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Aviation Services: Are you aiming too low? (Part 2)

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by Pete Agur

February AvBuyerIs management holding aviation services to a high enough standard? Find out a Flight Department’s four biggest safety opportunities.

Having explored the way aviation services providers can create even greater value for a company by doing “the right things” (see Part 1 to this series), here we explore four impactful ways to reduce safety risks by “doing things right” with leadership guidance and support.

Appropriate actions start at the boardroom and flow through Flight Department management to the flight deck, the shop floor and the scheduler’s desk.

1. Executive Direction
A foundation to the performance of Safety is for the customer to declare the standard of performance that is expected. But, even more importantly, top management must support Flight Department management by providing clear delineation as to what that concept means.

For instance, when I ask Boards of Directors and C-suite executives what standard of aviation safety they want, by far the most common answer is, “Best Practices or better”. They are citing a business standard that means: Assure the outcomes we intend. This is in contrast to Standard Practices, which means: The minimum required to prevent failure. Put into practical terms, safety Best Practices provide the proactive mitigation of significant identified risks.

Leaders should match mouth with movement. Once they have targeted “Best Practices or better”, they must authorize the investment in the assets (people, information and technology) it takes to make the Board’s wishes happen.

2. Assets of Safety
Interestingly, many companies make substantial initial investments in their aircraft. They authorize an amazing array of optional equipment that is safety related during aircraft selection and purchase. That is a very good thing. For instance, if company aircraft are going into remote regions or mountainous terrain where ground-based support (radar and communications) can be spotty, you want the flight crew to have the best independent information immediately available to them as they fly into the dark of night or turmoil of storm. That’s why, as examples, synthetic vision (computer modeling of terrain) and enhanced vision (infrared technology) are becoming standard equipment for operations into challenging environments.

Surprisingly, many of those same companies underinvest in their most effective safety assurance assets: people.

About 70 percent of accidents are human sourced. That means that budget authorization for headcount, training/education, and compensation are even more critical than investment in the aircraft, itself. The selection, development and retention of key people are the responsibility of the managers of the company’s Business Aviation services.

3. Safe Practices
Consistent achievement of safety Best Practices begins with systems and processes. It culminates in behaviors. By definition, a Safety Management System (SMS) is the process of identifying, evaluating, and mitigating significant risks. However, a properly designed SMS is not a Best Practice. The Best Practice is its consistent and effective application. How should an SMS be gaged?

A formal SMS includes the measurement of identified risks and the tracking of their mitigation. In other words, a member of the department identifies a risk and registers it into the system using a HIT (Hazard and Incident Tracking) report. The hazard is then assessed, and if appropriate, mitigated. Here are two metrics that indicate how well an SMS/HIT system is working:

– Frequency and source of reports: Safety threats can be observed by anyone—schedulers, technicians and flight crewmembers. As an example, at least one significant and actionable threat is likely to occur on any and every flight leg. Yet, the average SMS/HIT system has less than one entry per person per quarter. You want to establish the expectation that the formal system must be used every time a significant risk is incurred. Otherwise, you have no way to track the risks.

More importantly, without those formal reports there is no systematic way for the organization to learn and become even safer.

– Timely and effective mitigation of identified significant risks: If the flight department has repeated submissions of the same risk, why has the risk not been addressed? Is the submission of the HIT report really an attempt to have an excuse in case the risk does result in an event? The metrics of the frequency and speed of HIT report resolution is a clear report card on the performance of your staff’s commitment to safety as a cultural norm.

4. Trust and Verify
How often are key financial and operational metrics of the flight department reviewed by your company? When it comes to departments (such as Aviation Services) that are responsible for millions of dollars of company assets, it is a Best Practice to periodically conduct an audit by a highly qualified and independent third party who is sponsored and overseen by senior management.

When it comes to the safety of your most precious corporate resources—your corporation’s key people—how often and well are your Aviation Services audited?

– The Best Practice is to have an external aviation audit every other year. Most do not.

– The Best Practice is for the “audit” to be a review of Best Practices. It should include: identification of the strengths of your Aviation Services’ current assets, staff, systems and processes, and behaviors; and identification of opportunities for them to improve, including a clear road map of options for achieving those improvements.

So, there you have it. Four specific ways you can aim to raise your Business Aviation safety. Now all you have to do is pull the trigger. Do it!

To read original article, please click here.

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