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Ireland’s Aviation Safety Strategic Plan


Safety is one of the primary concerns for air transport. Although it is always relevant for aviation, the recent events, for instance, COVID-19, have underlined the need for better safety measures and regulations, as the number of risk areas has increased. Irish airlines strive to provide their services while ensuring the staff’s and civil safety, but oversights still occur. For aviation, they could lead to dire consequences, so it is essential to uphold and improve safety policies and other related strategies.

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  1. To identify the strategic position on safety in Irish aviation.
  2. To evaluate how the 4-year plan addresses the oversights in Irish aviation committed in 2019.
  3. To highlight the flaws of the strategic plan and its gaps regarding safety.
  4. To gather evidence on international safety-related guidelines and practices.
  5. To conclude whether the Irish Aviation Safety Plan complies with those.

Strategic Position and Critical Analysis

The strategic position regarding safety in Irish aviation is concerned with further enhancing safety measures and comprises several points that address the challenges that already occur or may arise in the future. Those issues are entrusted to specific elements of the safety oversight system, and they each have an objective that can be instrumental in tackling various safety-related problems (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Some challenges involve technologies and information, while a number of them are concerned with safety promotion and maintaining the safety system (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Overall, identifying the challenges and addressing their solutions might make the strategy successful in achieving its goals.

The critical elements of the safety system are numerous, and each is responsible for one or several issues. For instance, the structure and policy have two objectives that target the Irish Aviation Authority Safety Regulation Division’s independence and viability on a global scale (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Safety Management and Safety Promotion are involved in promoting safety within the staff and the wider public (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Meanwhile, the Facilities/Equipment element is concerned with technologies, information, and the ways they can be used to handle safety intelligence (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Generally, all parts of the system have their roles described, and it becomes clear how the objectives will be addressed.

Additionally, the strategy presents the tools, the cycle of the State Plan for Aviation Safety (SPAS) implementation, as well as its main statistics. The Safety Policy instrument appears to be limited to those areas not covered by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), but it is still active in the Oversight System (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). The SPAS cycle appears to be annual and includes such stages as drafting, finalizing, publishing, and monitoring (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). As for the Plan’s statistics, it appears that Safety Policy has the most actions involved, which could be explained by its fundamental role in the system (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Moreover, the strategy highlights both the systematic and specific risks, including the recent ones, which is its strength, according to the SWOT model (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Altogether, the strategic position lies in maintaining and improving aviation safety with a robust annual plan and the underlined mechanics that will tackle the existing and upcoming challenges.

The strategic plan seemingly addresses the safety issues 2019 review, although some of them are referred to in a general way. For instance, those involving technical problems are directly provided in the strategy, more specific problems that concern passengers and intelligence are underrepresented and can be found in obscure passages (Irish Aviation Authority, 2019; Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Although such issues could be considered minor in comparison to the ones that openly affect the aircraft and threaten the lives of the passengers and the personnel, they could cause those (Irish Aviation Authority, 2019). Therefore, they deserve a separate category that would provide detailed actions for handling such situations. However, on the whole, many of the actions underlined in the recent strategy appear to be influenced by the issues that occurred in 2019, and most of them were properly addressed (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Moreover, the plan also considered those risks that are not related to aviation (COVID-19, Brexit), which makes it viable for the time being. Thus, while the SPAS has several weaknesses, its strengths allow the strategy to be relevant for the given period.

Despite the mostly positive impression of the strategy implied earlier, it may still fail to produce the desired outcomes of improving aviation safety. According to the SWOT analysis, one of the plan’s weaknesses is its inability to address long-term measures against COVID-19 (Irish Aviation Authority, 2020). Its adverse impact on the field is palatable, as the number of commercial flights dropped compared to 2019, as seen in Figure 1.

Number of commercial flights tracked by Flightradar24, 2019 vs. 2020
Figure 1. Number of commercial flights tracked by Flightradar24, 2019 vs. 2020

Moreover, aviation employment and aircraft manufacturing also suffered as a result of the pandemic (Nhamo, Dube, and Chikodzi, 2020). While COVID-19 actions are partially addressed in the strategy, it requires more in-depth actions that will consider various possibilities and hazardous situations. However, the pandemic also presents opportunities to change the way the aviation system operates. Gössling (2020) suggests an alternative model of slimmed air transport that addresses economic and environmental issues. Other changes can be made in the field of transactions and management. Overall, COVID-19 is the primary safety risk for aviation as of now, and while the failure to address it may have dire consequences, the new opportunities may invigorate the system.

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Another weak point, which is not at the forefront currently but may manifest in the future, is related to information. With years, it will only gain importance, and its role in safety management may increase considerably, with information-related risks also gaining prominence, even if they are already known (Schmitt et al., 2019). Intelligence loss, compromising, and manipulation might become more threatening to the industry if it is not prepared (Nobles, 2018). While the strategy addresses equipment and software updates, those are just common ways of handling information that does not necessarily imply additional security enhancements. Thus, more measures for data protection are needed even if they target prospective or dormant risks. Overall, in an era when intelligence might be more important than other aspects of any field, it is essential to ensure its security.

The attractiveness of the industry may also significantly decrease due to the factors underlined earlier. According to Porter’s model, the threat of entry and substitutes might be high due to the new challenges and better alternatives as far as non-overseas traveling is concerned. On the other hand, the bargaining power of buyers is low, and the supplies might follow suit due to the pandemic, possibly affecting their operations and the demand. Thus, those industries or organizations that guarantee superior measures against the threat of COVID-19 might win in the market competition occurring in the “Red ocean”, so the safety plan should give special attention to the issue.

Strategic Choices & Best Practices

IAA is only a small part of the complex international aviation system, which issues general safety policies to be followed by all nations. Therefore, it is worth consulting the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines to discover what is of absolute necessity to upload regarding aviation safety. For instance, the ICAO has a Global Aviation Safety Plan (GASP) for three years until 2022. It addresses the roles of each constituent of the worldwide aviation system, the challenges, the goals, and the safety measures implementation (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2019). The document also provides the outline that state and regional safety plans must-have, so they can be analyzed according to the structure, and the roadmap (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2019). The latter provides the actions for safety initiatives and emphasizes the stakeholders responsible (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2019). Additionally, the GASP underlines the risks and suggests strategies that address how each level of the aviation system can contribute to mitigating them (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2019). Overall, the ICAO’s GASP provides the basis for developing regional aviation safety policies within the member countries.

Another important multinational organization that issues safety-related guidelines is the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Various recommendations are dispersed through its website that addresses safety issues regarding passengers, COVID-19, and general ones. For instance, a section is committed to cabin safety and how the current pandemic relates to it (IATA, 2020b). The topicality makes the recommendations extremely relevant and valuable, and their implementation should improve the experience of the aircraft personnel. Moreover, many additional guidelines describe possible courses of action while handling the disease, with updates reflecting the most recent changes in the situation (IATA, 2020c). Unlike long-term safety plans, such prompt information presentation might be especially instrumental for handling ongoing issues. In addition, general health guidelines are also presented, as COVID-19 does not automatically overwrite those (IATA, 2020d). A separate security department addresses such potential risks as cyberspace compromise and insider threats (IATA, 2020a). Although they already exist and endanger the industry’s safety, aviation’s prospective expansion and the rise of data importance will make those guidelines more relevant. Altogether, the IATA’s website addresses various safety issues, ranging from topical health-related ones to cybersecurity.

Being a part of the European Union (EU), Ireland has to comply with its aviation-related policies promoted by EASA. The organization has three essential documents highlighting safety concerns: Annual Safety Review, Annual Safety Recommendations, and European Plan for Aviation Safety. As of October 2020, the safety recommendations for the year are not released, which suggests difficulties compiling them amidst the pandemic. On the other hand, the safety review does not address the pandemic as a considerable risk, emphasizing that the industry can function regardless of it (European Union Aviation Safety Agency, 2020). Thus, although the document addresses the technical sides of aviation, it ignores a very relevant factor that may affect safety at large (European Union Aviation Safety Agency, 2020). The 4-year plan for aviation safety also does not consider COVID-19, which could be explained by its premature release. However, the oversights related to the disease in the vital guidelines that determine aviation safety throughout all countries belonging to the EU do raise some concerns. Considering the number of people involved in the field, the notions of overcoming the pandemic without properly stating how to address it appear understated.

The neighboring country’s safety guidelines issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) might also present some interest. Unlike other structures, the organization provides recommendations on the way to mitigate fire and smoke, which can be caused by lithium batteries (CAA, 2019). Additionally, it has a rubric on pilot performance and medical fitness, which are often overlooked (CAA, no date). However, for the most part, the CAA’s guidelines follow the same principles established by international aviation organizations.

Another country whose airline safety practices will be investigated in Canada. According to the Government of Canada (2020), safety involves occupational aspects, fatigue management, and safety management systems. Although those are dispersedly covered by other organizations, Canadian aviation appears to incline the pilot and personnel well-being as the basis of overall aviation safety (Government of Canada, 2020). An entire system is devoted to fatigue risk management that requires crews to undergo training within the constant process of updating regulations (Government of Canada, 2020). Additionally, it appears that Canada is the leading country in safety management systems, which are primarily supported by efficient inspectors with the authority to enforce the law (Government of Canada, 2020). Altogether, Canadian aviation has some specific features that separate it from previously analyzed guidelines, which could be explained by its closeness with the US’s policies, but they appear to work and ensure the country’s leading positions in the industry.

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Compared to the higher hierarchy documents, the Irish Safety Plan has certain drawbacks and improvements that address the region’s uniqueness. First of all, the guidelines devoted to COVID-19 are not developed properly. While it is difficult to include a developing issue into a long-term document, such an emergency may serve as an incentive to reconsider plan-making. There should probably be another strategy that will overwrite the current one, which may present inconveniences, but it will greatly assist those involved in aviation. The EU’s failure to address the pandemic situation further necessitates the rework. Moreover, it could be beneficial to combine COVID-19 notions with the guidelines devoted to other issues, including passengers and internal safety. Then, the recommendations in the field of cybersecurity are also insufficient and could borrow from those compiled by IATA. Unlike the pandemic-related issues, it is potential rather than topical, but its inclusion will improve the overall plan. At last, the strategy has some discrepancies with the outline suggested by GASP. Overall, specific improvements can be suggested within the Irish SPAS based on the comparison to higher hierarchy aviation documents.

As for how the plan fares compared to other countries, it appears to be on equal grounds. As in the CAA’s plan, SPAS has a section devoted to Brexit, as both countries are affected by it. Ireland and the UK wish to mitigate its effects as much as possible, and their cooperation on the issue might be beneficial. Borrowing those unique guidelines regarding fire safety and pilot performance might also enhance the safety plan. Meanwhile, comparing the Irish aviation guidelines to those of Canada might be difficult considering Canadian safety policies comply with a different hierarchy, but both offer the solutions to the persisting issues in local aviation. Adopting Canada’s guidelines might be impossible within Ireland’s aviation system, but enhancing certain existing actions that concern crews could be feasible. In conclusion, Ireland and other countries have qualified safety plans that address the local issues in the most effective way for the state.

Regardless of several oversights, SPAS strongly adheres to the international and interstate guidelines for the most part. One can find the majority of the issues highlighted and addressed, sometimes in a clearer way than they are presented in those documents. SPAS also appears more recent, by partially bringing attention to the COVID-19 risks, and more encompassing, considering economic and environmental influences. Although those improvements can be attributed to the plan being region-oriented, so, it considers what is essential for Irish aviation, even the general issues have unique actions instead of borrowing from the existing ones.


This report is concerned with the Irish aviation safety strategy and the ways to improve it. The SPAS was evaluated according to the SWOT analysis, and its strengths and weaknesses were underlined. The latter revealed both threats and opportunities for the industry amidst the current and future events. Aviation is also losing its attractiveness, so certain anti-pandemic actions should be undertaken to ensure its competitiveness within the transportation field. The sources of the improvement were also found in the guidelines of international and regional aviation organizations. IAA could borrow those related to COVID-19, crew safety, and cybersecurity, to ensure its competitiveness and viability during the pandemic situation, but overall, the safety plan seems adequate and self-sufficient.

Reference List

CAA (2019) Fire, smoke, fumes. Web.

CAA. Pilot performance. 2020. Web.

European Union Aviation Safety Agency. Annual safety review 2020. Web.

Government of Canada (2020) Aviation. Web.

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Gössling, S. (2020). ‘Risks, resilience, and pathways to sustainable aviation: A COVID-19 perspective’, Journal of Air Transport Management, 89, pp. 1-4.

IATA (2020a) Aviation security. Web.

IATA (2020b) Cabin safety. Web.

IATA (2020c) COVID-19: Resources for airlines & air transport professionals. Web.

IATA (2020d) Health & safety for passengers & crew. Web.

International Civil Aviation Organization (2019) Global aviation safety plan 2020-2022. Web.

Irish Aviation Authority. Review of aviation safety in Ireland during 2019. Web.

Irish Aviation Authority. State plan for aviation safety in Ireland 2020-2023. Web.

Nhamo, G., Dube, K., and Chikodzi, D. (2020) ‘COVID-19 and implications for the aviation sector: A global perspective’, in G. Nhamo, K. Dube, and D. Chikodzi (eds.) Counting the cost of COVID-19 on the global tourism industry. Cham: Springer, pp. 89-107.

Nobles, N. (2018) ‘Cyber threats in civil aviation’, in Information Resources Management Association (ed.) Emergency and disaster management: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications. Los Angeles: IBI Global, pp. 119-141.

Schmitt, A.R. et al. (2019) ‘Simulation-supported aviation cyber-security risk analysis: A case study’, CEAS Aeronautical Journal, 10(2), 517–530.

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