The quality of ground operations staff training at FBOs and business aviation handling agents across the globe varies greatly, with some organizations using NATA Safety 1st or similar dedicated programs while others rely on in-house developed systems, some of which are not up to the job and often suffer from insufficient oversight.
Safety Management Systems (SMS) can see just as much diversity in the sector.
The consequences of a training program or SMS which is under resourced or treated as an annoying requirement to be left to the safety/training manager alone are, quite frankly, dire. Safety failures on the ramp can cause serious injury and even death. In terms of physical damage to aircraft such failures can cost many millions of dollars even for what seem to be a minor incident, just ask your aviation insurance agent.
Contact between aircraft and ground service equipment accounts for more than 80% of ramp incidents. Unsurprisingly, ineffective communication is at the heart of most incidents. Without a robust training program with follow-on recurrent training and a suitable, evolving SMS, effective communications on the ramp will not exist and accidents will invariably happen, given time.
Safety must be rooted in a culture that starts at the very top of an organization. It is very much in the interest of Accountable Managers (AKA Accountable Executives) to understand that safety is an investment, not a cost! Taking a proactive stance on the subject can allow an Accountable Manager to energise his/her team with the enthusiasm to approach joining up effective training and SMS implementation for the benefit of all.
Here are a few misconceptions that prevail on ramp safety:
1. Once the ramp crew has been trained, the job is done.
2. Ramp training is only for the ramp crew.
3. Safety oversight lies with training manager only.
Accountable Managers may well be surprised how reasonable such programs can be, especially when compared to an incident. Costs are far from prohibitive, even for smaller FBO and BAHA.
NATA's Safety 1st Professional Line Service Training (PLST) program sets the standard for line service training. AMR Combs created the first training program for line service specialists in the mid ‘80s. In the late 1990s, the Aviation Training Institute (ATI) produced a new video edition of PLST. NATA purchased ATI's PLST in 2000, improved it again, and subsequently introduced it under the NATA Safety 1st brand of line service training tools. That version of the training is used today by more than 1,100 FBOs and thousands of line service specialists across the United States and internationally.
Since the launch of the NATA Safety 1st and the introduction of PLST, NATA have released numerous other online training tools for all general aviation businesses.
In 2014 ICAO set up the Ground Handling Task Force to look at safety, efficiency and standardization issues associated with ground handling.
The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) launched IS-BAH, the International Standard – Business Aviation Handling in May 2014 at EBACE. The standard was developed at the urging of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA).
IS-BAH Standards based on:
a. ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)
b. Business Aviation Best Practices
IS-BAH is a set of global industry best practices for business aviation ground handlers, which features at its core a SMS. The IS-BAH follows the structure of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) Program and incorporates the NATA Safety 1st Ground Audit Program. These two systems are a great fit for any FBO or business aviation ground handler.
IS-BAH is the global industry standard for handlers and operators around the world to meet the coming SMS requirements from ICAO.
This standard really is achievable for any FBO or Business Aviation Handling Agent, small or large. Increasingly aircraft operators are gaining IS-BAO (International Standard - Business Aircraft Operators) certification, introduced in 2002 (after two years of development testing) and prefer to use FBO or BAHA that have, or are working towards, IS-BAH, as this gives them confidence that their aircraft will be handled by an organization that has invested in their staff and the industry standards for training and SMS.
Not only does IS-BAH offer FBO/BAHA the highest safety culture possible for their staff and clients, as with the Safety 1st training program, it may well help pay for itself through reduced insurance premiums, there is anecdotal evidence that underwriters are taking a positive view on IS-BAH and the reduction of risks it brings to ramp operations.
The National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA) successful Safety 1st Ground Audit program was incorporated into the new standard, setting a new and higher standard for Safety Management Systems and best practices throughout the business aviation ground support industry.
Day-to-day operation of the standard and audit processes is managed by IBAC.
Certification will also bring with it an added marketing bonus when it comes to promoting your business to aircraft operators.
The IBAC International Standards Support Services Affiliate (I3SA) Program has been established to improve the quality of support services provided by organizations assisting operators in implementing the IS-BAH.
See related article by this author on Globalair.com “First in Africa – Small Investment, Large Results” 31 January 2017