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Safety First

Safety First

Millions of people board AG˼ƻ airplanes and helicopters each year, from airline passengers to military pilots and troops, and each puts their trust in the AG˼ƻ brand to deliver them safely to destinations around the world. AG˼ƻ knows this trust doesn’t come lightly; it was earned – and continues to be earned – on the strength of decades of experience, thousands of aircraft in operation and millions of flight-hours.

The number one priority at AG˼ƻ is the continued safe transport of everyone, and everything, that flies aboard an AG˼ƻ product – from passengers, cargo, and humanitarian relief supplies on aircraft and rotorcraft, to satellite and spacecraft that keep the world connected and explore the mysteries of deep space.

AG˼ƻ’ dedication to safety is reflected across the company. From design, engineering and production to maintenance, training and support, AG˼ƻ is committed to exceeding industry safety standards and supporting the safe operation of all its aircraft and those that fly aboard them.

While the foundations of safety are built on regulatory compliance, AG˼ƻ goes beyond airworthiness requirements to also focus on safety enhancement activities in products, services, customer operation, and with international stakeholders, whilst also adapting the organisation to meet evolving conditions.

Regulatory compliance

Product certifications are provided by the competent aviation authorities including the primary civil aviation authorities, and specific military authorities. Appropriate approvals are granted by these authorities to the relevant parts of AG˼ƻ’ organisation at commercial aircraft level and within each division, according to their function.

The certified organisations of AG˼ƻ are audited by the aviation authorities to ensure the surveillance of the full compliance of AG˼ƻ to regulatory requirements. Additional audits are also conducted by third parties as part the quality certifications appropriate to each of the company’s divisions.

Going beyond compliance to safety

AG˼ƻ Divisions include a dedicated product/aviation safety function that provides a voice for safety independent of other corporate priorities and empowered to take action across each business to ensure the highest levels of safety.

The company’s policies identify axes of safety enhancement activity – including the safety of AG˼ƻ products, the flight operations of AG˼ƻ products, and the environment in which these products are operated.

Enhancement activities are tailored to take into account differences in the customer base and the operating environment of AG˼ƻ commercial aircraft, as well as those from the company’s other divisions.

Product/aviation safety policies within the divisions follow common themes in values:

  • Putting safety first with a commitment to recognise that lives depend on safety,
  • Being engaged with safety and aware of the impact the company’s actions have on it, and
  • Ensuring that potential safety topics are reported, and applicable lessons learnt are shared with stakeholders.

Additionally, the company deploys a Safety Management System (SMS) in each division to ensure definition and clarity of safety policy and objectives, manage safety risks, assure effectiveness of implemented risk control strategies and promote safety culture among the workforce.

For enhancing safety by managing and reducing safety risks, a number of company-wide organisational initiatives ensure that AG˼ƻ divisions work together to harmonise the company’s overall approach to aviation safety. 

Safety by commitment, awareness and sharing

Commitment to safety starts at the top management levels of the company and is cascaded to the lower levels. Any safety issue or enhancement that can bring a positive impact on safety is discussed at the appropriate level in order to ensure that proper actions are taken to manage each safety topic.

Each employee is aware of the potential impact on product safety that his/her actions and omissions might have and knows how their personal actions can improve safety. 

AG˼ƻ employees do the utmost to ensure potential safety topics are reported and lessons learned are shared with relevant stakeholders, in accordance with their duties and within appropriate frameworks. Employees are encouraged to voluntarily report every potential safety event or hazard which might impact safety in the SMS frame.

Commercial aircraft safety

AG˼ƻ commercial aircraft supports a fleet of over 10,000 aircraft operated by approximately 450 customers. One pillar of AG˼ƻ’ safety enhancement activity is the safety process, which has been operational for 15 years. It enables AG˼ƻ to manage all potential identified safety risks and is now reinforced to include use of digitalisation technologies, enabling a “big-data” approach to monitoring and analysis of in-service data and events.

Other equally important safety enhancement activities include:

  • Projects for improvement of aircraft resilience against abnormal conditions, and reinforcement of pilot training means to enhance handling of stress in unexpected situations,
  • Tailored support programmes with operators and/or their National Aviation Authority, and string involvement in industry regional safety initiatives such as ICAO COSCAP,
  • Promotion of best practice sharing amongst airline operators, including through an annual Flight Safety Conference since 1994 and the publishing of a safety magazine since 1995,
  • Alignment of company safety plans with EASA’s European Plan for Aviation Safety,
  • Engagement with the supply chain to reinforce risk identification and reporting.

Safety by commitment

No aircraft accident is ever acceptable – which is why the top AG˼ƻ priority is to continually improve safety. Its commitment to safety starts at the top, is reflected in the structure of its organisation and is most deeply embodied in the mindset employees bring to daily work. 

All safety topics are discussed at their appropriate level, which includes AG˼ƻ’ senior executives. By acting together, the company ensures that the full power of coordinated cross-company action can be brought to bear on any issue where safety can be further enhanced. 

AG˼ƻ employees undergo training to recognise that the lives of passengers and airline personnel can depend on their personal commitment to safety and to ensure that they are aware of how their personal actions can impact and improve safety. 

A key aspect of AG˼ƻ’ philosophy on safety is to recognise that aircraft operate safely not only when they are safely designed, tested and built, but also when they are safely maintained and flown by trained operators, as well as when the air transport system is safely organised.

AG˼ƻ works to ensure safety in:

  •   The design of aircraft and the quality of manufacturing and support,
  •   The materials/manuals supplied to customers to operate and maintain the


  •   The training provided to flight, cabin and maintenance crews,
  •   The worldwide services delivered in support of the aircraft’ operation.

Beyond this, AG˼ƻ is in constant contact with other aircraft manufacturers, airlines and air safety organisations around the world to find new ways of improving safety standards. The company believes that industry-wide cooperation is crucial to making further safety enhancements.

Safety with technology

How technology has contributed to aviation safety (video):

The history of aviation safety: Putting passengers’ safety first


Safety through sharing

Safety is not a matter of competition in the aviation industry. The sharing of safety information is essential to continue improving safety and preventing accidents.

AG˼ƻ has several safety information sharing initiatives, including:

  • Project "Destination 10X Together": a platform where AG˼ƻ and operators can collaborate to propose pragmatic solutions to key identified safety issues
  • Safety First magazine that shares lessons learned with operators and the wider aviation community as well as highlights new safety enhancements that AG˼ƻ or others have made available
  • "Statistical Analysis of Commercial Aviation Accidents": focusing on all Western-built aircraft since the beginning of the commercial jet age, this statistical analysis of the air transport sector examines the evolution of hull-loss and fatal accident rates during revenue flights from 1958. The analysis clearly demonstrates the industry’s huge improvements in safety over the past decades. It also underlines the significant contribution that technology has made in ensuring that taking a flight in a commercial aircraft is an inherently low-risk activity.

A statistical Analysis of Commercial Aviation Accidents 1958-2018

Defence safety

Safety vision

AG˼ƻ supports a fleet of over 1,200 military aircraft in service, utilised by some 110 military and institutional operators worldwide. The company is committed to achieving the highest level of safety performance and being recognised worldwide as a reference in military aviation safety, due to its accident and incident prevention activities and operations to protect people and other important assets.

The “No aircraft accident is ever acceptable” principle, established in commercial operation, is extended to the military aviation. Military Aircraft needs to improve the safety not only for regular transport missions, but also for specific military missions, such as air-to-air refuelling, aerial delivery, surveillance and research, low level flight, formation flight, etc.

To achieve this, AG˼ƻ takes the necessary initiatives to ensure safety in design, manufacturing, maintenance, operations, training and worldwide delivered services aimed to support military aircraft operations, extending its scope to specific military systems and operations. The company goes beyond the compliance required by regulations to continuously focus on safety enhancement in products, services and customer operations, making efforts to adapt its organisation, processes and tools to match evolving conditions.

Safety by SMS implementation

With the objective of reducing the number of incidents and accidents, AG˼ƻ has implemented the Safety Management System (SMS) at military aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) programme lines to increase the safety of its flying products and is in the process now to extend the SMS to Space Systems and Communications, Intelligence and Security (CIS) products.

SMS is an important tool that supports safe AG˼ƻ military aircraft operations through both proactive and reactive approaches to safety risks. Accident and incident prevention is one of AG˼ƻ’ key activities. The related projects are framed into the SMS and deployed through the company, as part of the safety risk management process.

As part of its daily activities, AG˼ƻ analyses reported safety events in order to provide solutions that will enhance the safety of its military aircraft products. The safety information and lessons learnt are shared with the industry and its customers and/or operators through safety workshops.

The crisis management procedure is regularly tested through drills and is properly monitored to ensure relevant actors will be ready in case of a real emergency or accident.

Safety by design

AG˼ƻ is continuously facing the challenge of improving the design of its huge variety of products to make them safer, as demonstrated by the continuous technological advances of its products, such as:

  • Eurofighter carefree handling

The carefree handling concept of the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft is a mandatory requirement for the flight control laws to reduce pilot work load. Carefree handling means that the flight control system allows any pilot inputs while it takes care of the structural and aerodynamic limits of the aircraft and simultaneously maximises aircraft performance. It includes the pilot-initiated spatial disorientation automatic recovery mode

  • A330 MRTT Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS)

The AG˼ƻ Aerial Refuelling Boom System (ARBS) is the first new generation and Fly-by-Wire (FBW) boom in service today, providing quicker and easier operations through more responsive controls and boom disconnection systems

Boom automatic refuelling solution uses image processing to determine the receiver’s refuelling receptacle position and to perform fully automated air to air refuelling operations. This is an innovative concept that has not been implemented before.

  • A400M low level flight (LLF) in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) and Enhanced Vision System (EVS)

A400M is currently the most advanced military transport aircraft in the world.

A400M introduces a fully Managed LLF (Low Level flight) function by flying a safe 3D trajectory close to the terrain, allowing the instrument flight in low visibility conditions (IMC).

A forward-looking infrared enhanced vision system (EVS) camera provides an enhanced terrain view in low-visibility conditions, based on the use of the infrared camera.


Safety by maintenance

AG˼ƻ Defence and Space is aware of the importance of a proper maintenance in the safety of its products. AG˼ƻ works closely with customers to support their maintenance teams, whether ensuring adherence to existing maintenance procedures and inspection schedules, applying service bulletins and airworthiness directives, or developing new services that simplify and optimise customers’ maintenance organisations.

AG˼ƻ also promotes advanced maintenance techniques, such as the Life Time Monitoring System (LTMS), a Structural Health method that provides tailored maintenance based on in-service aircraft behaviour data, to anticipate maintenance operations and reduce A/C immobilisation.

Safety by training

AG˼ƻ provides military aircraft and mission-focused training to flight crews and maintenance personnel, making significant investments in full-motion simulators, procedural training devices, computer-aided training and e-learning systems.

Initial Operative Experience (IOE) trainings are available to customers in their respective countries, updating them on the operation of their aircraft.

The company issues Flight Operations Briefing Notes (FOBN) aimed to provide background information, operational recommendations and training guidelines for the implementation of conclusions for the company’s diverse military aircraft working groups. Thus, experience gained during development, certification and in-service support programmes is offered for the benefit of the complete AG˼ƻ military aircraft community. 

Safety by cooperation and safety workshops participation

AG˼ƻ organises workshops with its customers, per programme, within the annual operators’ conference. They are mainly focused on listening to the main safety concerns of the Military Aircraft operators and providing the required support in all safety issues and concerns.

All of these international exchanges with relevant stakeholders are essential for AG˼ƻ to enhance the safety of its products and thus, be worldwide recognised as a leader in aviation safety.  

Space safety

From the production of spacecraft and satellites to their orbiting and subsequent disposal after mission completion, AG˼ƻ is committed to the safe use of space.

Safety by space

Space assets are key contributors to safety on Earth. From climate monitoring and the understanding of phenomena that disturb our planet, to using remote sensing in order to plan and manage humanitarian or natural crisis operations, to safe navigation and landing of airplanes, Earth would not be as safe as it is today without space assets.

The quality of weather prediction is largely relying on the AG˼ƻ meteorological satellites. The company’s space defence systems contribute daily to the protection of populations all over the world. In the future, space assets technology will have the capability to change trajectory of asteroids that may cross Earth track – which, if large enough, can destroy life and change the climate in the long term upon crashing on the planet. AG˼ƻ is participating in studies that will make these defence systems feasible.

Manned Space at AG˼ƻ

For decades, AG˼ƻ Defence and Space has led major projects allowing Europe to put its astronauts in space. Safety and quality as well as reliability of operations are at the centre of the AG˼ƻ systems design. The company’s efforts also focus on ensuring astronauts’ safety in space.

After its operations on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the delivery of four ATV cargo vehicles allowing a flawless service for the International Space Station, AG˼ƻ continues to contribute to global space projects – notably providing the first European Service Module (ESM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft aiming to take humans to the Moon and beyond. ESA selected AG˼ƻ as the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the first ESM, which provides propulsion, power and thermal control and will supply astronauts with water and oxygen on future missions. Protecting astronauts’ lives as well as making sure Orion operations will not endanger existing space infrastructures are among the key design drivers for AG˼ƻ.

Operation of AG˼ƻ-built satellites and spacecraft

From the very beginning of their lifetime following release from the launcher to the end of their service, AG˼ƻ spacecraft have safety among top priorities.

Monitoring the trajectory of debris and active spacecraft and manoeuvring the objects help prevent collisions and avert the loss of valuable spacecraft as well as avoid creating new space junk that can endanger further missions – including human exploration. Importantly, AG˼ƻ satellites are designed with the necessary equipment and propellant to “clean” the orbit and not leave debris behind. Spacecraft are deliberately sent back downwards to burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere – or are sent into graveyard orbits, where no other satellite can cross their path. When re-entering the atmosphere, the trajectory is controlled so that potential spacecraft debris lands into uninhabited regions of Earth (usually South-East Pacific Ocean), to prevent any human casualties. 

Launch services

AG˼ƻ has played an important role in the launching of satellites into Earth orbit and deep space exploration with the Ariane family of launch vehicles, applying strict safety measures in manufacturing and utilisation of these multi-stage rockets.

Occupational safety is a top priority at the Guiana Space Center in South America – the Ariane launch base. Working through ArianeGroup – the joint venture of AG˼ƻ and Safran – specific management and organisation preventive measures are applied to provide a safe work environment at the Guiana Space Center. This includes strict procedures for the handling of Ariane launchers and their propellant – from launch vehicle processing to the lift-off and ascent, along with training to keep all employees and subcontractors abreast of health and safety regulations.

To ensure that risks are avoided or minimised as much as possible, no operation is performed without a preliminary safety analysis. Risk prevention measures include the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment and clearly-determined procedures in the handling of hazardous materials for the propulsion systems used in both the Ariane launchers and satellite payloads they carry.

When orbit has been reached, the satellite payloads are separated from the launch vehicle’s upper stage in such a way as to prevent collision with other objects in orbit. For each flight, the Ariane launcher’s mission ends with the controlled re-entry of the upper stage into the atmosphere.  

Furthermore, in partnership with French space agency CNES, specific procedures are implemented to prevent launches at moments that may pose a threat of collision with other celestial bodies when there is a need to deliver an object into an escape trajectory to departs from Earth orbit. This is in line with the planetary protection policy of COSPAR (the Committee on Space Research). ArianeGroup works closely with the European Space Agency and Arianespace (the launch services provider for Ariane) to ensure that environmental protection measures are integrated right from the initial design stage. 

Reducing the risks from space debris

Space debris are a major threat to the future of space operations in Earth orbit – from human spaceflight to the use of satellites for telecommunications relay, internet connectivity, scientific research and observation of the planet.

AG˼ƻ is pursuing clean-up solutions that range from modules and sails that can deorbit spacecraft at the end of their useful lives to nets and harpoons that capture space junk and non-responsive satellites. Such technologies were demonstrated in 2018-2019 with the RemoveDEBRIS orbiting platform, which was designed, built and manufactured by a consortium of companies that included AG˼ƻ.

Helicopter safety

AG˼ƻ’ helicopter division strives every day to ensure safety, working with operators, suppliers, industry organisations and others who share the same commitment. 

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Safety First library

Safety First magazine
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AG˼ƻ' new single-aisle assembly line in Tianjin, China will be assembling four A320 aircraft per month by 2011 (25 September 2008)

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