Peter Agur Jr. is Chairman and Founder of VanAllen - a business aviation consultancy firm with... Read More
A test for Business Aviation safety
The greatest threat to Business Aviation safety is “assumption”- asserts Pete Agur. Following is a test to self-assess your company’s Business Aviation safety standards.
Most Board Members assume that their company’s aviation service providers are performing to a high standard of safety. The following quiz is a quick barometer for measuring Business Aviation safety standards. It helps you understand your own- and your service provider’s tolerance for risk.
This is a simple quiz. Score each item on a 10 scale. Give full credit (10 points) or partial credit based on how well the issue is being addressed. I won’t wish you good luck. This is about assuring that your company is living with an acceptable level of risk.
1. Audits and Reviews – Have your aviation services been audited or assessed within the past 24 months? How often are other critical parts of your business audited (finance and accounting- etc.)? Do your aviation services routinely gain the benefit of an outside eye? Is that eye focused on the lower standard of FAA compliance or on the higher standard of industry Best Practices?
Score: ____ 2. Badges versus Behaviors – The International Standard - Business Aircraft Operations (ISBAO) is becoming the norm. It has three stages. The first two are progress installments. Stage Three is the Full Monty- which includes integration of actions into behaviors. However- IS-BAO is NOT Best Practices. It is a framework- documentation and a set of processes.
The standards and behaviors that your service provider elects to imbed with IS-BAO are what counts. Does your aviation staff walk the talk? For instance- are there at least three people marshalling the aircraft every time it is towed? More aircraft are damaged during towing than during any other phase of operation.
Score: ____ 3. Cabin Safety – Do your flight crews conduct complete cabin safety briefings for each passenger’s first leg of the day? Do they just push the “play” button on the auto-briefing system- or do they take the time and effort to show passengers what they need to know? If your company has a large cabin aircraft- is there a fully trained cabin safety attendant on every passenger leg? Do frequent passengers participate in cabin safety training at least every other year?
Score: ____ 4. Cabin Safety Discipline – The highest risk periods of flight are during take-off and landing. Are passengers’ seatbacks upright- tables stowed- and briefcases and laptops put away? Unsecured objects become nasty missiles during off-runway excursions. Do passengers keep their seatbelt fastened when seated? Dozens of people are injured each year from being banged around by unexpected turbulence. Do all passengers leave the pilots alone below 18-000 feet so they can focus on the job at hand?
Score: ____ 5. Safety Budget – Is additional safety training (upset training- etc.) part of the company’s budget for aviation services? Does the aviation department have the funds to participate in industry events like the Business Aviation Safety Seminar- or the Safety Standdown? Is that budget spread among several members of the department to gain broader impact? Upon return- do the participants conduct formal briefings for the home team?
Score: ____ 6. Staffing for Safety – Understaffing is the biggest challenge most aviation service organizations face. They are usually staffed for operations (i.e.- they have enough bodies to fly the aircraft) but not enough to accomplish flight duties and run the business- which includes assuring safety. The number of variances from fatigue management guidelines is a good indicator of staff capacity. How often did pilots work past their duty limits (sequential hours or days) during the past year? A few times is typical. More often is not.
Score: ____ 7. Safety Officer or Team – Does the aviation department have a defined “safety” function? The Best Practice is to have a Safety Team that is multi-disciplined. Safety is not just for pilots. No one person has a corner on the market for good ideas. Is the Safety Team comprised of staff members only (no managers) so there is a free flow of ideas?
Score: ____ 8. Safety Management System (SMS) – Safety Management is the systematic identification of threats- the assessment of the risks that comprise those threats to determine their severity and probability- and the mitigation of those risks to an acceptable level. One component of an SMS is a Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT). The FRAT focuses on the critical elements of a proposed trip and assesses and scores the risks. Unacceptable scores are adjusted by implementing mitigations. Do crews use a FRAT for every leg?
Score:_____ 9. HIT Reports – If it happened to me it can happen to you. Hazard and Incident Tracking (HIT) reports are a great way to share knowledge. Does your aviation department have a HIT reporting process? Is it in active use? Business aircraft fly- on average- at least a trip each week. I have never flown a trip that was event-free. That means a fully functioning HIT system should generate numerous reports per aircraft- per year. Does yours?
Score: ____ 10. Emergency Response Preparedness – Does the company’s aviation services provider have a documented Emergency Response Plan (ERP) that contains dozens of pages of roles- responsibilities and checklists? Is the aviation ERP integrated into the company plan? Have a number of people been trained on the unique issues to be addressed in an aviation event? Is your ERP team prepared to take care of company personnel and their family members- manage public and private communications- and support subsequent investigations (NTSB and FAA)? Has an ERP simulation or exercise been conducted within the past 18-24 months?
Total Score: ____
Aviation safety is a co-responsibility. Corporate leaders establish the goal (Best Practices or better?) and commit the authority and funding to achieve that goal. The aviation services team is charged with making it happen. What was your company’s total score? How high do you want it to be? How will that score be achieved? Safety starts with the Board.