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SMS for One-Aircraft Operators

FlightPlan Stage 1 is designed to overcome the challenges associated with working toward IS-BAO registration.

For many one-airplane, one-base business aircraft operators, the will to become registered with the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) has been there, but the wherewithal has not. The process to become Stage 1 registered can often be perceived as complex, requiring more resources and personnel time than some small flight operations can muster. That is, up until now.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) which administers IS-BAO, listened closely to operator and member association community feedback regarding the challenges associated with working toward IS-BAO registration, and the result is the recently launched FlightPlan Stage 1.

FlightPlan Stage 1 is a new option for IS-BAO, specifically designed for single-aircraft flight operators with one base location. By streamlining Stage 1 audit procedures and significantly standardizing the training received by implementors and auditors, IBAC has reduced the time it takes to reach Stage 1 IS-BAO registration to 90-180 days, with a one-day audit.

“We have worked closely with small operators to develop this new, all-inclusive option that defines a clear, stepped and simple pathway to IS-BAO Stage 1 registration,” said Bennet Walsh, IS-BAO program director. “FlightPlan Stage 1 is a tailored option for the busy small flight operations with limited resources to allocate toward their business and risk-reduction management systems.”

The FlightPlan Stage 1 package includes the IS-BAO standard document suite and IS-BAO General Company Operations Manual (GCOM) in the operator’s regulatory framework in coordination with IBAC preferred provider Aviation Manuals.

Frequent, dedicated assistance from a specially selected and trained implementor helps operators progress efficiently through the 12-step implementation process, so that the one-day audit should be smooth, with no surprises. Post-Stage 1 registration proficiency validations then occur every six months during a 24-month period as part of the single inclusive fee.

“The six-month validation checks provide course corrections, additional guidance from the implementor, and get the operator ready for the Stage 2 audit at 24 months,” said Walsh. “The process of continual training and growth helps keep operators on a track of excellence.”

“We have worked closely with small operators to develop this new, all-inclusive option that defines a clear, stepped and simple pathway to IS-BAO Stage 1 registration.”

Bennet Walsh IS-BAO program director, International Business Aviation Council

“Operators of all sizes need to have a safety management system and to utilize the best practices encompassed in the IS-BAO standard in order to minimize their safety risks and operate to best-in-class levels,” said Mark Larsen, NBAA’s senior manager of safety and flight operations. “NBAA is pleased to see the rollout of FlightPlan Stage 1 to better support small operators on their journey toward IS-BAO registration and these operational best practices.”

Partnership Is Key

Amanda Ferraro, CEO of Aviation Safety Solutions, is the lead FlightPlan Stage 1 implementor/auditor. She has developed a complete syllabus that she is using to train other FlightPlan implementors and auditors. A Gulfstream captain and former flight instructor, Ferraro is excited about the efficiencies that the more standardized syllabus provide, and the supportive, hands-on role that implementors have with smaller operators.

“FlightPlan is a partnership between the implementor and the operator,” said Ferraro. “The implementor is going to make sure that the process works for the operator.”

As Ferraro explains it, much of Stage 1 is ascertaining and addressing the document gap between the operator’s current manuals and the requirements of IS-BAO, as well as going through a complete emergency response plan (ERP) drill. “It’s a full-blown ERP that we do in two sessions and was tailored for FlightPlan participants,” said Ferraro.

According to Katherine Hilst, the IS-BAO operations manager for IBAC, small operators have been asking for a program like FlightPlan Stage 1 for years.

“It’s tough for these small flight operators to find the time to do the traditional Stage 1 registration, but there has been a real hunger for something like this [FlightPlan Stage 1],” notes Hilst. “Since this is the first year of the program, we plan to continue morphing and improving it. Adapting FlightPlan Stage 1 to individual operators and working collaboratively with them is all part of the process.”

Hilst notes that operators in other regions of the world – especially Europe, the Middle East and Asia – have been “chomping at the bit” for an IS-BAO registration like FlightPlan Stage 1. “We’ve gotten a great reception overseas and will be rolling out the program this year to European and Middle East operators,” she said.

Extensive use of online conferencing adds to the efficiency of the registration program anywhere in the world, including the United States, notes Hilst. “However, we can arrange for on-site meetings, if the operator wants that,” she said.

Rob Little, president of Air Safety Dynamics, noted that the target of a one-day audit is part of the draw of FlightPlan, compared to two or three days for the traditional Stage 1.

“By working so closely with an implementor, the operator has already been thoroughly vetted before the actual audit, which gives a high level of confidence and should streamline the audit,” said Little. “All the preparation needed to verify compliance has been accomplished.” Little believes that many small operators who were previously reluctant to undertake the traditional Stage 1 registration because of scarce resources will now “jump in.”

Review NBAA’s IS-BAO resources at

Doing Safety “the Right Way”

Vik Brar, owner of 30 West Jets, was interested in working with IBAC on IS-BAO registration, but he was daunted by how labor-intensive and costly it would be for his one-aircraft, one-base Part 135 operation.

The Hawaiian company, which has a Gulfstream G550 based in California, has only two pilots and one safety officer, so the traditional IS-BAO Stage 1 registration seemed out of reach.

“We had to balance the costs and time involved with the best interests of the company,” said Brar. “And we wanted to do it the right way.”

Brar’s timing was impeccable, however. Just as he was seeking IS-BAO information from IBAC, that organization was looking for a launch operator for its new FlightPlan Stage 1 program. A collaborative effort was initiated, and the beta test for FlightPlan Stage 1 was launched with 30 West Jets in October 2019.

30 West Jets was scheduled for its one-day audit at the end of February. Brar attributes the more than 90-day time frame to the holiday breaks as well as being the first rollout. He notes that for operators who don’t have any manuals or systems already in place, 120 to 180 days might be a more realistic time frame.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this,” said Brar, “and all of us were heavily involved.” He estimated at least one full day a week was devoted by each person to the FlightPlan program, and his company had already made some progress on an SMS and used FOQA prior to signing up with IBAC.

The 30 West Jets executive and chief pilot was especially impressed with the thoroughness and intensity of the ERP drill, which was conducted by Amanda Ferraro, the implementor for 30 West Jets.

“I can see the need for a well-written drill, and the importance of practicing it. The more we role-played, the more realistic it got.”

Brar was pleased with the FlightPlan Stage 1 process, saying his audit went off without a hiccup and the operation has now achieved IS-BAO stage 1.

He cautioned other small operators, however, about thinking it of it as a “magic pill” to achieving IS-BAO Stage 1 registration.

“We were actually a little bit ahead of the curve before we started, and the onus is on you to educate yourself and keep improving the safety and excellence of your operations. We knew it would not be easy – and it wasn’t – but now we are looking forward to the six-month validations and reaching Stage 2.”

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