February 22, 2013

A set of global best practices developed by and for the industry, the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) offers guidance to flight departments that focuses on the development of safety management as a team.

And for operators interested in learning how to implement IS-BAO’s team approach to safety management, workshops will be offered in more than two dozen locations worldwide during 2013.

“Going through the IS-BAO process required team approval,” said Tom Prevost, director of aviation for Connecticut-based Cigna. “Folks in the flight department had to work together on something they normally wouldn’t. Instead of technicians talking to pilots about fixing airplanes, they were talking about safety procedures.”

With 17 staff members, having the entire fight department buy-in was essential to the success of Cigna’s IS-BAO implementation. As in most flight departments, “people thought it was going to be a lot of work,” said Prevost, “but the benefits far outweigh the small amount of extra paperwork we have to do.”

A Validation of Your Safety Record

The vast majority of operators who achieve registration say meeting IS-BAO standards has made their operations safer, but they add that there are also often more benefits than they had expected. Some implementers point to having all their safety reports in the same format, or having change-management procedures in place, as aspects of an IS-BAO program, that actually make the administrative side safer and more efficient. Additionally, some insurers have offered IS-BAO-registered operators reduced rates, or work with them to provide required training to meet the next level of safety within the operation.

It’s that team-based approach, however, that managers talk about most enthusiastically. “No one person can manage all the risk in a flight operation. It’s better to have everybody managing those risks together,” said Prevost. “Because we have now established practices, things are working a little smoother.”

It’s also a more rigorous measure of a good safety record. As Sonnie Bates, manager of IS-BAO operations for the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), explained, before the standard was available, “if somebody asked you if you had a safe flight department, the answer was ‘yes,’ but if they asked you, ‘How do you know?’ most directors couldn’t answer that.”

IS-BAO registration “validated our emphasis on safety, security and operational excellence to our company,” said Prevost. “The executives feel very safe flying on our planes knowing we have this program in place.”

Advice for Smaller Operators

For smaller flight departments, the requirements are readily scalable to meet the requirements of any operation, and program standards can be implemented in ways that work for each individual operation.

For example, Latin American telecom operator NII Holdings flies a single airplane (a Falcon 7X) out of its base in Dulles, VA, with four pilots, three aircraft technicians and a scheduler. “We’re a small, busy flight department,” said Nancy Vetere, director of safety and standards for NII. She also describes the flight department as “close-knit,” which is why it was so important everyone work together on IS-BAO implementation process.

“We started considering it in 2009, when we were going through a lot of changes in our operation and personnel,” said Vetere. “So we did not rush it, and that worked well for us. Because we took our time, we could explain what IS-BAO was, and everyone was fully onboard. We got the whole team involved, and when we started doing risk assessments, we didn’t overload anyone.”

NII completed Stage 1 registration in May 2011, and is now ready for Stage 2. Vetere encourages smaller operators to get outside help with their safety management system (SMS). “There are a lot of resources out there, like the SMS Toolkit,” she said. “You don’t have to create it all from scratch.”

Like Cigna, NII worked with a third-party SMS provider to put in place a turnkey, web-based solution. However, “turnkey doesn’t mean the third-party can do it all for you,” she notes, “Having someone provide the infrastructure was really helpful, but you have to make the SMS your own.”

For any flight department considering joining the current 700 registered operations worldwide in implementing the standard, IBAC hosts IS-BAO workshops around the world. Completion of the IS-BAO SMS meets the requirements of ICAO Annex 6, Part II, which state that for international missions, “An operator shall establish and maintain a safety management system that is appropriate to the size and complexity of the operation.” This year, workshops are being offered in nearly 30 locations worldwide, including dozens in the U.S., as well as in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K.

To see the full IS-BAO workshop schedule, visit the IBAC website and select IS-BAO.