NBAA2009 News Bureau Articles

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Operators Share SMS Experiences

October 22, 2009, Orlando, FL – Earlier this week, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt told NBAA2009 Attendees that widespread adoption of safety management systems (SMS) would be a key to taking aviation safety to the next level. With non-commercial operators facing a November 2010 deadline from the International Civil Aviation Organization for implementing an SMS, some flight departments that fly overseas might be anticipating having to expend significant time and resources to comply.

However, four business aircraft operators – ranging from a Part 91 operator of a single turboprop to a Part 135 company that flies a mixed fleet of jets – told Attendees at NBAA2009 that development and implementation of an SMS does not have to be an onerous task. In fact, it can yield substantial tangible benefits, not only in terms of heightened safety and lower insurance premiums, but the process itself can foster teamwork among flight department management and staff as they work together to make safety everyone’s job.

Scott Moore, who heads a two-person flight department that flies a King Air and recently was certified to the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), told Attendees that it took him and his copilot just two days to create a relatively simple SMS.

“It’s not just for big operators; it’s scalable,” Moore said. Setting up a risk management and mitigation system not only makes an operation safer today by formalizing safety policies and procedures, it ensures that a system is in place to handle possible future expansion, he added.

Other operators who participated in the SMS session at NBAA2009 agreed that developing risk management and mitigation systems is worth the effort, and they offered the following insights on how to implement an SMS:

  • Don’t expect to buy an off-the-shelf SMS. While templates and support are available through numerous sources, most notably the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), it is important to create an SMS in house to ensure that it is customized and flexible enough for your operation.
  • The process of creating an SMS should involve everyone in the flight department. Many hands make lighter work and wide participation in the creation of an SMS instills a sense of ownership among all flight department personnel.
  • Top down buy-in is vital. Having a CEO sign off on an SMS ensures that everyone will be on the same page when it comes to safety. It also will give flight departments the justification they need to decline certain missions if they are deemed too risky, without fear of repercussions.  
  • You could be safer. Many flight departments think they run a safe operation. However, several of the operators that participated in the NBAA2009 SMS session disclosed that after audits revealed some weaknesses in their operation, they were able to address those issues by developing specific procedures that are not included in their SMS.
  • Monetary benefits will flow from implementing an SMS. One operator reported that he saved 20 percent on his insurance bill as a result of adopting an SMS.

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Planned NBAA SMS Workshops in 2010

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