Working to Assure System Safety

Louis A. Sorrentino III

By Louis A. Sorrentino III
CEO & Managing Director, Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International

Posted on March 4, 2019
Several planes waiting in line to takeoff

Managing a flight department today requires teamwork to assure compliance with the multitude of regulations impacting the conduct of operations and to assure conformance to corporate policies, voluntary standards, and the needs and wants of the organization at any given moment. Sounds easy! Looking deeper into an individual flight department’s performance and industry loss information, however, we are seeing a number of incidents and accidents occurring within this seemingly well-controlled system.

So, let’s take a look from a “systems” perspective. We define a system as a set of interacting or interrelated elements working together as parts of an interconnecting network. Sound about right? So, what “elements” are there that impact the systems management of a flight department?

A quick review will reflect:

  • Properly trained and licensed pilots
  • Airworthy aircraft fit for purpose
  • A functioning regulatory system to enable transport
  • A vibrant air traffic management system
  • And so on…

Of these items, the Flight Department has direct control over the selection, qualification and fitness of the pilots, the airworthiness of the aircraft, and their compliance with regulatory requirements. We have to assume that the regulatory and Air Traffic Management systems are functioning to expectations but must remember we are ultimately responsible for the airworthiness of our aircraft and fitness of our pilots and crew.

Forming alliances with like-minded suppliers and vendors committed to quality and to performance that is both on-time and on-budget can also benefit your flight department by drawing in a larger circle of like-minded influencers within your “system.” The alliances we speak of have to do with the performance of the vendors, how they establish and live by voluntary standards, and how they can assure you at any given time that they meet your internal standards on critical topics such as industry awareness, quality, and of course, safety.

Taken at the most obvious level, working within alliances helps you extend your “control” over the variables commonly found within the aviation system. Assumptions or expectations are now replaced with confidence and assurance that the handling of your aircraft, passengers, and crew will be performed within a known set of criteria, founded on safety, security, and quality management principles.

Ben Walsh, IBAC’s Director for IS-BAO Programme, made an exciting and much-needed announcement in the January/February 2019 Update regarding the importance of IS-BAO Operators actively auditing external vendors such as FBOs and ground service providers. IBAC will now provide a quarterly listing of current IS-BAH registered FBOs so Flight Departments can utilize like-minded ground support service providers that have invested in safety, enhanced training and quality standards, saving time and expense on auditing external vendors. For reference I’ve included an excerpt from IS-BAO Org & Personnel Standard 7.8.1:

“Does the organization (Flight Department) have a process to assess the risk of frequently used outsourced service providers? (Recommended Practice) Note: IS-BAH registration for ground handling service providers (GHSP) is an example of an effective assessment.”

While this is currently a recommended practice within IS-BAO, the idea of assessing the safety risk of a vendor is fundamental to the concept and best practice of Safety Management. Think about it… You go to great lengths to develop comprehensive documentation such as job descriptions, technical guidance, SOPs, checklists, training programs, and audits capped by an overarching safety policy, but then take your most valuable assets to a location where, frankly, you have no idea what may or may not be done in the interest of safety.

Yes, we can assume that in this day and age “everyone” must have a fully functioning SMS that includes:

  • Safety policy communicated to and understood by all employees
  • An effective Hazard ID and Reporting system
  • A process to assess the functioning of the safety and quality program elements
  • A robust dynamic training program

These are applied against:

  • A documented set of SOPs
  • A Fuel QC/QA program
  • An effective GSE maintenance program
  • Etc.

If you don’t practice “know before you go,” aren’t you putting your flight department at risk? Are you really just going to rely on the regulations to keep your operation safe? With the hazards that are inherent within aviation, it serves us all to embrace proven risk management solutions, such as aspiring to higher standards and voluntary conformance.

One simple solution to this challenge is to form alliances with like-minded vendors such as FBOs and Ground Handlers that have achieved and maintain voluntary standards over and above mere prescriptive regulations. Look to partner with FBOs that have achieved IS-BAH and are actively pursuing enhanced stages.

If you are a flight department, seek out IS-BAH-registered FBOs. If you’re an FBO, embrace voluntary standards such as IS-BAH and formalize and communicate your SMS and Safety/Security and Quality Standards. IS-BAH makes this really easy! If you’re an IS-BAH-registered FBO, embrace IS-BAO-registered operators as you speak the same language of safety/security and quality. Seek out MROs and FBOs/Repair Stations that have achieved ISO certification along quality and environmental standards.

You can think short term, focusing on things like the price of fuel today, or you can think dynamically about the risk to your most important assets—the aircraft, the safety of the passengers and crew, and the impact on your company’s good name. Know before you go!

Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International
AvMaSSI provides safety, security and operational integrity evaluations, consulting and auditing to airlines, airports, charter and corporate operators, OEMs, marine operators, seaports, governments, international agencies and financial institutions the world over. AvMaSSI provides IS-BAO and IS-BAH preparation and audit services and supports Global Aerospace and its SM4 and Vista Elite Programs with focused safety/SMS, security, regulatory compliance and IS-BAO auditing services. AvMaSSI is a proud member of the Global Aerospace SM4 partnership program.

© 2022 Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International. All Rights Reserved.

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