The Commercial Aviation Safety Team strategy is to significantly increase public safety by adopting an integrated, data-driven strategy to reduce the fatality risk in commercial air travel. Several events in the late 1990s were the impetus to the formation of CAST.

At that time safety officials realized that with the growth in air traffic a corresponding increase in aviation safety was needed. Both industry and government had been searching for a reliable way to choose wisely among many deserving actions to reduce the accident fatality rate and improve aviation safety.

Two government reports on aviation safety provided the framework for the formation of CAST. The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security report released in February 1997 challenged the government and industry to reduce the accident rate 80 percent over ten years. The National Civil Aviation Review Commission report followed up in December with a recommendation that the FAA and industry work together to develop a comprehensive integrated safety plan to implement many existing safety recommendations and develop performance measures and milestones to assess progress in meeting safety goals. The Commission also recognized that the global nature of aviation demanded that aviation safety needed to be addressed worldwide, not just in the United States.

The FAA, and industry determined that their safety advocacy work was complimentary and CAST was formed in 1998.

The CAST model:
  • Identifies the top safety areas through the analysis of accident and incident data.
  • Charters joint teams of experts to develop methods to fully understand the chain of events leading to accidents.
  • Identifies and implements high-leverage interventions or safety enhancements to reduce the fatality rate in these areas.
The CAST model has been extremely successful in the United States. Safety experts report that by implementing the most promising safety enhancements, the fatality rate of commercial air travel has been reduced in the United States by 83 percent over the last ten years.

Using CAST as a model of success, government and industry leaders chartered the International Helicopter Safety Team in January 2006 to reduce the worldwide military and civil helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016. Members include helicopter operator associations, airframe manufacturers, and regulators such as the FAA, Transport Canada, ICAO, and EASA.

CAST safety enhancements are being used as the basis for outreach to safety professionals throughout the world. Under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), safety teams have committed to implement safety enhancements worldwide.

CAST has evolved beyond the 'historic' approach of examining past accident data alone to an approach that focuses on risk prediction and mitigation strategies. Using aviation incident data, CAST is identifying emerging safety threats before they result in accidents.