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Risk-based safe design principles in aerospace

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Recording: This webinar has now passed.





  • Members of Engineers Australia and the Risk Engineering Society can view the recording for free on MyPortal. Logon and navigate to Industry Applications > Manufacturing.
  • Others can purchase the recording on EABooks (coming).

The list of all recordings can be viewed here.


Aerospace safe design principles have been based on over 100 years of aviation experience since the Wright brothers’ experiments, and strong regulatory governance to protect the airborne crews and public transport users. Design and failure experience accelerated during the War years and became enshrined in Airworthiness Codes with international mutual agreements.

The first formalised concepts of ‘Engineering for Safety’ were presented in 1946 to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences using post-accident analysis to inform design and reduce error, that should as be a specialised discipline within engineering, requiring a place along-side the structures and aerodynamics groups. The need for quantitative methods was recognised early on, and gained acceptance as a tool for objectifying engineering judgements throughout the 60’s.

A fundamental starting point was the concept of “risk budgets” for entire systems and attributing a 50/50 allocation between ‘performance’ and the accumulation of equipment ‘failures’. Historical evidence at the time, from civilian transport category aircraft, was that the frequency of serious accidents due to operational and airframe related causes was approximately one per million hours of flight. Further budgeting logic resulted in a civil certification quantitative system safety standard being established, as supplemental to the strict design rules. Other fundamental principles accompany the system safety requirements such as: established structural factors of safety, design requirements throughout the airworthiness codes, fail-safe design concepts, and the fact that no single point of component failure shall have the possibility to cause a catastrophic event.
Airworthiness relies on these principles and underlying assumptions by continuing to underpin protective and corrective decisions made in-service, when aircraft defects or previously hidden or poorly understood failure modes arise – including those involving human performance.
The probability of risk exposure and the level of safety owed to 3rd parties on the ground, in the air sharing the airspace (and on the road for Autonomous Cars) must now be a driving factor in deciding in “certification”.
This interactive presentation will explain the background detail to these principles and the idea of a 
quantitative vs qualitative vs process basis for acceptable safety management, to support a discussion 
about these future risk based decisions.

Short bio of first speaker – BJ Martin:

BJ Martin is an accomplished senior aerospace engineer, initially serving 15 years in the Air Force, and now accumulating over 30 years broad experience in the fields of: aerospace & systems engineering, system safety, airworthiness certification in the capital acquisition project management environment.  BJ is the Nova Capability Lead for Safety and Certification covering all of Nova’s regulatory domain exposure – responsible for related knowledge development, maintenance and deployment across the Nova Group in support of services and products. He represents Nova on the Defence Aviation Regulatory Reform industry consultative forum, has led and contributed to safety assessments for all significant UAS to enter ADF service, as well as regulatory framework development and related studies. Recently guiding Nova’s proposed Safety Assurance System and regulatory options for introduction of Autonomous Vehicles onto Australian Roads for the National Transport Commission. From 2011-until the present has been the organising Chairman of the Australian System Safety Conference and in 2015 he adopted the position of National Chair of the Australian Safety Critical Systems Association.

BJ has been an instructor on various introductory courses for system safety and airworthiness for almost 15 years and is currently focussing on Nova’s developing opportunities in Safety Assurance and Certification for UAS, Rail and Seaworthiness.

Short bio of second speaker – Kevin Yates:

Kevin has over 31 years’ engineering experience in rail, aviation in Australia and the Asia Pacific regions. Prior to entering the rail industry, Kevin was in the military and civil aviation industries for 26 years. For 21 years he worked in the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm culminating in his final role as Test and Evaluation Manager for the $2Bn Tiger Helicopter acquisition program. Following his retirement from the ADF, he worked in PNG as Australia’s Aviation Safety Advisor advising on the whole aviation regulatory environment change program before taking up a position as Safety Systems Manager for Air Niugini. Most recently, he has worked as a Safety Assurance Manager and Senior Risk Advisor for Transport for New South Wales (Sydney Trains), which included Digital Train Radio System, Wynyard to Waverton re-signalling and the Newcastle Interchange projects. Over the last four years Kevin has worked closely with TfNSW, UGL, LORAC, Downer and ONRSR on multiple rail infrastructure projects.

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