The benefits of employing a safety management system (SMS) in business aircraft operations should no longer be up for question, according to Pete Agur, managing director and founder of The VanAllen Group. Now, he said, “it’s a question of how people want to apply it, whether it’s a single aircraft or a large fleet.”
Agur believes that the flight risk assessment tool (Frat), a fundamental element in any SMS, is important but that operators aren’t using the Frat to capture enough data to have a significant effect on safety. The better way to use the Frat, he explained, is to increase the number of parameters that it examines and at the same time auto-populate those parameters using modern software tools. In this way, safety will be maximized by analyzing more critical elements and sharing the Frat process with more people in the operation who are responsible for safety.
In a study of 10 flight departments, Agur’s team found that most operations are using the Frat as a preflight tool, while others use it as a management tool and don’t share the results with flight crews. “It needs to be inclusive,” he said, and that means involving the scheduling, maintenance, flight and management departments in the Frat process. The study also found that many departments look at only about 20 to 40 Frat elements, while Agur believes that number should be much higher. “When you look at all the data points associated with a trip leg, 130 to 180 points end up becoming relatively representative of the [applicable] criteria,” he said. These include what might seem like ordinary elements such as crosswinds, runway width, decision altitude on approaches, etc. “There are all things that end up becoming risk factors or non-factors that need to be included.”
The study also found that only 25 to 30 percent of Frat elements are human factors-related, which is a big contrast to the number of accidents caused by human factors issues, at about 70 percent. “There needs to be an increase in the robustness of examining human factors elements to manage the risks associated with the flight crew,” he said. Crew experience and pairing are just some factors that should be considered, he added.
Gathering all of this information is difficult, but companies that offer SMS development and management assistance such as Arinc (Booth No. 2155), Baldwin Aviation (No. 1066) and Argus International (No. 3207) offer ways to do that, according to Agur. “A next-generation Frat is going to be able to reach into crew scheduling software and look at the crew’s experience, high minimums, recency for night operations, crosswind competence, all the things that [operators] can include in their database. We’re two or three years away from a third-generation Frat that will actually become effective. Having a robust Frat and a robust application of it is a huge benefit of using a safety management system.”