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Safety Series #1: How Safe is Your Private Aviation Company?

The 4 pillars of safety and what you should know about the safety of private aviation   

“Safety is our number one priority!” is something you hear a lot, especially in aviation.

You can bet that every operator out there will make this same claim. But are they all the same? How can you ensure that a private aviation operator is walking the walk when it comes to safety?  

Over the past decades, air travel has become exponentially safer, thanks in part to a worldwide shift in safety culture. In the past, aviation safety measures were purely reactionary. A mid-air collision in 1956, for example, prompted the expansion of radar and a more robust ATC system, but only after hundreds of lives perished. A lavatory fire that killed 23 passengers prompted the FAA to install smoke detectors and automatic fire extinguishers in lavatories. Similarly, redundant hydraulics systems were required in all new aircraft after a total hydraulic failure caused the crash landing of United 232.  

There is still much to be learned from accidents and incidents, of course, but the aviation industry isn’t a forgiving one. When it comes to making mistakes, loss of life (or aircraft) as a primary method for positive change isn’t an option we want to rely on. Instead, the industry has had to take a much harder look at preventing tragedy before it happens. 

WHAT IS A SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?  

 Enter the safety management system (SMS) – an industry safety standard meant to identify and mitigate risk with the ultimate goal of preventing accidents and improving overall safety.  

 But what does this mean for private aviation customers? A private aviation client needs to be aware of the specific safety aspects of an SMS that a company employs. The term “safety management system” is broad, and a single SMS can be simple and effective or complex and ineffective, depending on the company and its culture. 

 It first helps to take a look at what a good SMS looks like, and then examine these factors when comparing private aviation companies.  

 THE FOUR PILLARS OF SAFETY 

 First, it helps to know that safety management systems aim to take a holistic approach to safety instead of a reactionary one. We do this in multiple ways, best described by a universally adopted definition from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which includes four pillars of safety management systems.  

  1. 1. Safety Policy and Objectives

A safety program is only as good as its leadership, so it’s important to have objectives both outlined and followed by all members of an organization, and especially at the executive and management levels where influence lies. Identifying policies and creating a culture of safety are the first steps to a good SMS. ICAO defines this pillar with the following bullet points: 

    • – Management commitment and responsibility
    • – Safety accountabilities (responsibilities of different employees)
    • – Appointment of key personnel
    • – Coordination of emergency response planning
    • – Documentation

 

  1. 2. Safety Risk Management 

The meat of an SMS lies in risk management. Managing risk is an involved process that includes building and maintaining processes to identify risks and mitigate them. Checklist use, risk assessments, ASAP programs, and flight data monitoring are common implementations of risk management, but risk management is a combination of multiple reactive and proactive safety measures.

  1. 3. Safety Assurance

Assuring safety means analyzing what works and what doesn’t, so a good SMS includes managing goals, identifying ways to assess the success of failure of a program, managing changes to operational procedures to assure safety, and continuing to improve the program.

  1. 4. Safety Promotion

As one might assume, training, education, and communication are necessary in order to implement and maintain an effective safety management system. Creating and communicating expectations surrounding safety and recognizing employees that promote safety is an important step to creating a positive safety culture. 

What does “SAFETY is a Number One Priority” really mean? 

When searching for a private aviation company to work with, consider taking a close look at how the company operates when it comes to safety. Do they have a successful safety management system? What does it look like? What does it really mean when a company says that safety is their “number one priority?”   

Recently, Magellan’s CEO, Joshua Hebert became a Chairman of the Air Charter Safety Foundation and continues to lead an organization committed to safety above all. At Magellan Jets, we understand the need for a holistic approach to safety, and we always work with safety on our minds. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at SMS and an inside look at our own safety management process. In the meantime, schedule some time with one of our private aviation consultants for more information on our the travel solutions we offer, and our commitment to safety. 

Call Us Today, to discuss the type of travel solutions we could offer for you and your business. 

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