The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), continuing its effort to expand the practice of developing and sharing safety data globally, is beginning to develop “tool kits” to enable countries to establish such data-sharing programs in a non-punitive environment. The tool kits are part of the foundation’s three-year Global Safety Information Project (GSIP) that has focused on use of safety data primarily in the Asia-Pacific and Pan-America regions. FSF is now nearing the end of the second year of GSIP, and FSF president and CEO Jon Beatty said the organization has “a lot of heavy deliverables” heading into the next several months with the year-two report and the beginnings of the tool kits ahead.
Beatty, who noted that more than 50 percent of the foundation’s members are involved in business aviation, stressed the importance for business aviation operators to participate in such safety data sharing programs alongside air transport operators. “If you want to continue to see the levels of improvement that we’ve seen over the years in both air transport and business aviation,” Beatty said, then “we’ve got to find a way to learn from each other. We’ve got to find a way to begin sharing data…in a non-punitive [environment].” He added that while GSIP has attracted the attention of more air transport operators, “this project crosses both air transport and business aviation because they face a lot of the same challenges.”
He noted that business aviation faces unique challenges because most of the operators are much smaller than the airlines. “Statistically, when you take airlines, you have enough flights…and have enough locations that you can start to put together a package of data where you can see what has transpired and identify areas of risk.” Business aviation has smaller fleets and more diverse operations. “Unless you are willing to partner and share with other people, you don’t have the statistical population of data that you can learn from.”
By participating in larger programs, the population of data becomes more usable, he said. Business aviation also can learn from the air transport programs, Beatty added, noting that over 80 percent of what is found on the air transport side is “very consistent and relevant to the business aviation community.”
The recent NBAA report on non-compliance with pre-takeoff flight checks underscores how participation in programs such as Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) or voluntary safety reporting can unearth potential problems, added Frank Jackman, v-p of communications for FSF. “You would not be able to pick that out of any single operation. That’s the value of compiling and analyzing data and sharing.”
“The value of data is well known,” added Greg Marshall, v-p of global programs for the FSF. “With every tragedy, there is fundamentally underlying data that could have pointed to the facts that relate to that accident. The more we can draw that out and share it, we can improve safety.”
Many business aviation operators must be educated that the technology exists and programs exist for all sizes of operations, whether through FOQA or voluntary reporting, Marshall said.
Non-compliance is on the forefront of issues confronting FSF’s Business Advisory Committee (BAC), which is focused on issues specifically related to the business aviation community.
The BAC, which has been outlining key topics for its next Business Aviation Safety Summit that will be held May 4-5 in Phoenix, Ariz., is focusing on the need for strong safety systems and leadership to ward off intentional noncompliance, Marshall said. “Some of the large and more mature organizations have not only very good safety systems in place, but we see the safety culture fairly well embedded…at all levels of the organizations. In a number of other organizations safety leadership is lacking either at the top or throughout the organization.”
The BAC further is focused on leadership to ensure that commercial imperatives do not take over safety imperatives. “In order to do the right things by the clients, you find business aviation activities occur [without] due regard to the threats that exist in the operating environment,” Marshall said. “One of the big challenges to industry is to support and enhance safety leaderships with those organizations.”
Another area of focus of the BAC is the increased pressure on corporate flight department management to balance rosters as aircraft become longer-range and more sophisticated, he said. Crews are flying longer, and the larger aircraft typically take extra pilots. This places more pressure to ensure adequate rest periods, Marshall said. “There is a wealth of guidance…in relation to fatigue management, duty periods and rest periods,” he said. “[But] it is still a challenge within the industry. I think there’s more work that can be done.”
Some of the foundation’s members have been facing recruitment challenges as they try to manage the roster issues, and they have had to make difficult decisions on whether they can make a trip or send their executives on commercial flights. Marshall noted this balance of rosters and recruitment is common throughout aviation. “No sector of the industry comes away completely unscathed, and business aviation is certainly one of those areas affected.”
In addition to its activities with BAC, FSF will be active at NBAA 2016, participating on panels and meeting with the community at its booth (3365). Beatty, emphasizing the importance of the business aviation community to the foundation, said, “We're looking forward to heading to [the show].”