- 13 Sep 2021
- Andre Fodor
- Flight Dept Mgt
Mario Pierobon explores the principles for managing a change of aircraft in the flight department, along with the crew training aspects and other key considerations needed for a well-managed process.Back to Articles
The Business Aviation industry has experienced almost unprecedented growth of late, and the pre-owned business jetand turboprop inventory has hit an all-time low. With several owners making their first forays into business aircraft ownership, the number of business jet owners and operators has been increasing – a trend that is expected to continue for the time being.
In the context of fleet expansion, what are the challenges of incorporating new aircraft types into the fleet and how can these be managed?
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO's) Safety Management Manual (SMM) (Document 9859), the introduction of new technology or equipment – such as a new aircraft type – is likely to trigger formal change management with an organization’s safety management system (SMS).
“Change may affect the effectiveness of existing safety risk controls,” ICAO’s SMM says. “In addition, new hazards and related safety risks may be inadvertently introduced into an operation when change occurs. Hazards should be identified, and related safety risks assessed and controlled as defined in the organization’s existing hazard identification or safety risk management (SRM) procedures.”
Management of Change
The change management process within the SMS needs to be a formal and documented process. According to ICAO’s SMM, the process should include understanding and defining the change, and who and what the change will affect. Hazards related to the change should be identified, and a safety risk assessment executed. An action plan should be prepared, and signed-off on.
Understanding and defining the change, the action plan should outline the change and why it is being implemented, as well as who and what the change will affect.
“Equipment, systems, and processes may also be impacted,” ICAO’s SMM highlights. “A review of the system description and organization’s interfaces may be needed. This is an opportunity to determine who should be involved in the change.
“Changes might affect risk controls already in place to mitigate other risks, and therefore change could increase risks in areas that are not immediately obvious.”
Hazard identification and risk assessment should identify any hazards directly related to the change. “The impact on existing hazards and safety risk controls that may be affected by the change should also be reviewed. This step should use the existing organization’s SRM processes,” ICAO’s SMM notes.
What are the Key Considerations?
Before incorporating an aircraft type which was not previously operated by the flight department, from a flight operations management point of view the first consideration must be to verify the interoperability between the types of aircraft already owned or operated and the new one.
Fleet Technical Management specialist Sara Zerbini clarifies, “The new type can complement an existing fleet; it can replace an existing type; or simply be an addition of type.”
From a safety point of view, it should be determined whether it’s even safe to fly the new aircraft for the types of operations that are required by the operation, Zerbini says – particularly where complex missions are concerned, or those requiring specific approval.
Continuing Airworthiness Surveyor Wolter Portier highlights further important aspects for consideration, including checking whether the type training and simulator training organizations have the right approvals, and establishing who will deliver the training and conduct the examinations.
“Moreover, are the operations manuals updated, and are they approved by the competent authority with the new aircraft type?” Portier asks. “And, is the air operator certificate (AOC) updated with the new type?”
Another consideration relates to personnel change. “It is important to ascertain whether personnel have already operated the aircraft type, possibly within other flight operations in the past,” Zerbini says.
If this is the case, it’s likely that the flight department will be able to start operations with the new aircraft more quickly, perhaps without the need to fully train everyone. The advantage, Zerbini says, is reduced inactivity of personnel waiting for the flight crew to qualify to operate the new aircraft type.
“Do you already have enough qualified pilots to make a conversion training possible without jeopardizing the current flight operations?” asks Portier. “Do the current flight crew have experience with an equivalent aircraft type? The answer to these questions could shorten or extend the specific type training for the new aircraft.”
When managing a change of aircraft within the flight department, it is important to begin with the fact that any new type requires a new format of flight crew training. “It can be the case that instructors are not sufficiently briefed beforehand on what format would be best,” says Thomas Fakoussa, a leading Human Factors and Crew Resource Management Trainer.
“The best training format fits with the operator’s previous training and company culture, as well as the manufacturer’s intention of making use of the different systems,” he adds.
“Too often, though, the training provider only learns that the training should offer certain aspects within the simulator or line training after the new aircraft type has been incorporated, and operated for a while, with the crews experiencing difficulties.”
From a training development point of view, a best practice is to first analyse what is different in the new type’s cockpit and systems philosophy. “When does the trim work automatically?” Fakoussa asks. “Sometimes this may not even be visible or audible to the crew.
“What is the visible information on the screens actually measuring, and what is it depicting? Sometimes it’s important to know in advance which computer interferes with what, and what must be inputted manually.”
Moreover, is the planned training intensive enough on the differences between the new and existing aircraft? “Habits can be extremely dangerous if they are only valid in certain situations or system characteristics,” Fakoussa warns.
As we’ve seen, the introduction of a new aircraft type in the flight department requires a formal management of change. Having covered the main considerations and crew training aspects here,
Part 2 will consider the maintenance and airworthiness management aspects; the challenges specific to handling newer levels of technology; and the need for a safety assessment, action plan, and safety assurance.