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IS-BAO Is for Every Operation

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a flight department, aircraft management firm or charter operator that doesn’t have safety as its top priority. Within aviation, that focus on safety is a given. Operators expect their employees to uphold the “safety first” mantra, from how an aircraft is maintained to the way it’s flown and everything in between.

But how does a company know if its operations are as safe as they can be, and, how does a client know – particularly in a diverse international market?

One way is to embrace the safety management standards and best practices promoted by organizations like NBAA or its overseas counterparts. But business aviation’s international scope demands an internationally accepted standard.

Those standards are increasingly being fulfilled through participation in the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), which includes audits that can both confirm compliance and reveal shortcomings. It’s a standard that has gained increasing acceptance around the world since its inception eight years ago at the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). An association of associations representing business aviation interests before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)in Montreal, IBAC incorporated input from a variety of operators around the world when it developed IS-BAO. Furthermore, the IS-BAO Standards Board meets annually to review the current state of the requirements, look for areas of possible improvement and agree on any needed updates or revisions.

“We’ve been impressed by the IS-BAO standard since its inception and feel that an international standard is beneficial not only to our company, employees and clients, but also to our industry as a whole.”

Executive Vice President, ExcelAire

Since its launch in April 2002, more than 400 operators worldwide have opted to embrace IS-BAO – many of them because the standard meets a wide range of international regulatory requirements, including future mandates to implement a safety management system (SMS).

In fact, IS-BAO is the only aviation industry code-of-practice recognized by ICAO and by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for meeting its SMS standards for both commercial and non-commercial operations.

Key to the success of IS-BAO is its scalability, which enables single-pilot, single-aircraft operations to develop meaningful safety practices while providing a robust safety network for larger operations. Also, earlier this year, the Helicopter Association International, European Helicopter Association and British Helicopter Association committed to jointly develop a helicopter edition of IS-BAO.

But most important, IS-BAO’s independent audits determine how well an operation adheres to its stated standards. It’s not an easy, painless process, adopters say, but the benefits are worth it; in particular, the biennial audits that bring in new “eyes” to examine a company’s safety systems and adherence to its own requirements.

A Demanding Standard, a Demanding Audit

“We were the second Part 135 charter operation to get IS-BAO certification,” recalled Ken Gray, director of operations for Executive Fliteways, an aircraft management and charter operator flying predominantly under FAR 135.

“We looked at the IS-BAO and decided early on that it made a lot of sense to pursue,” Gray explained. “We received our certification in 2004.” The company, based in Islip, NY, signed on, received its IS-BAO documentation and went to work enlisting staff at every level to verse themselves in the goals and demands – to participate actively.

“The reality is, it’s not all that easy to get everybody to embrace SMS – from the bookkeepers to the people who clean and detail aircraft,” he recalled. “If you’re doing SMS properly, though, it brings safety awareness to every level of the company. “That’s what made it [IS-BAO] so attractive.”

Companywide Emphasis, International Acceptance

The depth of the process and demands it places on everyone in the operation helped steer another New York-based charter operator, ExcelAire, to recently host its first IS-BAO workshop and begin the certification process.

“As a large, and still growing, operator with extensive international operations, we have always been committed to the highest standards of safety,” explained David Rimmer, ExcelAire’s executive vice president. “And we embrace innovations that raise the bar even higher.

“We’ve been impressed by the IS-BAO standard since its inception and feel that an international standard is beneficial not only to our company, employees and clients, but also to our industry as a whole,” Rimmer said.

According to Gray, Executive Fliteways’ participation in IS-BAO helped enlighten every level of staff to their safety-oriented responsibilities. Gray noted, “The emphasis on the SMS is something that brings a higher level of safety and, more importantly, it brings an awareness of safety to every level of the company.”

But it’s the audits, Gray explained, that show whether a company’s efforts are working.

Trained and certified auditors conduct the audits; operations found in-compliance receive a two-year IS-BAO certificate.

Ensuing audits prompted Executive Fliteways to ultimately eliminate some high-risk flight practices, such as night-circling approaches in mountainous terrain and land-and-hold-short arrivals. “What we found was the benefits did not outweigh the risks, so we eliminated those types of operations,” said Gray.

“Once you’ve weighed all the risky procedures – like circle-to-land at night in mountainous terrain – and have resolved them, you’re Level 3,” Gray explained.

At each audit, Gray noted, the company learns new ways to improve its SMS and improve compliance. After four audits, Executive Fliteways achieved Level 3 – an achievement that shifts the process largely to maintaining that level. Gray noted, “We look forward to the audits because it’s another set of eyes looking at what we do.

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