Centre of Applied Research Technology

Measuring Safety in Aviation: Empirical Results about the Relation between Safety Outcomes and Safet


The following research paper is published for The Seventh International Conference on Performance, Safety and Robustness in Complex Systems and Applications. See the content of the paper below.

A literature review conducted as part of a research project named “Measuring Safety in Aviation – Developing Metrics for Safety Management Systems” revealed several challenges regarding the safety metrics used in aviation. One of the conclusions was that there is limited empirical evidence about the relationship between Safety Management System (SMS) processes and safety outcomes. In order to explore such a relationship, respective data from 7 European airlines was analyzed to explore whether there is a monotonic relation between safety outcome metrics and SMS processes, operational activity and demographic data widely used by the industry. Few, diverse, and occasionally contradictory associations were found, indicating that (1) there is a limited value of linear thinking followed by the industry, i.e., “the more you do with an SMS the higher the safety performance”, (2) the diversity in SMS implementation across companies renders the sole use of output metrics not sufficient for assessing the impact of SMS processes on safety levels, and (3) only flight hours seem as a valid denominator in safety performance indicators. At the next phase of the research project, we are going to explore what alternative metrics can reflect SMS/safety processes and safety performance in a more valid manner.

Published by  Centre for Applied Research in Education 18 May 2017

Publication date

May 2017


Steffen Kaspers
Nektarios Karanikas
Selma Piric
Robbert van Aalst
Robert J. de Boer