There’s only one thing more difficult for a pilot to deal with than being part of a small flight department and that is being a one-person show that often transforms that single employee into the chief pilot, maintenance director, scheduler, fueler and catering director, not to mention administrative assistant.
Many operational errors occur when one person wears too many hats and especially when one of those people happens to be flying single-pilot high-performance aircraft such as the new light jets. That problem–keeping things in order for flight departments, especially small ones–so intrigued Don Baldwin, a retired Coca-Cola pilot and former NBAA board member, that he formed Baldwin Aviation Safety & Compliance in 2005. The company focuses on what some still believe to be mundane business aviation topics, like safety compliance. “We’re a resource for small flight departments,” Baldwin said. “We help them develop their operations manuals and emergency response systems,” as well as complete safety management systems (SMS) that offer small flight departments a glimpse inside the operations of similar companies for safety best practices.
Baldwin is here in Las Vegas (Booth No. N2621) walking clients through hands-on demonstrations of his company’s latest offering: SMSace. The new product was “developed specifically for owners and operators of light business aircraft,” a focus of this year’s NBAA show. Sold on a subscription basis, the roster of potential clients includes operators of light jets, single- and twin-engine turboprops, helicopters and single-engine high-performance piston aircraft such as the Cirrus SR22 or Piper Malibu.
In addition to developing operations manuals to keep the owner/operator out of regulatory trouble, a Baldwin subscription teaches pilots to accurately assess their trip risk level–due to weather, lack of recent experience, fatigue and so forth–before they take off. At the completion of each flight, Baldwin encourages operators to load their personal assessment of that flight into the database to track their own risk exposure. If things went well, they can note that. But with access to the Baldwin database available from any web-connected device, even an iPhone, owner/operators can discuss in complete confidentiality what might not have worked out quite as planned.
Baldwin subscribers can review data from other operators, with the identifying information removed, to learn how those pilots dealt with similar situations. One month an operator might be reading about the lessons someone else learned, while next month a pilot might be inputting their own experiences for someone else to take advantage of.
SMSace is not a safety-only system. “As a small flight department resource, we help them cope with deviations of company procedures,” said Baldwin, “so the owner/pilot can better understand what happened and how to prevent the same issue from recurring.”
All of Baldwin’s product line, from the SMSace through the more complex SMSprime, are IS-BAO compliant when the subscriber completes all the required steps. The IS-BAO link means subscribers can measure themselves and their flight operations against a known performance standard. Subscribers are audited to insure that compliance, Baldwin said. “That’s a big benefit from both an insurance and a regulatory standpoint.” A benefit of the subscription service, he noted, “is that we not only develop the manuals, but insure that the operators remain current on an annual basis.”
An initial assessment by a Baldwin team member costs as little as $500 with a monthly commitment of $125, no matter how often one accesses the database. “We offer a reasonable, effective SMS program and are giving NBAA attendees easy access to watch our products in action,” Baldwin said. “It’s almost a no-brainer when we see such positive change in the culture of the companies that implement our systems.”