The charter industry is shifting to a new way of thinking about safety. “We are going from a compliance-based ‘Do you meet the regulatory standard?’ to ‘What more should we do, how can we be safe, how can we tell the good story of this industry?’ [Charter] is becoming a larger player in the transportation marketplace.
Last month this column looked at safety management systems (SMS) and considered why the industry is embracing them. This month focus shifts to the key elements of such systems and their contribution to the industry’s livelihood.
Safety Management Systems (SMSs), popular in other industries for years, are coming to aviation because regulatory authorities, safety experts and industry leaders have proclaimed that SMS represents the future of safety management in our industry. Other countries have been working with safety management systems for years, and the SMS is now gaining traction in the U.S.
While safety is at the top of her list of priorities, new Transportation Secretary Mary Peters told the third annual FAA International Aviation Safety Forum early last month that President Bush has charged her with modernizing the U.S. ATC system, “including new approaches to funding to deal with our aging infrastructure.”
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has unveiled a program to help air charter companies improve safety. Modeled after the ground service safety program the association launched last year, the initiative for Part 135 on-demand operators is designed to reduce the number of accidents and eventually to lower insurance rates and deductibles.
Ramp accidents and incidents continue to plague the aviation industry, but the good news is that FBOs, charter operators and flight departments are taking ramp safety more seriously. Tools such as the National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA’s) Safety 1st training program and Safety Management System (SMS) can help prevent ramp incidents, which has a beneficial effect on insurance cost and availability and employee morale.
The spate of high-profile business aviation accidents a little more than a year ago, many of which were Part 135 flights, has prompted industry experts to search for a link that might prevent the same events from happening in the future. There has been little public outcry for more government oversight because most consumers of corporate and charter aviation believe it probably already exists.
An SMS, the AC stated, “is essentially a quality-management approach to controlling risk.” There are both safety and business benefits to implementing SMSs, including development of a sound safety culture and its integration into operators’ business models. The AC includes a uniform standards template for developing SMSs.
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