The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) is continuing to expand its reach into new programs and initiatives to raise the bar on safety for small and large operators alike. Speaking during the ACSF Safety Symposium in Daytona Beach, Florida on Tuesday, chairman Robert Rufli, who is v-p of flight operations and director of operations for Pentastar Aviation, said the organization’s leadership has “had a couple of strategic meetings in the last few years to try to help the Air Charter Safety Foundation begin to focus in different areas.”
Rufli expressed a need to have a broader outreach, noting that there are about 2,000—mostly small—Part 135 operators that must prepare for mandates such as safety management systems (SMS). “We need to help them understand how to do it and how to do it right.” He stressed that SMS is more of an art form than a process and said, “we don’t want those [operators] to just have a process, we want them to have an effective SMS. So that's what we want to do. We want to reach out into our industry and reach down to the smaller operators and really help them.”
ACSF last year launched an SMS tool that is scalable to operations of all sizes and is offered for free to customers that participate in the association’s Aviation Safety Action Plan (ASAP) program that it administers for operators in concert with the FAA.
The next direction for ACSF, Rufli said, is flight data monitoring (FDM). “We see that as the next big thing in the industry that could really make an impact,” he said. “We just want to be your gatekeeper.” ACSF president Bryan Burns stated that the organization began beta testing an FDM program this year with three operators and the goal is to gather data and open it up broadly as it has with the ASAP program.
In addition, ACSF is starting to work with academia to build data on which to develop what Rufli called state of the industry reports. “You don’t fix anything unless you measure it,” he remarked, adding these reports can highlight key safety issues. Along with that, ACSF, working in concert with the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), hosted its first Business Aviation Safety Roundtable in February. The roundtable brought together industry safety professionals to take a deep dive into issues that need to be addressed. “You gave us your ideas and our next step is to take those into business roundtables regionally. We are going to try to get small operators in the rooms and listen to what their issues are,” Rufli said, and noted that the regional sessions are also going to serve as means to educate smaller operators on the tools available for SMS and other safety initiatives.
Magellan Jets COO and ACSF vice-chair Todd Weeber encouraged attendees to “show up and help us knock on doors” to bring the Part 91 operators, as well as 135 operators to these events. He stressed the importance because the general public doesn’t discern between a Part 91 and 135 operation when an accident occurs.
While these new efforts are ongoing, ACSF is continuing to build on its ASAP program, which provides a non-punitive avenue to report safety violations and deficiencies. These reports are reviewed and used to address problems and the data is accumulated to discover more systemic safety issues. Launched in 2012, the ASAP program now encompasses 209 companies that account for 254 certificates, Rufli reported. This represents 60 percent of all the participating certificates in the country, he noted, adding it also includes Part 121 operations. “We have a major resource for [operators],” Rufli said. “I can’t talk enough about how much ASAP has really made an impact.” He cited as examples, cases where air traffic control has changed arrivals as a result of ASAP reports. “There are all kinds of things happening because of ASAP. It’s extremely important.” Burns emphasized further, noting that 90 percent of the ASAP reports are single-source and said this is information that may never have been unearthed without the program.
Additionally, ACSF is seeing traction with its collaboration with the FAA and NATA in the effort to combat illegal charter. The safety foundation manages an illegal charter hotline as part of that effort. “It’s picking up,” Rufli remarked, noting the European Union has now contacted ACSF to learn how it is administered.
With these initiatives ongoing, Rufli told attendees at the symposium that ACSF remains open to other ideas to help forward its mission, which he said “is really just to promote the highest level of safety for the industry. We want to be forward thinkers.”