NBAA2013 News Bureau

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At Safety Town Hall, a Two-Way Dialogue on Managing Top Risks

October 23, 2013

“We want to hear from you, that’s why we’re having this session,” NBAA Safety Committee Chairman Eric Barfield said to kick off the Safety Town Hall meeting held on Oct. 22 during NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2013). “We really want to have a two-way dialogue.”

The Safety Town Hall was one of the most interactive sessions of the day, with committee leaders posing questions to the floor and conducting live polls of attendees, who answered on their smartphones. The session also devoted nearly half its time to questions from attendees, with committee leaders committing to address important issues with future initiatives.

To start the discussion, committee leaders reviewed their list of Top 10 Safety Focus Areas for business aviation. The list emerged from the committee’s annual risk assessment earlier this year of the most important safety-related topics to NBAA Members. Review the Top 10 Safety Focus Areas.

Right away, attendees used their smartphones to tell the committee which of the Top 10 issues was most relevant to their operations. The results were displayed in real-time on a projection screen, with many votes cast for fatigue, professionalism and safety culture.

“This is our 2013 list, but we know we don't have all the answers,” said Barfield. “The most important thing we’re going to take away today is what we’re missing: What needs to be on our list for 2014?” Attendees’ input will be used to seed the committee’s discussions for the 2014 Top 10 list.

Urged to Keep Focus on Stabilized Approaches

With their smartphones, attendees posted suggestions to the screen and voted for new areas of focus. Safety Committee Vice Chairman Steve Charbonneau spotted a common question: “What does the data say causes most business aviation accidents?” He told attendees that by far, most business aviation accidents are runway excursions.

That kicked off a discussion on the need to focus on stabilized approaches. Barfield explained that runway excursions were on the Safety Committee’s list in 2010, part of what led to a multi-year focus on improving training.

“We talk about training and data, but to address incidents like runway excursions we have to go beyond mere knowledge,” said Safety Committee member and Flight Safety Foundation liaison Peter Stein. “Because, 96 percent of the time, when a pilot encounters an unstable approach, they continue to land. So we have to start focusing on problem-solving and decision-making skills.”

Dealing With SMS Challenges Together

With the floor open for questions, most of the discussion centered around challenges with implementing safety management systems (SMS) and incorporating them into the flight department’s safety culture.

“The Top 10 list is great, the only thing it’s missing is the tools for operators to get there,” said one representative of an aircraft manufacturer. “We all know what the tool is, it’s SMS. As an industry, we have to teach operators the value of SMS. We have to take the money-making out of safety and give them free tools, like flight-risk assessment tools.”

Some attendees shared their view that implementing an SMS, including the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), can be onerous, while others said that an SMS could be a simple system based on collecting data from employees as they encounter risks.

Attendees also urged the committee to become more involved with the FAA’s recent emphasis on airman training and checking – to incorporate standards of professionalism and safety culture into that training.