- 05 Nov 2021
- David Wyndham
- Flight Departments
Mario Pierobon explores the principles for managing a change of aircraft in the flight department, including aspects of maintenance and airworthiness change management, plus learning newer technology types.Back to Articles
At a time that the pre-owned aircraft sales market has been very active, many flight departments around the world will have been integrating, or will be planning to integrate, one or more new jets into their operations. But what are the challenges of doing so, and how can a flight operation prepare?
The introduction of a new aircraft type into the flight department will, of course, require formal change management with an organization’s safety management system (SMS).
From a technical point of view, change management considerations must be made if maintenance is contracted to a Part 145 maintenance organization (in Europe). Moreover, “If it’s contracted, is the new aircraft within the scope of work of the contracted Part 145 organization,” Wolter Portier, a Continuing Airworthiness Surveyor, asks, “or is there another Part 145 organization available with the correct approvals?
“If the operator has its own Part 145 approval, does it plan to perform the maintenance itself? If so, the certifying staff and maintenance technicians need to have specific type-training, and obtain proven experience at another MRO,” Portier continues.
“The same holds true for the Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization (CAMO), within Europe. Is the CAMO capable of extending the approval with the new aircraft type? If not, is there a CAMO organization available with the correct approvals?”
An important requirement to satisfy is the training for all personnel involved in the acquisition and management of the new aircraft, notes Fleet Technical Management Specialist, Sara Zerbini.
“An additional requirement is to update all manuals and documentation, namely the continuing airworthiness management exposition, and any equipment compliance list that is needed. And it will be necessary to plan to undertake difference training courses in the case where an aircraft that is similar to those already operated is acquired,” she says.
“It is necessary to identify what the differences are as a matter of safety, because if the aircraft types are similar, the technical management personnel may not realize those differences that have an impact on airworthiness management, or maintenance operations.”
Newer Levels of Technology
Considering how fast business aircraft technology has developed, change management considerations must be given to the hazards that can manifest when the new aircraft type has significantly more technology and/or automation.
“Absolutely, consideration must be given to additional training, and you should verify if there is someone already in the department who has experience on aircraft types with similar technology, who may be able to provide some guidance – especially in the initial phase,” Zerbini suggests.
“Everyone should be allocated training that, at a minimum, describes the principles and workings of the newer levels of technology.”
From a change management perspective, newer technologies should not be assumed as being automatically safer, warns Human Factors and Crew Resource Management (CRM) Trainer Thomas Fakoussa. “Equally important is a correct understanding and handling of the automated and computerized systems.
“Newer technology will have its shortcomings, just like any program on our personal computers or laptops. Many honest reports from the flight and ground crews will be needed to highlight what needs to be updated, and what has to be emphasized to the crew. So to begin with, the way the departments work together will be extremely important, regarding new technology.”
A good practice to manage changes in technology is to prepare a small booklet, illustrating the main aspects of operating a type of aircraft with glass cockpit or fly-by-wire technology (for example).
Safety Assessment, Action Plan, and Assurance
Following identifications of the different hazards, together with existing and possible additional mitigations, these need to be thoroughly considered via a structured safety assessment.
“First, the safety assessment must verify the competencies of personnel, the need for training, and whether it’s possible to perform the operations needed (i.e. Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM),” Zerbini suggests. “It must also verify that there are no gaps within the flight department that would make it inconvenient to take this type of aircraft from a safety point of view.”
The safety assessment should be conducted in a way that requires constant feedback from the crew about their experiences with the new aircraft type, and the feedback should then be analysed by a designated safety specialist, says Fakoussa.
“Airport approaches and weather conditions vary, and could have a very different impact on the new aircraft type you’re looking to implement in the flight department,” he says. “So, be proactive and seek out as many reports as possible.”
Following the safety assessment, ICAO’s SMM requires owners/operators to develop an action plan, which it says “should define what is to be done, by whom and by when. There should be a clear plan describing how the change will be implemented and who will be responsible for which actions, and the sequencing and scheduling of each task.”
The sign off would serve to confirm that the change is safe to implement into the flight department. The person with overall responsibility and authority for implementing the change should sign the change plan.
Meanwhile, an assurance plan should also be established to determine what follow-up action is needed and to consider how the change will be communicated, and whether additional activities (such as audits) are needed during, or after, the change. Any assumptions made must also be tested, according to ICAO’s SMM.
In the change management process relating to the introduction of a new aircraft type into a flight operation, there are some important maintenance and airworthiness management aspects that apply in addition to challenges specific to handling newer levels of technology.
Change management must include a safety assessment, and this must be followed by an action plan and a safety assurance program.