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Safety is an investment, not a cost! Ramp Safety and Business Aviation

by Joe McDermott 20. February 2017 14:16
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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:

  • ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)
  • 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.

Any reader who would like to discuss this topic further can contact the author at SafeRamps@GlobalFBOconsult.me

See related article by this author on Globalair.com “First in Africa – Small Investment, Large Results” 31 January 2017

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Joe McDermott

First in Africa - FBO Ramp Training, Small Investment, Large Results

by Joe McDermott 31. January 2017 09:34
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The news in last 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 and shows that such programs are not just for the multi station FBO chains. This is something all FBOs can achieve, be they in Canada’s Far North, Hollywood’s Van Nuys, squeezed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean at Tierra del Fuego, Russia’s Vladivostok or in Kilimanjaro, the gateway to Africa’s wildlife heritage, any location where people mix on a ramp with general/business aviation!

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 marketing 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 Safety 1st 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, but ground ops too would be unaffected.

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, weight and balance 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.

At this stage too I could clearly see a new and vibrant safety culture spread through our entire facility during towing, refuelling, marshalling and general servicing (potable water, toilet, baggage loading ect).

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, consulting with team members.

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 is now working towards IS-BAH status and CEO Demuren sees this as the company’s next progressive step forward. More importantly, the CEO is giving it his full backing, as always!

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.

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Joe McDermott

Documenting Maintenance and Inspection Records

by Greg Reigel 30. January 2017 09:38
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The primary job of an aircraft mechanic is to service and repair aircraft and their components/systems. And once he or she has completed an inspection or item of maintenance, 14 C.F.R. §§ 43.9(a)(maintenance) and 43.11(a)(inspections) require the mechanic to “make an entry in the maintenance record of that equipment.” Typically, this means writing the information in the aircraft’s maintenance records (e.g. the aircraft’s log books).

But what happens if the aircraft owner or operator does not provide the mechanic with the aircraft’s log books? Sometimes the log books are not with the aircraft or the owner or operator simply forgot to bring them with the aircraft. In other cases, the aircraft owner or operator refuses to bring the aircraft’s log books to the mechanic, preferring to maintain possession of the aircraft’s log books. Can the mechanic require the aircraft owner or operator to deliver the aircraft’s log books before the mechanic will sign off on an inspection or maintenance?

The regulations do not require that the mechanic have physical custody of the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records. While the mechanic may make delivery of the aircraft’s log books a condition for performing the applicable inspection or maintenance, the implications of that business practice are beyond the scope of this article. So, if the mechanic does not have the aircraft’s log books, how is he or she supposed to make the required entry?

Well, according to a recent Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel, the mechanic does not need to have the aircraft’s log books in order to make the required entry. Rather, a mechanic may simply make the required maintenance entry, even including an approval for return to service, on a piece of paper and provide it to the aircraft owner or operator for inclusion in the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records.

Remember, under 14 C.F.R. § 91.417 an aircraft owner, not the mechanic, is required to keep the aircraft’s maintenance record to document that required inspections and maintenance have been accomplished. However, since making an entry in an aircraft’s log books exposes a mechanic to the potential for both regulatory and civil liability, it is also a good practice for the mechanic to keep copies of all of the entries he or she has made in the maintenance records for customers’ aircraft.

And whether an entry is made in the aircraft's log books or simply written on a piece of paper and delivered to the aircraft owners or operators, it is also important for the mechanic to exercise the same care with what he or she writes, or does not write, in connection with aircraft service and repair as the mechanic does in actually performing the work. After all, by making that entry the mechanic will be responsible for that inspection or maintenance.

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Greg Reigel | Maintenance

Winter Weather Flying

by Lydia Wiff 15. December 2016 08:00
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As I sit here in Grand Forks, ND, blanketed under over a foot of snow, I think about aviation in the winter, especially at UND.  As a tour guide at UND Aerospace, I think the question I am asked most often this time of year is: do you fly when it’s cold out?  The answer: Yes!  This week’s blog is going to focus on winter flying and a few of my tips to enjoy flying despite the cold.

#1: Plan Your Airports Carefully

During the rest of the year, sans snow, we get pretty comfortable flying into just about any airport.  However, with winter and the cold temperatures it brings, it is important to consider which airports will be the safest.  For instance, metropolitan airports usually have more tenants, more resources, etc., which means if there is snow, they are more likely to get plowed sooner.

In the same way, airports that are more remote and do not have regular services like hangars, deicing, and plug-ins for your engine, should be carefully considered.  UND, for instance, actually has a list of airports that are considered off-limits during the winter because of their location, lack of services, and runway length.  UND recognizes that students may have weather come up quickly during a long cross-country flight and it is important to make sure students are not flying anywhere too remote without a safe place to be. 

Planning for airports with consistent snow removal, fuel services, heated hangars and deicing options is one way to make your winter flying more enjoyable and safe.

#2: Carry a Winter Survival Kit

You probably think that could never happen to me (a hazardous attitude, by the way) – finding yourself stuck in a field somewhere, or making an unplanned departure from the runway with no choice but to wait for hours for help to come.  It may seem like extra stuff to carry, but a winter survival kit could be the difference between freezing to death, and well, not freezing to death.

Some things to carry in that kit: extra socks, extra food, water, flashlight and batteries, heat packs (they are so nifty and fit into your gloves and boots), winter boots, an extra jacket, flares, and anything else you might need.  At UND, once the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, students are required to bring jacket, hat, gloves, and boots on every flight.  Now, the aircraft at UND have their own survival kits, but it can’t hurt to carry your own.  The items I mentioned are pretty lightweight and should not affect your weight and balance too much.  However, if weight and balance is your excuse for not bringing a kit on your cross-country, you have bigger issues.  Plus, if you’re not at UND, you should have your own kit anyways.

#3: Watch the Weather

This may seem like a “duh” tip, but seriously, how many times have we gone flying and seen some weather front move faster than predicted?  During the winter, this is even more important as a sudden drop in temperatures can cool off your aircraft way too fast and make it more difficult to start.  It can also mean that airports might close early due a lack to traffic (especially at non-towered airports) or the line crew goes home early.

More importantly, large winter storms, or even blizzards, can dump lots of snow when you least expect.  Checking the weather often before a winter flight is important to making sure you avoid any potential hazards.  If you are on the fence after looking at a forecast, either get a second opinion, or just don’t go.  Putting yourself in a position where you’re not entirely comfortable with the forecast is just as dangerous.

Organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (www.noaa.gov) have great resources for forecasting as well as weather reports for airports.  Of course, local TAFs and METARs should be used as well when you’re planning your winter flights.  Additionally, don’t forget to check the airports NOTAMs and the new system of field condition reporting, Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM).  The RCAM is a new way of giving field condition report which started being used as of October 1st.  There will still be Field Condition Reports (FICONs) issued along with the RCAM, but I would expect the FICON to go away after the 2016-2017 winter season.  The FAA has a great Advisory Circular on RCAM here.

Stay Warm!

Hopefully you’re still excited about winter flying this year – that wonderful, clear air is the best to fly in and the views are spectacular.  Just be sure to give the above tips in mind and you’ll be all set to enjoy flying all through the winter. 

 

Have a winter flying tip?  Leave a comment with your winter flying advice!

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Lydia Wiff

The Speedtwin and Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (UPRT)

by Joe McDermott 8. September 2016 16:58
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No matter which sector of the aviation industry you work or play in, you will know the feeling upon seeing an aircraft type you just cannot put a name too. Well, I grew up assembling plastic Airfix kits, studying each new addition of The Observers Aircraft Guide, reading every new issue of Air Pictorial, Aviation News and countless other magazines to keep up with the latest developments. As I got a bit older regular visits to the big aviation show cases at Farnborough (UK) and Paris (France) helped keep me up to date with developments across the industry.

Nowadays it’s easier, it’s all on the internet, just Google or Wikipedia it or search YouTube. Except it isn’t, not always.

I was recently invited to oversee ramp operations at an air show support airfield. On looking at the list of acts I noted something new to me, a Speedtwin. Just what the hell is a Speedtwin? This led to much head scratching!

Further investigation via the web turned up a very limited amount on Wikipedia, and nothing on YouTube.

At the show I meet the demonstrator pilot and Managing Director of Speedtwin Developments Ltd., Malcom Ducker and fired off a barrage of questions about this unusual twin to which he gladly responded in detail.

The Speedtwin is a British designed and built light, twin-engine, 2 seat, tandem configuration aircraft that has superior performance, strength and flexibility when compared to other similar aircraft. Its superior maneuverability and twin-engine layout make it uniquely suitable for the soon to be introduced EASA and FAA requirement for all airline pilots to undergo Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), as loss of control in-flight has become the No.1 single cause of air transport accidents.

The Speedtwin is the only fully aerobatic, civil, multi-engine aircraft around and is stressed to +6G and -3G, meaning it is tough and highly manuverable aircraft making it ideal for the UPRT role.

The Speedtwin’s short, rough field performance, twin engine configuration and economy make it highly suited for many other roles including maritime surveillance, border patrol and protection of remote industrial sites such as oil and gas installations.

It is specifically designed to operate from short, grass or desert strips hence the tail-wheel configuration, giving the operator great flexibility as it can be based anywhere there is 100 metres of dirt!

Visibility from the cockpit is superb and is an outstanding feature of this aeroplane. It is probably the best performing and safest aircraft in its class.

The example I examined is a prototype, made of aluminium with 2 x 205 hp engines and fixed pitch propellers, which is a bit like driving a car stuck in 3rd gear. Even so it has a good single engine performance, which means it is suitable for any over-water or other hostile terrain flying duties such as maritime surveillance, fisheries protection and other coastguard type duties. The production version will have constant speed props, which will enhance the aircraft’s performance significantly. It will be able to loiter on one engine while in the search area giving an endurance of more than 8 hours. The 400 litre fuel tanks give the aircraft a range of over 1000 miles or 1700km.

The aircraft has received UK CAA Permit certification and continues to be used for development and demonstration flying. Further investment is now required in order to achieve full EASA certification, which once received will enable the Speedtwin aircraft to enter commercial production.

Due to the relatively low cost of manufacture, (it is of all aluminum construction), the Speedtwin aircraft can be both competitively priced and highly profitable. It is estimated that the aeroplane can be manufactured for US$240,000, and sold for US$480,000.

Interest in putting the Speedtwin into serial production is mostly coming from China and the Middle East.

Malcolm Ducker flew Hawker Hunters in the Royal Air Force and was a training captain with Cathay Pacific Airways, flying Lockheed Tristars and Boeing 747-400s before seeking new challenges in aviation by taking on Speedtwin Developments Ltd

Malcolm says that the Speedtwin is a delight to fly and he enjoys flying it even more than the big Boeing and even the supersonic Hunter! No surprise for me there, as I walked up to him following one spirited demo flight I could not help but notice that he was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat!

The manoeuvres Malcolm make during his display included ½ Cubans, loops, barrel rolls, aileron rolls, Derry turns, wingovers and steep turns.

Photographs: courtesy of Frank Grealish, WorldAirPics.com



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