The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) began its annual safety symposium with an attention-grabbing slide. It shows the accident rates for U.S. Part 121 airlines and all Part 135 operations for the years 2007-2011. The accident rate for all Part 135 operations is 0.60 per 100,000 flight hours, approximately four times worse than the airlines’ 0.159 per 100,000 flight hours.
But the figure for ACSF-registered operators is 0.256 per 100,000 flights, less than half the rate for non-ACSF operators. The ACSF’s goal is to achieve a safety record as good as or better than that for Part 121.
The foundation’s mission is to enable on-demand charter operators and fractional program managers to achieve the highest levels of safety in the aviation industry. Companies that adhere to a higher standard are proven to be more successful at managing risk in day-to-day operations, and have better safety records than the air charter industry at large. In the slide, the ACSF compared the accident rate of its audit-registered operators with that of all other Part 135 operators.
The theme for this year’s symposium was, “Safety Is an Investment: It Pays Dividends,” which drew more than 120 representatives from the on-demand air charter and fractional aircraft ownership community, as well as various aviation industry experts.
“We are extremely pleased with the response from symposium attendees,” said ACSF president Bryan Burns. “The attendees were awed by the quality, depth and range of information presented that they could use in their daily operations. The best part was the interaction between the attendees and presenters.”
ACSF chairman Dennis Keith added that attendees benefitted from hearing from chief safety officers, FAA officials, industry experts and an associate professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School. “We are pleased that the ACSF continues to gain momentum and the validity of the foundation’s mission to raise the level of safety within air charter and fractional ownership operations continues to be confirmed through operator and industry participation in ACSF activities.”
Mandated Cuts Will Not Affect Safety
With sequestration on everyone’s mind, John Duncan, FAA deputy director of the Flight Standards Service, told attendees that the mandated cuts are expected to be a significant issue for the FAA going forward. He said the agency has had to find places where cuts could be achieved without compromising safety.
“We had to look at cuts in a number of areas,” Duncan told the group. “We had to look at cuts in contracting…we are cutting probably three-quarters of our contract budget right now.” In addition to attrition of employees, who will not be replaced, he said the FAA will have to furlough all employees–including administrators–for one day per two-week pay period.
Duncan said there are close to 100 applications in the certification queue, and that number clearly will grow. However, the primary focus of the FAA’s attention is on and will continue to be on operational safety. “So we will continue to do the surveillance and oversight that we need to do because that’s where we are primarily obligated,” he explained. “The things that are going to slow down are certifications.”
Keynote speaker Robert Carraway of the Darden School discussed how safety cultures are shaped and formed, not only by how we interact with one another, but also by the countless decisions, big and small, that we make every day, both individually and in groups.
“We consciously seek to align these decisions with important organizational norms and initiatives, but research has shown that our individual decision-making processes are fraught with traps, particularly when we over-rely on experience and intuition,” he said.
“Safety is probably a given in your profession,” Carraway acknowledged, “but somehow you have to keep your eye on the safety ball.” In devising a plan to enhance your safety culture, ask yourself: What could change peoples’ minds about the relative importance of safety and what can we do about it?
Chris MacWhorter, senior technical advisor to the director of FAA Flight Standards, told the group that compliance alone is not enough. “You have to convince management to spend money outside compliance,” he said. “Not all compliance is going to mitigate all at-risk behavior.”
Before his current assignment, MacWhorter managed a collection of voluntary safety programs, including the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP), the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), the Flight Operational Quality Assurance Program (FOQA), the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program (VDRP), the Internal Evaluation Program (IEP) and the Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA).