Aviation SMS – Idealistic Benefits for 3rd-Party Industry Standards
In our last business aviation blog post on aviation safety management systems (SMS), we discussed the pragmatic benefits of implementing a 3rd-party industry standard, which ranges from receiving a “stylish certificate appropriate for framing” to gaining a spot on a registry that serves as a demonstration for compliance with State SMS requirements. However, implementing a 3rd-party industry standard, besides having pragmatic value, also has an idealistic element in that it 1) raises the bar of efficiency and safety of operations in the organization, and 2) can promote harmonization in the business and general aviation (GA) communities. Here’s an exploration into the ideal benefits:
1. What are the idealistic benefits, from the operator’s perspective, with respect to 3rd-party industry standards?
Besides the obvious ideal of requiring a SMS element to enhance the management of safety, 3rd-party industry standards also contain required processes that raise the level of quality in operations through best industry practices and applicable international standards. The Air Charter Safety Foundation Industry Audit Standard (ACSF IAS) states, as one of its primary objectives, to “Provide Operators with guidance to improve their safety and quality capabilities.” As a result, according to IBAC, “Recognized global standards give the non-aviation executives and Board members a means of measuring the quality in flight operations.” This means that the implementation of the 3rd-party audit standard goes beyond the construction and deployment of an SMS, but also provides the requisite “proven” processes to increase efficiency and level of service, and the tools to measure the performance of these processes in the operation. To put it plainly, when implementing a 3rd-party industry standard, you are getting SMS and then some.
2. What’s the “ideal” standard?
When speaking of ideals or idealism, it is tempting to gravitate towards one standard or another as the standard. Even IBAC agrees that “It is readily accepted that it is neither in the interest of safety nor the economic well-being of operators for variations in international standards to exist,” as this alone would reduce a standard, and the concomitant benefits, to merely a suggestion. In other words, imagine at one airfield there are five operators, all registered with five different 3rd-party audit standards. Which operator is operating most safely and efficiently? Are they all, or are there subtle variations, leaving only the product of the processes as the final measure?
If the product is the final measure, then how robust is the standard being used in providing an accurate, truthful measure for that product? This is a difficult question to answer and may force one to not only inspect the standard, but also the entity that penned the standard. In this author’s own opinion, many of the standards are similar, some more comprehensive than others, some developed by more rigorous research and debate than others, and some more applicable to the Business Aviation sector than others, but all have the common goal to increase the levels of safety and quality in operations.
In our previous posts relating to SMS, we have discussed the perception that an operation has to purchase and/or implement a 3rd-party industry standard in order to effectively implement SMS. While we demonstrated that this perception is erroneous, we discussed that there may be pragmatic value to implementing a 3rd-party industry standard, ranging from “bragging rights” to enhanced public perception to verification of the operator’s SMS.
Now, we have discussed idealistic value of 3rd-party industry standards, including raising the level of quality and efficiency in operations above minimum regulatory standards. There could, however, be confusion as to which standard is truly ideal and universal in the selection of standards available today. The use of ACSF’s IAS and IBAC’s IS-BAO in these posts was purely for example purposes and does not indicate that these standards are endorsed by the author. Selection of a particular standard should be an operator’s decision, and the decision arrived at by not only inspecting the standard, but the methods used to derive the standard, and the organization which developed the standard should also be inspected. Regardless, these standards, in this author’s opinion, were created for the purposes of increasing the levels of safety and efficiency in the aviation systems and harmonize the global business aviation community.
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