NASA ASRS Reports: Practical Considerations

Any situation that could affect safety in the National Airspace System (NAS), other than criminal activities and accidents, may be confidentially reported to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through the Aviation and Safety Reporting System (ASRS) program.

This program was implemented by the FAA after the investigation of an airline crash in 1974[1] revealed a lack of information sharing among various parties in the NAS. FAA Advisory Circular 00-46E[2] explains the procedures for, and protections available from, ASRS. 


While there are many reasons to file an ASRS report, pilots often file a report[3] to avail themselves of the waiver of sanction[4] in FAA enforcement cases. One of the requirements to be eligible for the waiver of sanction is that the report is filed within 10 days[5] from the date of the violation or the date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation. However, even though the waiver of imposition of sanction[6] prevents the FAA’s proposed penalty (for example, a certificate suspension) from taking effect, the finding of violation from the enforcement action will still go on the airman’s record. 


Airmen are often the sole-source reporter of unique events in the NAS, such as this example[7] where a relatively light aircraft out-climbed the aircraft’s pressurization system, inadvertently exceeding one of the aircraft’s operating limitations and potentially violating 14 CFR 91.9. These sole-source reports may alert others to issues that might otherwise come as a surprise, such as the pitfalls of operating unusually lightly loaded aircraft, and thus improve safety in the NAS. It’s important to note that airmen are still eligible for the waiver of sanction even when the FAA becomes aware of a possible pilot deviation through another source or before the airman files an ASRS report, such as when ATC issues a Brasher notification (“possible pilot deviation” followed by a phone number to call), or ATC telephones the pilot who forgot to close the IFR flight plan.

All information that might help identify persons filing ASRS reports and parties named within are deleted by NASA, and 14 CFR 91.25 prohibits the FAA from using ASRS reports in any enforcement action, except accidents or criminal actions.  Individuals may avail themselves of the data NASA has collected and the various ASRS resources (alerts, database, publication bulletin, focused studies) that NASA makes publicly available.  ASRS Research Papers[8] offers published research in specific topics, while ASRS Operational Issues Bulletin[9] are timely published for important topics. ASRS Directline[10] offers publications significant to crew of complex aircraft, and ASRS Callback[11] is monthly collection of “lessons learned” topics using anonymized examples from real ASRS filings.













Cristina Zambrana

Cristina Zambrana is an in-house attorney with AOPA’s Legal Services Plan who counsels Plan members on a daily basis. She is an Airline Transport Pilot with type ratings in the A-320, B-737, DHC-8, and EMB-145. The AOPA Legal Services plan is offered as part of AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.
Topics: ATC

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