ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme Training: Is this for you?


The Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) is an ICAO programme that has been contributing to the safe functioning of the global aviation industry for more than 20 years. Through this programme, ICAO carries out audits and other monitoring activities to determine the safety oversight and accident/incident investigation capabilities of its Member States.

Since its inception in January 1999, USOAP has evolved from a programme that performs initial and follow-up audits of Annexes 1, 6, and 8, to a Comprehensive Systems Approach (CSA), that expanded the scope to cover all safety-related provisions in all the safety-related Annexes to the Chicago Convention. Since 2013, the Programme has been utilizing the Continuous Monitoring Approach (CMA), which employs the analysis of safety risk factors to determine the planning of monitoring activities.

USOAP CMA Training

USOAP CMA training policies define and establish the criteria for the required qualifications of auditors, subject matter experts (SMEs) and State Safety Programme Implementation assessors (SSPIAs), based on a combination of their education, work experience, technical background and training.

Monitoring and Oversight (MO), is the ICAO office that is responsible for implementing the USOAP CMA at ICAO. The new auditor’s training that we are introducing here, is pivotal to helping us carry out our activities.  We have invested time and resources over the years to develop a systematic, effective and transparent process to develop new auditors.


The programme relies on both internal and external resources to replenish its roster of over 100 qualified auditors and SMEs.

ICAO issued a State Letter (15-035) inviting States and recognized organizations to nominate experts for secondment to ICAO in support of USOAP CMA as auditors, SMEs or assessors on a long- or short-term basis. Additionally, ICAO Headquarters and regional offices (ROs) identify technical officers (TOs) who may serve after appropriate training as Team Member (TMs) or Team Leaders (TLs) in future USOAP CMA activities.

Categories of USOAP CMA trainees

Based on their various status, USOAP CMA recognizes the following categories of trainees in our training programmes:

State-nominated prospective auditors, SMEs and assessors: 

Prospective auditors, ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) experts and SSPIA, nominated by States and recognized organizations will be trained at no cost. Upon qualifying, these experts are expected to be available to participate in at least two USOAP CMA activities per year, including off-site validations.

Non-nominated State personnel:

State aviation safety personnel not nominated by their State to train for auditors, SMEs and assessors may enroll in USOAP training courses for a reduced fee. They will enhance their competencies in the areas addressed by USOAP CMA without becoming qualified USOAP auditors, ICVM experts and assessors.

Industry experts:

Most USOAP CMA training courses are now available for a fee to industry experts who are looking to expand their knowledge in one of the eight USOAP CMA audit areas. These candidates will not qualify for participation in any USOAP CMA activities.

USOAP CMA training courses are available through: 

  • Online training
  • Classroom training (in-person and virtual)
  • On-the-job training (OJT) evaluation

USOAP CMA Online Training

ICAO has developed a state-of-the-art computer-based training (CBT) programme to prepare the State-nominated experts for performing USOAP CMA activities as well as to provide aviation industry experts with knowledge related to safety audits and ICVMs. This training is offered in compliance with the ICAO Safety Oversight Audit Manual (Doc 9735), according to which ICAO shall provide the required training to auditors and SMEs through CBT.

Course Structure and Evaluation

The USOAP CMA online course is composed of two phases and four parts. Phase I covers the auditing basics, including the USOAP CMA methodology and general auditing techniques, while Phase II focuses on the specific State safety oversight obligations in each of the eight technical areas.

Quiz questions provide a knowledge evaluation for each module. Two separate exams allow confirmation of knowledge and understanding of practical use of the course content, including mandatory reading materials. Successful graduates are awarded certificates at the end of the course.

USOAP CMA Classroom Training (In-Person and Virtual)

In addition to the USOAP CMA Computer-based Training (CBT) Programme, ICAO offers the following classroom training courses and workshops:

USOAP Auditor Preparation Course

This week-long virtual or in-person classroom course provides trainees with further insight into practical auditing or assessment techniques, under the supervision of an experienced instructor. The course relies on case-based learning (CBL) and practical exercises to develop the skillset necessary for prospective auditors to be effective audit team members in USOAP CMA activities. Those candidates who successfully complete the course are likely to perform better at their OJT evaluation. Therefore, the course is strongly recommended for candidates already scheduled for an OJT.​

USOAP CMA and SSPIA Workshops

In order to aid States in fulfilling their obligations under the USOAP CMA, MO has developed series of workshops, which are delivered regularly throughout the year.

Participants in these in-person sessions are provided with useful information and practical experience with the USOAP CMA tools and functionalities, including modules on the role of the National Continuous Monitoring Coordinator (NCMC), Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), Protocol Question (PQ) Self-Assessments and the electronic Filing of Differences (EFOD).

With the introduction of the State Safety Programme Implementation Assessment (SSPIA) activities into the USOAP CMA framework in 2018, a similar workshop has been developed to provide participants with the methodologies, processes and tools that support SSPIA.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) Evaluation

On-the-Job Training (OJT) Evaluation is the final step of the process of becoming a qualified USOAP auditor, SME or assessor.

Candidates who have successfully completed their online training and interview with a Standards and Procedures Officer (SPO) are placed on a waiting list, from where they may get selected for OJT. Consideration for an OJT mission is based on several factors such as Programme needs, audit area, language skills, location, etc.

Prospective auditors, SMEs or assessors who have taken the USOAP Auditor Preparation course tend to perform better at their OJT evaluation.

The OJT is provided from an experienced USOAP CMA team member during an on-site audit or assessment activity. Candidates are evaluated on their ability to conduct assigned tasks and report results. The OJT provider makes a final recommendation about the trainee’s readiness to act as TMs in future USOAP CMA activities and identifies any additional required training.

Successful candidates are then enlisted on the ICAO roster of qualified USOAP auditors, SMEs and assessors and are invited to participate in future USOAP CMA activities.

Recent USOAP CMA Training Overhaul and Enhancement

Redeployment of the USOAP CMA Online Training Programme

The COVID-19 down time was utilized by MO to transition the existing USOAP CMA online training programme from the support-discontinued Adobe Flash environment to vCampus, the new Learning Management System (LMS), which the ICAO Global Aviation Training (GAT) had adopted earlier. Compared to Adobe Flash, the new cloud-based LMS provides a robust audio/video environment and better learning experience for trainees, as well as improved accessibility and automated performance tracking and certification.

The USOAP CMA online course transition process took over a year to complete and was delivered by a joint MO-GAT project team in a chronological fashion. First, the original course content was retrieved and transcribed, to allow GAT’s development team to develop a new storyboard. Then, SPOs from MO reviewed and updated the content. With the updated course material at hand, GAT’s development team started designing the course modules using state-of-the-art authoring tools and applications. When the new course was laid out, it took another step of quality control, during which SPOs vetted the final course content and exams.

The new USOAP CMA online programme was released in early 2022 and was hosted on the vCampus LMS. In addition, the Programme was integrated into the ICAO Aviation Training and Education Directory (ATED) with the catalogue of ICAO training courses.

Finally, the newly released CBT was made available for purchase at the ICAO online store and promoted by GAT in order to expedite the backlog of waiting candidates accumulated during the course downtime.

Development of a new Auditor Preparation Course

Based on feedback received from the pre-COVID OJT missions, a gap has been identified between the theoretical CBT knowledge the auditor candidates receive and the practical OJT requirements. In order to bridge the identified competency gap and to improve the OJT success rates, MO has developed with GAT’s assistance a new instructor-led classroom course over the course of the last year.

The new course provides candidates with hands-on skills and case studies to practice the auditing techniques acquired in CBT under the supervision of an experienced instructor. Candidates who successfully complete the course are expected to perform better at their OJT before becoming fully qualified USOAP CMA team members.

Future USOAP CMA training development

A key training development priority of MO in the next triennium (2023-2025) will be to replicate the USOAP training model to develop a similar SSPIA training programme for assessors. The lessons learned from the completed redeployment of USOAP CMA CBT and the identified synergies with SSPIA will be leveraged to deliver the new training programme in shorter period of time and at lower cost.

Other USOAP CMA training development projects include the development of a CBT-style tutorial for the USOAP CMA Online Framework (OLF), virtual workshops, and an online auditor refresher course.

About the author

Mihail Peytchev is a Programme Implementation Officer (PIO) in the Air Navigation Bureau’s Monitoring and Oversight Office (MO). He leads the USOAP CMA training programmes for auditors, subject-matter experts and assessors, as well as for State and industry personnel in collaboration with the ICAO Global Aviation Training (GAT).