Here we offer a selection of articles for the Business Aviation community, previously published by some of the magazines & blogs listed in the Bio below, by Joe McDermott.
"Joe McDermott was a member of the business aviation expert panel at the EBACE 2016, the premier event & the annual meeting place for the European business aviation community. A founding member of the Irish Business Aviation Association, he is currently its CEO & Chairman. He is also a member of the Council of European Business Aviation Associations.
Joe is General/Business Aviation Editor at Flying in Ireland Magazine & a contributor to many BizAv magazines including Aviation Business Africa, Bluesky Business Aviation News, Business Airports International, Globalair.com, European Business Aviation News & has written feature articles for P1 & historic aircraft magazine FlyPast.
Voluntary aviation positions include; Honorary President of Runway Aviation Club Ghana, founder & Event Co-ordinator of Follow Me-Aircraft Marshallers & a “patched” member of the Commemorative Air Force Marshallers Detachment in the USA."
The news in late August that EAN Aviation, the Lagos based business aviation services company had become the first Safety 1st Qualified African location to be listed on the US National Air Transportation Association’s (NATA), Global FBO Map, has been greeted as a positive achievement across the industry.
The story of how this came to pass is one many FBOs, ground handlers and others operating on the ramp (AOCs, AMOs, MROs etc.) will find of interest and may even inspire them to take the step forward that will allow them attain an international standard they may not have, no matter what size their operation is.
I had just started a consultancy contract with EAN at their FBO in Lagos, the very first Nigerian FBO in fact! The company had two out stations, Abuja and Port Harcourt, but Lagos was the jewel in the crown. My function there was as wide as it was varied; I covered strategic partnership planning and negotiation, business development, sales and market as well as oversight of the FBO operations, the AMO and MRO.
CEO Segun Demuren was very keen on bringing EAN up to the best possible international standard, in all departments, but safety and customer service really were his overriding concerns. Mr. Demuren is the son of one of the most respected Director Generals of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) ever, Dr. Harold Demuren, an aeronautical engineer at heart, he holds a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, is a man often credited by international bodies as having dragged Nigerian aviation safety standards up by their boot straps during his tenure (2005 – 2013)! So, it is no surprise that Segun Demuren was hot wired to move safety and customer service up a level when the opportunity presented itself.
Before starting my own business airport/FBO consultancy focused firm I had worked with Landmark Aviation and later with Universal Aviation. Both had a very strong safety and customer service ethos. At Landmark I was introduced to the online based Safety 1st Professional Line Service Training (PLST) with bi-annual recurrent training. Moving to Universal Aviation I was impressed to find that PLST was also required for all ramp and customer care staff.
EANs CEO was far from convinced that his team were being trained to the best possible standard. Early one morning I popped over to his office and gave him an impromptu briefing on PLST, what benefits it would bring to the company and our clients, how it could be implemented and how much it would cost. Less than twenty minutes later I walked out of his office as project manager.
Signing up for the program took just a few minutes. Next, each Ramp Ops, Dispatch and CRO shift was briefed on all aspect of PLST, with emphases on generating enthusiasm and a team spirit for the project.
Working with Quality Manager Josh Amara we got everyone off to a great start. Within days the Head of HR said with a smile “it’s great to see staff, heads down, quietly & enthusiastically working through the program as a team”. Even more pleasing was the fact that once away from the computers, they could be spotted in small groups discussing how best to work with new skills learned, procedures and insight.
We provided a couple of additional work stations in quiet areas where students not used to online training could concentrate and take notes as they worked through each theory module. Working with their supervisors, who were also taking the training, time was allocated throughout each shift so the crew could get uninterrupted sessions at the computers.
Their enthusiasm was infectious. So much so that two engineers from the MRO/AMO offered to take small groups to the hangar for familiarization sessions on aspects of aircraft systems; flight controls, undercarriage, engines, avionics and fuel. This lead to one of our based Citation XLS captains giving sessions in the cockpit, where he happily took time to explain everything from theory of flight to fuel calculations. You might think all of this is going beyond what is necessary, but consider this, most of our operations crew had never been inside an aircraft before, let alone flown in one. We were in new territory and given a one off chance to build a new team, feed their enthusiasm and create a working environment where what they learned with the online training program would be carried with pride onto the ramp, into the hangar and throughout the entire customer service area.
Just three weeks after starting the program, I received a call from the Head of Ground Operations for very well known Europe based AOC operator who had a number of Challengers and a Global Express based with us. Their chief pilot had just returned from a flight to our facility and had made a point of reporting that a very noticeably upgrade in service quality had been noted both on the ramp and in our VIP facility. This was an early endorsement of the decision to invest in PLST and our people.
With the online modules complete it was time to undertake the practical tests. It was then that we saw how the online training, supported by mentoring from professionals in the industry, engineers and pilots, really came together. Gone were old unsafe habits. Now we could see a complete team take safety and pride in each and every task put before them. Everyone was taking time to think about what they had to do, checking out options, noting how other ramp users would be impacted by their decisions.
In just under three months we had all the students complete the course and all passed.
First FBO in Africa to be NATA Safety 1st PLST accredited! All done for a modest financial investment and without disrupting daily operations.
Following my return to Europe, Tayo Aiyetan, Head of FBO Operations, took oversight of the program and oversaw the recurrent training after two years, moved the project onto the next stage, fulfilling the NATA requirements to put EAN on the Global FBO Map. EAN has now applied for IS-BAH status and CEO Demuren sees this as the company’s next progressive step forward.
A Brief Word about PLST Modules
Safety 1st PLST offers a range of modules, covering Ground Servicing, Safety, Customer Relations, Marshalling, Fire Safety, Airport Security, Towing and Refuelling. I believe there is great value in offering staff as many modules as possible, even if they are not directly applicable to their role. For example, there is no harm in training your customer relations staff in the dangers of FOD, refuelling or towing. The more exposure everyone gets to all that impacts safety and customer service delivery the greater both is enhanced, the more your team integrate with other departments, the more the team as a whole operates in a safe and efficient manner.
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.
Not unexpectedly, the subject of FBO mergers and acquisitions was one of the many talking points at this years’ EBACE, the annual European Business Aviation Conference and Expo, held at the end of May in Geneva, Switzerland.
The BBA acquisition of Landmark Aviation at the start of the year and subsequent rebranding as Signature Flight Support took many by surprise. Having divested itself of six Landmark locations, Signature still find themselves with 199 worldwide stations.
EBACE hosted the “Big is Beautiful” consolidation discussion with Mark Johnstone, Managing Director, EMEA region, BBA Signature Flight Support, Laura Pierallini of Studio Pierallini, Patrick Hansen, CEO of Luxaviation Group, Greg Thomas, President and Executive Chairman of PrivatAir and myself representing Global FBO Consult. Moderator was Taunya Renson-Martin. Looking at business aircraft management, the FBO sector and charter operations it became clear quite quickly that there was agreement among the panelists that mergers and acquisitions in the FBO sector will certainly continue for some time. Consolidation in the sector offers advantages of branding, purchasing power and economies of scale. For the smaller FBO chains or independents finding themselves sharing the ramp with a new or rebranded, well funded competitor, it is not good news and can lead very quickly to a price “race to the bottom”.
And BBA are not the only movers in the FBO market place of late. Just a day ahead of EBACE, Dubai based JetEx announced that is has secured a tender from the Moroccan National Airports Authority to establish five new FBOs, the first such facilities in the North African country. It has already begun business aircraft ground support at Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, Marrakech Menara and Rabat-Salé, where Swissport was also chosen to provide handling services. At the seasonal destinations of Agadir-Al Massira, and Dakhla, Jetex was named as the exclusive ground services provider. Jet Aviation, a General Dynamics company, seemed to be strongly hinting on their stand at two new locations to come very soon!
Luxaviation Group, new owners of well established Execujet, Unijet (France), MasterJet (France), Abelag (Belgium), London Executive Aviation (UK), sound very bullish, so we can expect them to keep up the momentum for a while yet.
In the week following EBACE, French company Sky Valet announce it has completed the acquisition of JetBase, Portugal’s leading FBO network. JetBases’ ten FBOs, situated at the main Portuguese airports of Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Cascais and Beja, on the islands of Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde and in central Africa in Mozambique and Angola, will now operate under the commercial name of Sky Valet. This move follows on from the acquisition by Sky Valet in Q2 2015 of Gestair, Spain.
The addition of these new destinations consolidates Sky Valet’s international expansion strategy, which aims to create a network of FBOs located in the most iconic areas. The company already provides ground handling support services at Madrid, Barcelona, Gerona, Valencia, La Coruna, Santiago de Compostela, Palma de Majorca, Ibiza and Malaga airports. Dominique Thillaud, chairman of the management board of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur (ACA) and Sky Valet, commented, “This acquisition allows us to expand our expertise across a new attractive area of the Iberian peninsula with a reach that even extends to Africa.”
Last April, Florida based Sheltair Aviation announced it had given its FBO network in the Sunshine State a major boost with the purchase the Tampa International Jet Center.
In the same month there were further notable indicators pointing to the continuing trend of aviation fuel suppliers actively expanding their services and branding across the industry, working closely with independent FBOs.
Skylink Services, the lone ground handling service provider for business aircraft at Cyprus’s Larnaca International, became the 52nd Diamond Service member of the World Fuel Services (WFS) Air Elite Network, the international group of FBOs established in 2011 from the remnants of the Avitat network.
WFS and Deer Jet Group expanded their eight-year relationship by signing a memorandum of understanding for the former to provide global aviation support solutions for Deer Jet’s eight FBOs in China and business aircraft handling subsidiary Honor Aviation.
Under the agreement, World Fuel Services will allow Deer Jet FBOs and Honor Aviation to accept its Avcard charge card for payment. More than 30,000 aircraft operators and pilots use Avcard worldwide for aircraft purchases such as fuel, ground handling and maintenance. Avcard is accepted at more than 7,600 locations in more than 190 countries.
If you consider the known facts, talk to key personnel, listen to the rumours, filter out the uninformed comments, you will get a broad sense of how the FBO sector will evolve over the next five to ten years. I believe mergers and acquisitions will be accompanied by co-branding, strategic partnerships and franchising. Realistically the worlds’ capitals and most major cities are fully populated by FBOs, restricting expansion for those not already present in these centres, with many airports restricting the amount of FBO licenses they will issue compounding the problem. Other factors to be considered are the forthcoming sale of a number of airports (France, Germany for instance) and the issuing of new FBO franchise agreements by governments (Morocco just completed, Oman in the process and many more in the pipeline). Right now Africa, Central and South America, India and some of the Pacific Rim countries are getting a lot of attention, maybe it will be from these regions that we will see the next exciting developments emanate!
Who is responsible for FOD detection at your facility? Do they really pay attention to the usually brief training given to them? Why should FOD awareness go all the way to the top of your organization?
Well, let’s take the last question first. If there is an incident as a result of FOD on your ramp the investigation will go all the way to the post holders/managers/CEO. Any such incident will result in expense, probably considerable being aviation related, maybe even go to court. And then there’s the inevitable increase in insurance premium to be paid. And that pretty much answers the first question too, “Who is responsible for FOD detection”. The second question “do they really pay attention” has several answers. During safety training most, but not all, will listen and some will learn. Few will put their training into practice for an extended period of time, especially if they do not see ownership of the FOD problem at all levels of an organisation.
Ask yourself this question, is the marshaller expected to be the only person to carry out FOD checks? No, every single person using the ramp should be eagle eyed to the danger! Even when FOD is included in training, people tend to become more relaxed about FOD awareness as time goes by. To keep the ever present danger of FOD to the forefront of every staff members mind there needs to be visible and continuous leadership from all levels of management. Some FBOs, MROs and airports do this via a variety of methods, safety posters (move around often so they get noticed), weekly FOD sweeps by all staff lead by senior manager, circulating FOD reports, provision of FOD bins, to name a few.
So what is FOD, Foreign Object Debris or Foreign Object Damage?
You can’t have Foreign Object Damage without Foreign Object Debris!
FOD is taken to mean the debris itself and the resulting damage is referred to as FOD Damage.
FOD is an acronym used in aviation to describe both the damage done to aircraft by foreign objects, and the foreign objects themselves.
Foreign Object Debris (FOD) is a substance, debris or article alien to an aircraft or system which would potentially cause damage. Foreign Object Damage is any damage attributed to a foreign object (i.e. any object that is not part of the aircraft) that can be expressed in physical or economic terms and may or may not degrade the product's required safety or performance characteristics.
Some common and not-so-common examples of FOD I have come across:
Screws, Locking Wire, Electrical Wire, Tape, Aircraft Parts
GSE and GSE Parts
Clothing, Uniform Items
Trash Bags, Catering
Loose pavement & tarmac (especially after severe WX)
Airborne debris including: Bubble Wrap, Bailing Wire and Plastic Wrapping
Live FOD including: Rabbits, Hares, Dogs, Snakes and even a Cow
What damage can these do to an aircraft? Well, an Air France Concorde crashed in July 2000 following a tyre striking a thin strip of metal from a preceding DC-10 aircraft leading to a tyre blow out with sections of that tyre puncturing a fuel tank leading to the loss of all 109 souls onboard and four on the ground. In March of this year an EasyJet flight returned to the gate after a passenger alerted cabin crew to a spanner on the wing. This tool could have dropped onto the runway or become wedged in the flaps or ailerons. An explosion which grounded the last remaining airworthy Vulcan Bomber just prior to take off destroying two of the aircraft’s engine was due to ingestion of silica gel desiccant bags into the one of the engines on the port side of the aircraft. Debris was then sucked into a second engine. The silica gel bags are used to reduce moisture and were apparently left inside the engine by mistake.
So, even small items in the wrong place can cause death, injury or serious damage. All FOD comes from somewhere. People can take it directly onto the ramp, it can come in on the wind, blown from one area to another by jet blast or helicopter downwash, fall from an aircraft and can even be left there by aircrew. And then there is GSE left in the wrong place or not secured during high winds or the ever present menace, black chocks on black tarmac, in the rain, at night just waiting to trip up a marshaller or for an aircraft to taxi over them!
Let us not forget wandering aircraft. On shared ramps, if tying down aircraft in your charge in anticipation of high winds, do you check if the other FBOs plan to do the same? I witnessed on a ramp I work a few years back, a ramp agent securing aircraft ahead of an approaching storm. Running out of chocks he took a set from an impounded aircraft (not his FBOs responsibility), thereby leaving that aircraft free to wander the ramp once the storm got up, like a canon ball on the deck of one of the old sailing frigates! Needless to say myself and a colleague sources chocks for the aircraft elsewhere.
In conclusion, FOD is such an ever present danger and so often overlooked or ignored that specialist equipment has been developed to help control the problem. We will all have seen large vacuum sweeper truck patrolling ramps sucking up surface FOD, mostly these are basic road sweepers. Purpose built equipment for the aviation industry offer faster and more efficient methods of FOD detection and collection as they are specifically designed to collect all kinds of debris with airport ramps in mind (eg The FOD BOSS). However, the first line of defence in detection is still the Mk. 1 Eyeball. Back it up with mechanical equipment by all means, but every FBO or airport needs an all stakeholders FOD prevention and detection policy combined with a robust, ongoing reporting and accountability system.
Saudia Albayraq will employ three Airbus 319-112 aircraft on the route in an all business class configuration of 48 seats aimed to rival even the comfort of private jet aircraft.
The new operator, using two of the aircraft will offer six daily scheduled flights between Riyadh and Jeddah each way, starting at 6am until 9 pm, providing a flight every 3 hours to each city. The third aircraft will be rotated into the schedule as the maintenance program requires. Every flight will have a corporate chef onboard to provide a unique dining experience.
The FBO involvement means the business or VIP passenger gets the full “corporate jet experience” while the onboard chef offers something very new for in-flight catering!
Fares are expected to be higher than business class on Saudia flights but come with the premium onboard service and the comfort, efficiency and privacy of the SPA VIP facilities and a dedicated Saudia Albayraq client support centre.
Saudia Private Aviation was founded in Jeddah in 2009 by Saudia Arabian Airlines and became a separate entity in 2012. Future developments at SPA include a planned new MRO facility in the next five to seven years.
A real eye catcher at Saudia Private Aviations’ FBOs is their use of Porsche 911 Pininfarinas or other high performance cars for ramp transfers where required! At Jeddah, SPA has their own airside hotel at the FBO for engineering crews who may arrive with no visa to work on AOG aircraft. SPA handles all flights for the Saudi Arabian Royal Flight.
The company owns a fleet of ten aircraft, four Dassault 7X and six Hawker 400XP.
SPA has an experienced OCC team of flight dispatchers located in Jeddah in support of client and their own operations.
Saudia Albayraqs’ format is an interesting evolution of existing services provided by British Airways (London City – New York with A319 aircraft), KLM (Amsterdam – Houston operated by PrivatAir, B738) & Lufthansa (Frankfurt – Dammam, also operated by PrivatAir, B738).
The real stand out differences offered by Saudia Albayraq being the use of an FBO facility at each airport and it is pushing its culinary limits, bringing in onboard chefs to create a high-flying in-flight dining experience. The in-flight chefs will create and plate meals to the standards of a fine-dining experience. With a chef on board, passengers will also enjoy greater flexibility in terms of their meal preference and service. All the in-flight chefs are fully qualified and have a minimum of five years of experience in noted restaurants and hotels from around the world.
And it is with PrivatAir Saudia the Saudia Albayraq have chosen to work closely with in launching the new service.
PrivatAir SA is a leading international business aviation group with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and operating bases in Frankfurt (PrivatAir GmbH) Germany), Geneva (Switzerland) and Brazzaville (Congo). From its beginnings as the corporate aviation division of global conglomerate The Latsis Group, PrivatAir has matured today into an independent, world-renowned, full service commercial operator, with a track record of growth and safety spanning 36 years.
PrivatAir is a comprehensive aviation group with three divisions delivering service excellence both in the air and on the ground: Scheduled Services, Business Aviation (Aircraft Management, Aircraft Charter, Aircraft Sales, PrivatJetFuel / Fuel Management, Ground Services) and PrivatTraining.
The company’s wide range of clients includes royalty, heads of state, public officials, celebrities from the arts, sports and entertainment industries, captains of industry and private aircraft owners.
PrivatAir aims to take the best practices of the commercial airline industry and to add the flexibility of business aviation, as well as its exceptional standards of service.
The company has experience in operating the full range of business jet types from the Cessna Citation, Bombardier Learjets, Gulfstream and Dassault Falcon jets, to bizliners like the Airbus A319 and Boeings BBJ, BBJ2 , 757 and 767.