What Is a Gap Analysis 

New aviation professionals may wonder, "What is a gap analysis and why am I using it?" The first thing you should know about gap analysis is that they are a process. This process is used by airline SMS programs and airport SMS programs to determine:

  • The current state of their SMS program;
  • The desired state of their SMS program; and
  • Where the various “gaps” between those states are.

The desired state should be compliance with the civil aviation authority, such as ICAO. Depending on your preference in the aviation industry, your gap analysis will begin with a gap analysis model, such as the FAA or IS-BAO.

What is a gap analysis

How to Perform a Gap Analysis

A gap analysis is first performed by choosing a model, such as:

  • ICAO
  • FAA
  • Transport Canada
  • IS-BAO
  • SSP

Some models are better than others. For example, the IS-BAO model is fairly cursory, and will be better used as a sort of “speed gap analysis” rather than an in depth inspection of your SMS program. Each model contains a whole set of questions about the safety program, which are broken up into separate categories such as:

  • Policies
  • Organization
  • Hazard identification system
  • Investigation competency
  • Records management
  • Risk analysis abilities
  • SMS documentation
  • Development of safety objectives and safety goals
  • Risk management capabilities
  • Safety training
  • Safety promotion

While performing a gap analysis, a safety manager can assign sections or “chunks” of the gap analysis to subject matter experts within the organization. In general, a score is assigned to each question on a 1-5 scale:

Score Assessment Details
0 No Action No Action has been taken on this required element.
1 Action Initiated Identified actions have been taken to meet the requirement but the actions are not complete.
2 Implemented Identifiable actions are satisfactory to meet this requirement and are observable in policies, procedures, organizational actions, and employee actions.
3 Integrated This required element of an SMS has been integrated with other SMS elements and requirements within the organization.
4 Evaluated and Sustained This required element has been integrated with other SMS Elements. Additionally, this element has been subjected to at least one prior round of evaluation/audit and there is evidence that the required actions have been sustained over time. Further, there are no identifiable reasons why sustainment should not continue.
5 State of the Art Conformance with this requirement of the standard is considered state of the art; they could be used as a benchmark for other organizations to use.

Categories will also receive a rating on the 1-5 scale as well.

Purpose of a Gap Analysis

Completing gap analysis will provide guidance on:

One of the extremely useful facets of a gap analysis is that the above points are useful on:

  • A "32000” foot of the safety program; and
  • A detailed assessment of individual pieces of the program.

This is true because after a gap analysis is performed, a company can see how an SMS program is functioning on the level of categories, as well as individual items.

Why Perform Gap Analysis

There are a handful of reasons to perform a gap analysis:

  • Identify how well implemented your safety program is;
  • Be able to adequately plan for future aviation SMS implementation;
  • Track and document continuous improvement of the SMS program; and
  • Discover inadequacies (i.e., “gaps”) in your safety program.

Smaller airports SMS and airline SMS programs will probably have gap analysis that are performed by one person, such as the SMS manager. However, larger SMS programs will probably have gap analysis that are delegate amongst multiple subject matter experts in the organization.