Top Bar
770-507-5001    |

Plane Talk

IS-BAO: What it spells for you.

Posted on: September 29th, 2012 by Pete Agur

IS-BAO: What it spells for you.



As a board member, you should be concerned about the safe performance of your company’s aviation services.  After all, the company’s most precious human capital rides in the aircraft…  and so may you.

IS-BAO (International Standards – Business Aviation Operations) is sometimes referred to as the answer to establishing and maintaining “Best Practices” or better.  But, does IS-BAO really spell “r-e-l-i-e-f” when it comes to assuring aviation performance?  Yes and no.

A few years ago there was a push to regulate Business Aviation by some of the member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  The International Business Aviation Counsel (IBAC) commissioned the development of IS-BAO in response to the concern for a need for a documented and systematic approach to Business Aviation operations. In 2001 IS-BAO was established as a voluntary standard.  Essentially, IS-BAO is “ISO-light” for Business Aviation.  It continues to mature.  The pressure for added regulation has declined.

But, does IS-BAO fill your needs for performance assurance?  I believe the answer is a qualified, “Yes.”  IS-BAO Stage 3 registration assures you the processes used within your aviation operations have been defined, documented, assessed, and audited for effective implementation.  This process-oriented approach reduces many of the variances that can lead to operational errors, on the ground or in the air.  But it must be implemented to its highest level, Staged 3, to achieve the full benefits of IS-BAO’s impact.

Is IS-BAO the “EASY Button” for Business Aviation safety?  No!  For two reasons:

  1. IS-BAO is a process.  As a process, it implements whatever standards and policies you impose; good or bad.  Therefore, the board, corporate leaders and your aviation professionals must establish the managerial and operational policies and practices that define the quality of the operation.  Without that foundation you can still have aviation services that are doing the wrong things the right way… with tragic results.
  2. IS-BAO is not easy.  The formalization and documentation of pervasive processes and procedures can be very tedious and time consuming.  Its upkeep is not automatic.  Stage 3 registration can take at least three years to accomplish.

Is IS-BAO is worth doing?  Yes!  And its value continues to grow.  IS-BAO’s greatest impact is realized when it is fully implemented.  Full implementation requires progression through three stages. Each stage is confirmed by certified auditors using comprehensive protocols.  In lay terms,

  • Stage 1 requires appropriate systems and processes are in development.  This includes a Safety Management System (SMS).  Stage 1 satisfies the EU requirement for proof of SMS use.  There are currently about 500 aviation organizations qualified as Stage 1 registered with IBAC.  Most are in North America. That is less than 10% of all North American Business Aviation departments.
  • Stage 2 requires that systems and processes have been developed and implemented under direct supervision.  About 100 aviation organizations have achieved this status.  That is less than 1% of all North American aviation departments.
  • Stage 3 requires full organizational and operational commitment to IS-BAO performance standards and practices.  Only about 50 organizations have achieved IS-BAO Stage 3 registration.  That is less than 0.1% of all North American aviation departments.

IBAC is setting a time limit for remaining at Stages 1 and 2 levels to promote progression towards full IS-BAO implementation.  I recommend proceeding to Stage 3 registration status as quickly as practical.

Why have so few aviation departments fully embraced IS-BAO?  There are generally four reasons:

  • The numbers are growing.  A couple of hundred are in the pipeline for Stage 1 registration, and beyond.
  • A few aviation departments are so sophisticated enough that IS-BAO registration would not add value to their operations.  And I mean a very few.
  • The vast majority of aviation departments are staffed to their operational capacity.  That means these departments are understaffed to accomplish the organizational and administrative workload necessary to achieve IS-BAO registration.  You cannot outsource IS-BAO registration any more than you cannot outsource ISO registration.
  • A significant number of aviation department managers are quite comfortable with the status quo.  “We’re safe.”  “We’ve never had an accident.”  “IS-BAO doesn’t do anything we are not already doing.”  Take your pick of the offered objection.  Recognize it for what it really is: a refusal to raise the bar.

IS-BAO Stage 3 registration assures your aviation services are “doing things right”.  It is the ultimate industry recognition for performance.  It needs only one more ingredient to achieve true Best Practices stature.  That ingredient is within the purview of Board: Making sure they are “doing the right things.” The Board must approve the standards (embodied within policies and practices) used by your company’s aviation services.  You must also empower the department to succeed by giving it the authority and resources (staff) to accomplish the task.

You will have satisfied your responsibility to confirm you have verifiable Business Aviation Best Practices when you

  1. Require your Business Aviation services achieve IS-BAO Stage 3 based on
  2. Your specific standards and policies and
  3. Implemented by an aviation organization authorized to employ the resources and practices needed to create and maintain IS-BAO Stage 3 performance.



Peter v. Agur Jr. is managing director and founder of The VanAllen Group, a management consulting firm to business aviation with expertise in safety, aircraft acquisitions, and leader selection and development.  A member of the Flight Safety Foundation’s Corporate Advisory Committee and the NBAA’s Corporate Aviation Managers Committee (emeritus), he has an MBA, an airline transport pilot certificate and is an NBAA Certified Aviation Manager.


WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux