March 5, 2020

The NTSB recently held a panel discussion highlighting Part 135 safety issues and more importantly, best practices to improve safety in this segment of the industry.

The panel, facilitated by NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt and new board member Michael Graham, featured six operations and safety professionals from Part 135 operators of various sizes and types. Panelists discussed SMS and safety data sharing initiatives including flight data monitoring (FDM) and aviation safety action programs (ASAP).

Several panelists shared the evolution of their own SMS, which often began with a desire to pass audits and resulted in the concepts of safety management being engrained in their organizations. All panelists described the value of SMS in their organizations, but discussed the importance of scalability of SMS and other safety programs, regardless of fleet size or number of employees.

Each organization represented participates in some form of third-party auditing – many of them in the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operators (IS-BAO), which for years has featured scalable SMS standards and recently introduced FlightPlan Stage1, a one-aircraft operator solution for IS-BAO.

“We know participation in SMS and safety data sharing programs like ASAP, FDM and others can lead to real improvements in safety and reduction in risk – not just for the operator reporting an event, but the industry as a whole,” said Peter Korns, NBAA’s senior manager tax, operations and workforce development. “We encourage NBAA member companies to make use of the many resources created by the NBAA Safety Committee and other industry groups available on our website.”

Other best practices discussed by panel participants included development and implementation of mentoring initiatives and scenario-based training (SBT).

“NBAA launched its mentoring network in 2019 because we saw a need to promote career development in the industry, particularly for the next generation of aviation professionals,” said Brian Koester, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations. “We also encourage member companies to establish mentorship programs in their own organizations to encourage professionalism and share the company culture with new hires.”

The NBAA Safety Committee is a strong proponent of SBT, highlighting SBT guidelines in comments to the FAA on Airman Certification Standards, recommending SBT to help reduce the risk of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) in its Top Safety Focus Areas and providing guidance to operators looking to implement SBT in their own operations.

Finally, panelists encouraged attendees to look at safety as an opportunity for profit – not a cost.

“Safety and cost are not mutually exclusive,” concluded Sumwalt.

Learn more about the NBAA Mentoring Network.

Review the NBAA Top Safety Focus Areas.