Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC, Booth L88) has released its first update to the standard in four years. It is also expanding the breadth of its portfolio and building on its advanced programs and support network.
IS-BAO program director Andrew Karas said the most recent IS-BAO update was designed to “lean out” some of the content and provide clarity as the industry has evolved, including additional information on night vision goggle operations and stabilized approaches for helicopters. Other changes geared toward fixed-wing aircraft involve visual approach risk and best practices surrounding circle-to-land. In addition, the update further addresses the use of cellphones and other electronic devices in the flight deck, Karas said.
IBAC previously would update IS-BAO annually, but while the 16-member Standards Board will still meet every year, changes will now shift to a “needs-based approach,” he said. IBAC director-general Kurt Edwards explained that operators were concerned that annual updates became complicated because they required constant changes to their practices. They asked that rather than constant change, IBAC consider updating the program when changes are more critical.
“The experience over the last 20 years is such that we probably don't have to do this as often as annually. It could be maybe two years or three years. It just will depend upon what we're learning and what develops in the industry,” Edwards added.
In addition to accumulating changes on a more periodic basis, based on the urgency of the changes, IBAC is changing the approach to how it numbers the updates. Rather than tying the updates to a year, IBAC labeled the new update the 20th edition in recognition of the milestone anniversary of IS-BAO. Going forward, the editions will increase sequentially from there.
The IS-BAO Standards Board met in October to cull through four years’ worth of operator and auditor input in developing the update, Karas noted. He said the changes involving helicopter operations were among the more significant in the update. “We’ve started incorporating a more focused standard to specific rotary-lane operations,” he said.
Edwards added, “The helicopter community is something we've been trying to emphasize much more recently.” While working with organizations such as Helicopter Association International has helped IBAC expand its outreach, “relative to fixed-wing operators, I think we have a lot of progress to make and it's something we are certainly working on.”
As far as extending its reach, IBAC in January unveiled an IS-BAO program for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), naming Cartersville, Georgia-based Phoenix Air Unmanned as the first to receive registration. Phoenix Air Unmanned, a sister company to IS-BAO-registered charter aircraft operator Phoenix Air Group, worked with IBAC on a pilot program to include RPAS.
IBAC teamed up with the Unmanned Safety Institute to develop and implement an auditor training program for the IS-BAO RPAS. The program was developed to accommodate some of its participating operators that have begun using RPAS vehicles, as well as standalone operators that have sought out best practices and safety management systems, Karas said. He noted that the move is in keeping with IBAC’s goal to evolve with the industry and technological development. “We're adopting that with this sector,” he added.
The RPAS standards were developed through an advisory board that represents a range of industry professionals, Joby Aviation among them. IBAC said it is adapting the program to ensure it will be relevant and applicable to RPAS now and in the future.
A key to the implementation is professionally trained and credentialed auditors, IBAC added. “The business aviation industry is filled with highly experienced and knowledgeable operations and maintenance personnel coming from traditional piloted aircraft backgrounds. However, the RPAS operational environment is relatively new with fewer industry experts,” Karas said. “As with any successful safety program, well trained and qualified auditors are essential.”
Along with RPAS, IBAC is maturing its Progressive Stage 3 (PS3) tier for IS-BAO that was rolled out in 2020. IS-BAO PS3 enables operators to advance their Stage 3 safety system, share data, mentor, and share best practices with others, IBAC said.
The program was designed to provide additional pathways for continuous improvement and builds a more customized approach to auditing. Instead of the traditional three-year audit, PS3 involves one-day audits every year over three years. “This allows the operator a little bit more flexibility in their audit schedule and they can tailor their audit requirements to how that best suit them,” Karas said.
Nearly two dozen operators have signed on to PS3 or are onboarding. “One of the great things about the program is that it really brings together these operators with mature safety management systems that are fully committed to continuous improvement and to sharing their experiences to learn lessons from others,” Edwards said.
Individuals from these operators get together monthly to discuss safety issues. “It’s been a very good forum for all of these folks,” he said.
Meanwhile, IBAC has been working to expand its Program Support Affiliate (PSA) network as more operators enter the network and capacity becomes constrained. PSAs can provide a range of services from documentation and SMS support to training and auditing help.
“A lot of new owners are coming into the industry and standing up flight departments,” Karas noted, saying IBAC is seeing a need for “support in the documentation, in the manuals, emergency response plans, and, overall items for starting up a flight department.”
Edwards added, “When you have the manufacturer saying to you that probably one-third of their customers are now new to the industry, there's a fundamental need for that type of service to help people understand what they need to be doing in terms of operating an aircraft.”
Preparing for this growth and new technologies is central to IBAC as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of IS-BAO. Edwards said the “first priority over the next 20 years would be focusing on the uptake in the small operator community, specifically how can we help them bring this about?”
He also stressed the need to build its reputation outside of North America to draw in more of the international community, which is part of its mission of attending shows such as EBACE.