Internal Evaluation Program: Is it Worth the Work?
How is your Internal Evaluation Program (IEP) coming along? For some operators, it can be a real challenge, especially those with limited manpower. Even though it might feel like an uphill climb to create and maintain, managing an active and ongoing IEP truly is a case of the positives outweighing the negatives!
Do regulations require an IEP? No, there is not a regulatory requirement for an IEP - it is a voluntary undertaking. If you do decide to create an IEP for your operations, don't be overwhelmed with the process. As the old saying goes, “There’s an app for that” or in this case, "...an FAA Advisory Circular (AC) for that!"
AC 120-59B (Internal Evaluation Programs) is your go-to resource to develop your IEP. It provides information and guidance to persons operating under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) who are designing, developing, and implementing an Internal Evaluation Program (IEP). The procedures and practices outlined in this AC can be applied to all operations. Basically, like a good SMS, it is scalable! I will highlight some key areas of AC 120-59B.
The FAA encourages the development and use of such programs to increase management and employee awareness of their responsibility to promote continual compliance with all regulatory requirements and best safety practices. Establishing the type of program described in AC 120-59B, again, is completely voluntary. If used by an air carrier, an IEP may satisfy the internal evaluation requirement of 14 CFR part 5, § 5.71. However, an IEP may be required under other programs such as the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Commercial Air Carrier Quality and Safety Requirements and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). A robust IEP can facilitate data gathering for a Safety Management System (SMS) (if implemented) and quality assurance (QA) activities. Implementation of an IEP as outlined in AC 120-59B will assist in meeting such requirements.
According to AC 120-59B, an effective IEP should include the following fundamental elements:
1. A Systems-Oriented Process
2. Extends Beyond Regulatory Compliance
3. Is an Independent Process
4. Defines Responsibility and Authority
5. Allows For Senior Management Review
6. Provides a Feedback Loop
7. Is a Continual Process
The FAA will work with you to help put your IEP in place. While they do not approve or accept an IEP, they are available to provide advice, assistance, or direction to aviation organizations interested in developing an IEP. Preparing program documentation will provide the FAA with an opportunity to review the proposed duties, responsibilities, procedures, and organization of the IEP.
The FAA encourages aviation organizations to openly share the results of their IEP with the assigned Flight Standards office. Proprietary information contained in IEP reports/records should be maintained and secured on the aviation organization’s premises. If given to the FAA, proprietary information will be protected by the FAA in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Sharing IEP information can enhance the working relationship between the FAA and the aviation organization. Information not required by regulation that remains on the aviation organization’s property would not normally be subject to public disclosure.
For aviation organizations electing to voluntarily disclose apparent violations discovered by an IEP, further information is provided in AC 00-58 and AC 121-37. Under this policy, when an aviation organization finds a potential violation of the regulations, reports it to the FAA, and meets other specific conditions, the FAA will close this event with either corrective action or administrative action (i.e., a Letter of Correction (LOC)). Disclosures such as these require corrective action plans (CAP) designed to eliminate the underlying cause of the problem. Even though the internal evaluation process supports voluntary disclosures, it is not necessary to have an IEP to participate in the voluntary disclosure program, nor is it mandatory to disclose findings discovered during an internal evaluation. However, if the FAA discovers regulatory violations that were not disclosed, the aviation organization may receive enforcement action, or alternatively, Compliance Action if willing and able to cooperate with the FAA.
If you do not already have an IEP in place, remember there is an AC for that! I encourage you to make time to take an in-depth look at AC 120-59B and consider starting the process soon. Work with your local FAA to develop an IEP scaled to the unique size and needs of your operations.
Here at Baldwin, we are pleased to offer an Internal Evaluation Program (IEP) service. Over a 24 month period, 10-15 question audits are delivered to your portal for completion every month. This allows you to look at your organization frequently using short, to-the-point audits to ensure required and recommended risk controls are in place. Baldwin is providing this at no cost to give back to the industry through leveraging responses in identifying common gaps in organizations.
As I stated earlier, even though it might feel like an uphill climb to create and maintain an IEP it truly is a case of the positives outweighing the negatives!