Safety in numbers

By Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, chief executive, Luxaviation UK

Safety and security are the top priorities of every organisation working in business aviation. And there’s no doubt in my mind that cooperation and communication are vital as we all strive to establish and maintain the highest possible standards in those fields. Shared information can be priceless. Or, put another way, there’s safety in numbers.

In practice, small operators often find information is shared when staff meet regularly face-to-face. Nonetheless, although this daily personal contact can be valuable, even small operators must set up structured means of sharing data. Simply assuming critical information will be communicated amongst staff is not acceptable.

Large operators and international aviation groups however need to think on a much larger scale, ensuring that every staff member is able to access shared information and is aware of the safety systems that have been put in place globally. They have to take safety standards to the next level. When managers cannot personally oversee the work of all the members of their teams, extremely stringent standards must be established in a safety management system (SMS) and/or the organisation’s formal working processes. As much as humanly possible, there must be no room for any individual, anywhere, to create a safety risk.

Large international operators and aviation groups, whose staff cannot meet daily, must ensure communications processes are comprehensive (whether using central databases, telephone calls or e-mails). No detail is irrelevant in the world of aviation safety and so as much information as possible must be shared. Challenging, yes, but the advantages of clear and constant internal communication and a rigorous SMS are beyond dispute. At the Luxaviation Group for example, with so much global intelligence gathered and held by the members of our large aviation group, data-sharing is invaluable in the quest to meet the highest possible safety standards.

So what kind of information should safety and security managers be sharing? The list certainly includes updates on physical or operational changes at airports (or work in progress) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Conflict Zone Information Bulletins (CZIBs). Current EASA CZIBs, for example, address the airspace of states including Syria, Libya and Somalia, offering information or recommendations regarding risks to civil aviation.

The efficient sharing of data – or the intelligent use of intelligence, if you prefer – should certainly not be limited to senior management. At Luxaviation UK, a ‘just culture’ is part of our safety policy. Every member of staff is encouraged to report mistakes – even when unseen and without consequence – so we can put measures in place to ensure those mistakes can never happen again. Negligence and deliberate violations cannot be tolerated but there’s no doubt people are more likely to highlight honest mistakes when they know they can speak without fear of being unjustly punished.

A central industry safety database, of the kind being proposed by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), could also be a very good idea to help everybody raise standards. When knowledge is power, many operators sharing and accessing safety reports has clear value. However, to be efficient, such a database would have to run without asking operators to keep duplicating reporting work. Perhaps more critically, any such database would have to be used by all parties in the admirable spirit intended, and not abused in an attempt to gather data to criticise competitors.

Finally, I should point out intelligence is not the only valuable commodity in the world of aviation safety. Put bluntly, money helps too. Large organisations, for example, tend to have the financial resources to implement (and regularly repeat) group-wide training far above minimum standards.

And that’s a critical point on which to conclude – large or small, every operator knows complacency over safety is never an option. We should all work to go beyond, not just meet, our industry’s required standards.

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