliance with, and the adequacy of, procedures required to ensure safe operational practices and airworthy aeroplanes. Compliance monitoring must include a feed-back system to the Accountable Manager to ensure corrective action as necessary.
• The Quality System must include a Quality Assurance Programme that contains procedures designed to verify that all operations are being conducted in accordance with all applicable requirements, standards and procedures.
• The Quality System and the Quality Manager must be acceptable to the Authority.
• The quality system must be described in relevant documentation.
• Notwithstanding sub-paragraph (a) above, the Authority may accept the nomination of two Quality Managers, one for operations and one for maintenance, provided that the operator has designated one Quality Management Unit to ensure that the Quality System is applied uniformly throughout the entire operation.
The primary safety programs of the Aviation System Standards include:
* --- Flight Safety
* --- Environmental
* --- Occupational Safety and Health
* --- Safety Management Systems
* --- Internal Evaluation Programs
A quality manager, sometimes called a quality assurance manager, coordinates the activities required to meet quality standards.
The responsibilities of the quality manager in aircraft operation and maintenance domain are described in JAR AMC 1.035, as follows:
The function of the quality manager is to monitor compliance with, and the adequacy of, procedures required to ensure safe operational practices and airworthy aeroplanes.
The function of the quality manager may be carried out by more than one person by means of different, but complementary, Quality Assurance programmes.
The primary role of the quality manager is to verify, by monitoring activity in the fields of flight operations, maintenance, crew training and ground operations, that the standards required by the Authority, and any additional requirements defined by the operator, are being carried out under the supervision of the relevant Nominated Postholder.
The quality manager should be responsible for ensuring that the Quality Assurance Programme is properly established, implemented and maintained.
The quality manager should:
a. Have direct access to the Accountable Manager;
b. Not be one of the nominated post holders; and
c. Have access to all parts of the operator’s and, as necessary, any sub-contractor’s organization.
Regardless of size or geographical location, aviation operators and service providers will be required to implement a Safety Management System. Civil aviation regulations, based on ICAO’s SMS framework, reference safety reporting as a key source of data for operational issues and the management and analysis of that data as a fundamental requirement of an SMS.
A Safety Management System is about managing risk, and without a comprehensive toolset, it is impossible to move from the historic reactive management of safety (analysis of accidents and incidents) to a required proactive approach. Both qualitative and quantitative data needs to be collected and categorised to allow effective trend analysis.
An SMS should be underpinned by the principles of Quality and Safety Assurance. Therefore, an SMS should integrate the key areas of a QMS:
* --- Audit management
* --- Document management
* --- Corrective / Preventive actions
Through incorporating quality management within the SMS, safety performance is improved.
There are standard reports that are mandated by authorities and regulators, such as air safety reports. However, an organisation should look beyond those that are mandatory and try to report on anything that can influence their SMS or their commercial and operational strategy. Reports should be easy to use, accessible and capture all the relevant data at source.
Safety risk assessment is an important function of a Safety Management System and an essential element of safety risk assessment is hazard identification. There are a number of tools and techniques available to identify hazards. Once identified, they can be managed through the SMS.
Once hazards are identified, they are managed through Risk Management. This is done by ensuring barriers are in place to prevent undesirable events from happening. The Risk Management process should be central to the SMS. The purpose of this is to enable an organisation to avoid or mitigate the impact of the hazards identified through the hazard identification process.
Continual review of the evidence provided through reports and audits enable an organisation to monitor their performance against pre-defined parameters. They can easily identify when things are starting to go wrong and can address any issues before they become a major problem.