SAFA inspectors play a vital role in maintaining the safety of the global aviation system. They inspect foreign aircraft for safety issues, report their findings, and take necessary follow-up actions. Their work helps identify and address safety risks before they lead to accidents.
What is SAFA Inspection
SAFA stands for Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft. It is a kind of inspection program launched by the European Community back in 1996, which is used to check safety compliance as per ICAO standards.
European Commission Directive 2004/36/EC provides EU Member States with the legal right to conduct ramp inspections on third-country aircraft (registered in a country other than an EU Member State) landing at their airports.
Later, in 2012, the EU ramp inspection program replaced the original SAFA program and consists of two types of inspections – SAFA and SACA. Under SACA inspection EU operators are checked against EU standards, and under SAFA inspection all other inspections are carried out against international standards.
The European Standard procedures for SAFA & SACA have been integrated into Commission Regulation under Part-ARO.
What SAFA Inspectors Do
SAFA inspectors are responsible for ensuring that foreign aircraft operating within their jurisdiction comply with international safety standards. They perform ramp inspections of aircraft, which include checking the technical condition of the aircraft, flight crew licensing and training, and operational procedures. SAFA inspectors also review maintenance records and other documents to ensure that the aircraft is being operated safely.
A standardized checklist is used by SAFA inspectors to perform aircraft ramp inspections.
Steps to Become a SAFA Inspector
To become a SAFA inspector, you will need to meet certain educational, experience, and training requirements. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a SAFA inspector:
- Earn a degree/license in aviation: This will provide you with a strong foundation in aviation safety principles and regulations. Initially, you can choose a field like Aircraft Maintenance Engineering or Pilot.
- Gain experience in the aviation industry: Work in an aviation-related position for at least two years. This could include working as an airline pilot, flight attendant, aircraft mechanic, or air traffic controller. This experience will help you develop a deep understanding of aviation operations and safety procedures.
- Complete SAFA Inspector Training: Meet the eligibility criteria and enroll in the SAFA Inspector Training Program. This training is typically provided by government aviation authorities or private training organizations. Training will cover SAFA inspection methodology and applicable safety regulations.
- Pass the SAFA Inspector Exam: Pass theoretical and practical training to demonstrate your knowledge of SAFA procedures and regulations.
- Complete the OJT: Complete all tasks assigned by your Senior Ramp Inspector as per the OJT Checklist. Demonstrate your knowledge, judgment, and ability to perform ramp inspections.
- Undergo final assessment: During the final assessment, the results of theoretical, practical, and OJT training are taken into account. Upon successful completion of the assessment, you will be certified as a SAFA Inspector.
- Maintain your SAFA inspector certification: Complete recurrent training every three years to stay up-to-date on the latest SAFA procedures and regulations. This will ensure that you are competent to conduct SAFA inspections effectively.
- Physical Fitness: SAFA inspectors may be required to perform physical tasks such as climbing ladders and walking long distances. It is important to be in good physical condition to meet the demands of the job.
- Attention to Detail: SAFA inspectors must have a keen eye for detail and be able to identify potential safety hazards.
- Communication Skills: SAFA inspectors must be able to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical personnel. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential for effective collaboration with airline personnel and other stakeholders.
- Problem-Solving Skills: SAFA inspectors must be able to identify and resolve safety issues in a timely and efficient manner.
- Ability to Work Independently: SAFA inspectors often work independently and must be able to make sound judgments based on their training and experience.
English eligibility criteria
The competent authority will verify that the candidate has adequate command of the English language. You should have better English proficiency. This proficiency can be attested by a certificate, such as ICAO English Proficiency Level 4, Common European Reference for Languages: Level B2, or equivalent certification. Alternatively, English language proficiency can also be demonstrated through a diploma of secondary or higher education where English was used as the medium of instruction.
Training and Assessment
The purpose of theoretical training is to familiarise the SAFA inspectors with the Ramp Inspection Program and with the common inspection procedures, finding categorization, reporting, and follow-up procedures.
The practical training aims to provide instruction on inspection techniques and specific areas of attention without any interference with the flight crew. Typically, this is conducted in a non-operational environment, such as on an aircraft in a maintenance hangar. Alternatively, aircraft with sufficient turnaround time may be used.
The on-the-job training (OJT) aims to familiarize candidates with the specifics of conducting a ramp inspection in a real operational environment. The competent authority ensures that the candidate’s area of expertise aligns with that of a senior ramp inspector delivering OJT.
The senior ramp inspector assesses the candidate while they perform ramp inspections under supervision. The candidate is considered to have successfully completed the OJT only after demonstrating to the senior ramp inspector their professional capacity, knowledge, judgment, and ability to conduct ramp inspections in accordance with the requirements.
Some ramp inspection OJT items may be replaced by classroom training using representative examples when no operational environment is required, e.g. documents, and dangerous goods.
The OJT comprises 2 phases:
- Observation: During this phase, the candidate accompanies and observes a senior ramp inspector performing a series of ramp inspections (including the preparation of the inspection and post-inspection activities such as reporting). The senior inspector also provides details on applicable follow-up activities.
- Under supervision: During this phase, the candidate performs ramp inspections under the supervision and guidance of a senior ramp inspector.
The competent authority ensures that all ramp inspectors undergo recurrent training at least once every 3 calendar years.
The final assessment is conducted by Senior Inspectors, the National Coordinator, or any other nominated person to verify the inspector’s competency. During this assessment, the results of the theoretical, practical, and OJT training are taken into consideration. If the candidate is found to be fully qualified, the competent authority issues a Formal Qualification Statement. In the event that the candidate does not pass the assessment, the competent authority may request additional theoretical, practical, or on-the-job training.
A qualified ramp inspector is required to undergo a periodic assessment every three years, as mentioned in part ARO. When performing the periodical assessment of a qualified ramp inspector’s competence and performance, the competent authority may use any of the following assessment methods or a combination thereof:
- A theoretical examination;
- A number of ramp inspections under the supervision of a senior ramp inspector covering all inspector’s privileges;
- A sample analysis of ramp inspections, during which the inspector has raised findings in his domain of competence.
SAFA training organization
There are many organizations that offer a wide range of SAFA training courses to meet the needs of aviation personnel worldwide. These training organizations help increase your understanding of SAFA requirements, enhance your ability to identify and assess safety risks, improve communication and interpersonal skills, and boost confidence in performing SAFA inspections.
Before taking any course you should check the approval of the ramp inspection training organization by the competent authority.
Syllabus of training for ramp inspectors
The training course is divided into five modules.
1. Module (GEN): General Overview of the EU Ramp Inspection Program
- Overview of the safety inspection of aircraft: The objectives of this sub-module are to know the background of the EU Ramp Inspection Program, identify the main elements of the program, understand the role of ramp inspections in the general safety oversight context, identify the stakeholders and their responsibilities, outline ICAO’s role and responsibilities within the international civil aviation context, and understand the obligations of the signatory States.
- The EU legal framework: The objectives of this sub-module are to understand the direct relationship between ICAO standards and ramp inspection.
- The ICAO framework: The objectives of this sub-module are to understand the direct relationship between ICAO standards and ramp inspection.
- Safety assessment technical aspects overview: The objectives of this sub-module are to understand how an annual ramp inspection program is to be defined, understand what is to be checked during a ramp inspection preparation, and understand the ramp inspection methodology.
- Ramp inspection tool – Hands-on training: The objectives of this sub-module are to have the relevant knowledge to input and retrieve data from the ramp inspection tool, to understand the analysis process and its deliverables, and to comprehend the analysis’s dependence on the accuracy of the inspection reports.
2. Module (A): Flight deck inspection items
The objectives of this module are to enable candidates to possess the relevant knowledge for inspecting each item in the Flight Deck. They will be able to use their technical knowledge and ramp inspection techniques related to flight deck inspection items in a satisfactory manner during the subsequent on-the-job training.
3. Module (B): Cabin inspection items
The objectives of this module are to enable candidates to possess the relevant knowledge for inspecting each item in the Cabin. They will be able to use their technical knowledge and ramp inspection techniques related to cabin inspection items in a satisfactory manner during the subsequent on-the-job training.
4. Module (C): Aircraft condition inspection items
The objectives of this module are to enable candidates to possess the relevant knowledge for inspecting each item related to aircraft condition. They will be able to use their technical knowledge and ramp inspection techniques related to aircraft condition inspection items in a satisfactory manner during the subsequent on-the-job training.
5. Module (D): Cargo inspection items and general item
The objectives of this module are to enable candidates to possess the relevant knowledge for inspecting each item related to cargo including dangerous goods, and general items. They are able to use their technical knowledge and ramp inspection techniques related to Cargo inspection items and general items in a satisfactory manner during the subsequent on-the-job training.
Alcohol Testing privilege
A ramp inspector can be granted an Alcohol Testing privilege after successful completion of additional theoretical training.
Syllabus of alcohol testing training
- Cover a typical alcohol test from start to finish
- Initial test and confirmation
- Positive or refusal
- Proof of inspection
- Notification of positive
- Ramp inspection tool
- National requirements for legal actions
- National requirements for data protection
- Correct use of breathalyzer
- Hygienic principles
- Conflict management
- Handling confrontations tactfully and constructively
Career prospects as SAFA Inspector
SAFA inspectors play a vital role in ensuring the safety of international air travel. They are in high demand around the world and have opportunities to work for government aviation authorities, international organizations, and private consulting firms. SAFA inspectors can also advance their careers by specializing in specialized areas of aviation safety, such as aircraft maintenance, flight operations, or cabin safety.
Remember, becoming a SAFA Inspector requires dedication, continuous learning, and a passion for aviation safety. With these qualities and the right preparation, you can begin a rewarding career in this vital field.