COPA Corner-Chief Pilot
by John Quarterman, Manager, Member Assistance and Programs, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association(COPA)

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association

Around the breakfast table one morning, sitting with the other pilots, we listened as the owner of a local one-man vintage-aircraft sightseeing operation explained the basis of the safety management system(SMS) and the way he had implemented it for his flying service.

This particular pilot friend, who takes people up flying from a local field-people who are interested in riding for 15 min in a post-war two-place basic trainer-has implemented a safety management program, keeps and maintains a quality assurance program, and has implemented a recurring air and ground training program for the staff pilot(himself).

The pilots in our group were wide-eyed as this fellow explained setting himself(the staff pilot) a written exam(figuring out the answers to check against the written test results), then writing the exam(as staff pilot), then correcting it from the written series of answers he had created in his persona as chief pilot, then briefing himself on his score.

When asked what the Transport Canada inspectors monitoring his operation thought about this process, our friend admitted, "they do see the funny side of my testing myself," but pointed out that in this process he is maintaining his proficiency and working hard to make his operation a safe and good example of a commercial air service-that is the objective he must strive for.

Now, although we might smile at the picture I just presented, the tale is an instructive one for many private owners or operations involving partners sharing aircraft. Today, many Canadian pilots don't own their aircraft outright, but share their aircraft with two, three, or more partners, who in their joint ownership arrangement manage to keep the costs of aircraft ownership down to reasonable levels. Sometimes in these rather informal arrangements, one partner manages the accounting, one manages the maintenance, one does the shared charts and Canada Flight Supplement(CFS) updating and management, etc. Dividing the tasks up and giving each one to a designated person means they are usually done consistently, and the results are better than the alternative.

Although as private owners flying recreationally we are not required to have a chief pilot, an SMS, or a recurrent training program other than the minimum recency requirements we must all satisfy, there is no reason why private pilots can't take the best concepts and practices from commercial operations and apply them to their single-owner airplane operation or partnership.

As a single owner, try putting on some different "hats," and take a look at your operation! As a "safety inspector," try looking at the way you operate, the way you fly, and the way you maintain your aircraft and personal proficiency. Does your operation reflect best practices? Is your record-keeping all that it should be? Is your "staff pilot" in need of some regulatory brushing-up or emergency-situation practice? Try looking at the private-pilot curriculum and checking what is fuzzy or you haven't practiced for a while. Why not hire an instructor and practice some of these forgotten items like forced approaches or steep turns?

In an organized group of partners, why not choose someone to act as a recurrent training officer, someone who will come up with some interesting flying training exercises and material that the others can share and do. Why not designate a partner to look at the operation from a safety perspective, and develop best means and safety practices for the partnership. In partnerships that are lucky enough to include an instructor or flying professional, why not make a practice of flying with them once or twice a year to sharpen up your skills on a recurring basis, having them point out the bad habits and deficiencies that we usually all develop without practice. In partnerships that don't include an instructor, why not plan recurrent training days, where everyone takes a turn getting their flying habits scrutinized.

Why not take the story above and develop the concept for your aircraft partnership. It will help your aircraft operation be like the fellow's in the story above-a conscientious, safe operation!

For more information on COPA, visit:

A Glider Pilot's Perspective of CASS 2008
by Dan Cook, Flight Training and Safety Committee, Soaring Association of Canada(SAC)

Soaring Association of Canada (SAC) Logo

I attended the recent Transport Canada(TC) Canadian Aviation Safety Seminar(CASS) in Calgary, Alta., and I wanted to share some of what I took away from the seminar.

First, let me set the stage by saying that we, in the gliding community, have been working on the implementation of a safety management program, using the TC's safety management system(SMS) as a guideline. It has not been an easy implementation process; some of the feedback from clubs has been that it is too difficult a program for them to action. Some clubs have had less difficulty, where a few members have come forward to champion(lead) the change. I think most members see the need for SMS, but making the effort to change club management has been the challenge. Basically, many feel soaring is a leisure activity, so if change for safety's sake is hard to do, most are not really interested.

In contrast, I am always amazed at how much effort pilots will make to become good at cross-country soaring or competition. We have had some recent fatal soaring accidents that have been devastating to some in our soaring community. I am certain that if you speak to anyone who has been personally affected by these events, they are interested in anything that can be done to reduce the chances of loosing one of our family members or friends.

SMS has proven to save lives, but why are we reluctant to make the effort to change? Do we have to wait until someone we know personally is affected? If we look at accidents from the perspective of a parent whose child was killed-and don't emotionally disassociate ourselves from the event or pass it off, thinking that it could never happen to us-we might feel and act differently. I think CASS 2008 addressed this, and what follows are from my notes and what I took away from the workshops/seminars!

Bob Aitken from the School of Instructor Education at Vancouver Community College spoke to us about why change is so hard for humans. For a person to make a change, they must engage their brain to process the information. This takes more effort than routine activity, and can make people feel uncomfortable; therefore, they prefer to avoid change. There are also some physiological reasons for this. We are generally good at detecting "errors" or changes in the normal way of doing things.

This part of our brain is also hard-wired to our emotional control centres. When errors are detected, this can activate the fear centre, which can trigger an emotional response or impulsivity in us.

For most people, the idea of change affects the part of the brain that sees the world comfortably as routines. An effort to change what we are comfortable with releases signals and chemicals in our brains, resulting in the fear emotion being triggered. For most of us, this is uncomfortable, and we will resist-both consciously and unconsciously-what is triggering the undesirable effect.

This may be a "self-preservation" instinct, but for those of us who have come forward to lead the safety management programs in our club, we need to understand what we are up against, and how we can help our club members overcome these difficulties.

Leadership is part of managing change. Mr. Aitken pointed out that "we are creatures of habit," and good leaders are direct but can also be indirect. Good leaders can fashion stories of identity. They are able to embody these stories in their life experiences. This style of leadership is important when dealing with diverse groups like the flying or soaring communities.

Changing our behaviour depends on where we focus our attention. A leader can activate change in our behaviour by creating moments of insight where we can see things differently. To help us discover this insight, we need to make an emotional connection with those we are trying to lead through change. We will attend to things that have emotion and meaning. Therefore, we can learn if we can make an emotional connection to the subject!

Safety management programs can be more effectively introduced if leaders can make an emotional connection for those who need to be part of the process or use the system to create a safer environment. That emotional connection is best made by a leader's influence through personal storytelling about why it is important.

Mr. Aitken also gave an example of an indirect leadership approach taken by a safety management expert's visit to a company that had had some fatal accidents. He asked some of the company supervisors who witnessed the loss of an employee to express how it had affected them. Their personal stories of tragedy and sadness captivated their audience and resulted in collective interest towards improving safety at the plant.

How do gliding club leaders properly implement change management? They need to find the right people for the safety implementation task-they need to manage performance well, and help implementers with their goals and interests.

Mr. Aitken also explained that emotional intelligence(EI), not IQ, was a stronger predictor of whether a person would be better at a leadership style where making personal connections is necessary. EI describes a broad base of emotional maturity and ability in how someone sees and relates to themselves; how they relate to others; how they adapt to changes; how they manage the effects of stress; and their general mood stability. He stated, in our working life we are most often "hired for our qualifications, promoted for our performance, and fired for our interpersonal skills." Therefore, we should seek out those who are good with people, rather than those who are generally more knowledgeable about the subject, when trying to find someone to implement safety programs.

Safety management programs are unfortunately about change management. Change management is about leadership, and leadership is about whom we have chosen within our clubs to invoke the proper emotional connections.

If your program is not working, you may need to find someone with good interpersonal skills(EI) to run the program for you.

Exchange of Safety-related Information: A Tool to Enhance Safety
by Serge Thibeault, Regional Safety Manager, Eastern FIRs, NAVCANADA


The aviation industry is upgrading its safety management toolbox to include proactive/predictive processes such as hazard identification and risk analysis, normal operation safety survey(NOSS) and line operation safety audit(LOSA) to complement existing reactive processes such as accident or incident investigations. These various sources of data provide a wealth of information for analysis and identification of potential safety hazards and risks. While most organizations have developed the ability to collect and analyze data pertaining to their own organization, a more complete picture is required for tackling a number of the safety issues facing the industry. This complete picture can only be obtained through the inter-organizational exchange of safety-related information.

The chart below illustrates the national picture in 2007 of some of the events being tracked by NAVCANADA as reported through its Aviation Occurrence Reporting(AOR) system, which feeds Transport Canada's Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System(CADORS) database.

Type of Occurrence Chart

Although NAVCANADA tracks these issues, its ability to be proactive in mitigating them is quite limited, since an in-depth understanding of the "whys" behind these events requires input from other industry stakeholders. It is important to note that none of the events shown on the graph above resulted in catastrophic outcomes, thanks to the strength of the aviation industry's defences. However, each time one of these events occurred, it pushed the safety envelope and occasionally required quick human intervention to re-establish safety.

To illustrate how sharing safety information has benefited the aviation industry, the sections below describe some of the advances made in understanding standard instrument departure(SID) deviations, course deviations, and altitude deviations.

SID deviations
A SID deviation is defined as any deviation from the altitude or direction required to follow a standard instrument departure. A rise in SID deviations by pilots departing from Montréal Trudeau International Airport was identified in the summer of 2007. In response to this trend, NAVCANADA held a forum for industry stakeholders to share information. As a result of this effort, all participants gained a greater understanding of some of the underlying factors, such as:

  • Flight management system(FMS) programming errors linked to last-minute runway changes
  • Confusion of a SID name(KANUR 2) with an en-route fix name(KANUR)
  • Pre-filed flight plans loaded in the FMS based on the company dispatch's assumption regarding which SID will be flown, but the flight crew forgot to update the FMS when ATC actually assigned the SID.

Armed with a better understanding of the issues, the industry is now in a better position to develop appropriate and effective mitigation.

Course deviations
A course deviation is defined as any deviation from routing, including gross navigational errors, standard arrival or departure paths in terms of direction(excluding SIDs) and any erroneous tracks.

Course deviations are a complex issue as there are a number of different reasons for which they occur. Consider the following example: the dispatch department for a flight from Asia to North America had filed a flight plan which was forwarded from the airline's dispatch office in North America to an air navigation service provider(ANSP) in Asia and simultaneously to the flight crew. A while later, a second flight plan, which included a different route, was entered into the system for the same flight through an Asian dispatch. As the flight progressed to North America, the flight plan information also travelled from ANSP to ANSP and finally, many hours into the flight, in the Montréal flight information region's(FIR) airspace, the flight deviated from the course expected by NAVCANADA's controllers. To fully understand where the break in communication occurred in this type of event required investigating whether it was somewhere between the various ANSPs involved, between the dispatch and their crew, or between crew members on board the flight. Without collaboration between the various stakeholders in tracking down the problem, it would be difficult for NAVCANADA or any other organization to implement appropriate and effective mitigation.

Altitude deviations
An altitude deviation is defined as any deviation by any aircraft from an assigned or designated altitude(SID deviations are excluded). This may include deviations due to turbulence or other weather events, deviations from an altitude passed from one area control centre(ACC)- specialty or sector-to another. Flights can be IFR or VFR.

Many of the safety issues in aviation are shared responsibilities. In this relatively new era of safety management systems(SMS), we will be in a better position to tackle existing issues and new challenges through the exchange of safety-related information and renewed collaboration between industry partners.

Cabin Safety-Communicable Diseases
by Shelley Manuel-Tough, Cabin Safety Inspector, Cabin Safety Standards, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

A communicable disease is a disease that can be transmitted from one individual directly to another. Communicable diseases are transmitted through body excretions. While some(e.g. colds and the flu) can be spread by casual contact, others(e.g. tuberculosis) can be spread through respiratory droplets, such as coughing, sneezing or runny noses.

Many communicable diseases have been spread in some way by air travel. Diseases transmitted by person-to-person contact are an obvious air travel concern.

In the past, the incubation period of most communicable diseases was shorter than transit times. This allowed the symptoms of some diseases to arise prior to arrival at destination.

With today's jet travel, the world has become immediately linked as a community, and this has reduced the effectiveness of geographic separation as a barrier to disease transmission.

A communicable disease is suspected when a passenger or a crew member exhibits one or more of the following signs or symptoms:

  • appearing obviously unwell;
  • persistent coughing;
  • impaired breathing;
  • persistent diarrhoea;
  • persistent vomiting;
  • skin rash;
  • abnormal bleeding;
  • reduced mental clarity.

Cabin Safety

If associated with a fever(temperature of 38°C or greater), the likelihood that the passenger is suffering from a communicable disease is increased.

Basic precautions and safe practices must be followed each time care is provided to a passenger suspected of having a communicable disease.

The International Air Transport Association(IATA) suggests the following general guidelines to help cabin crews deal with passengers suspected of having a communicable disease:

  • request medical ground support;
  • request medical assistance on board;
  • designate one cabin crew member to look after the sick passenger;
  • relocate the sick passenger to a more isolated area, if possible;
  • designate one lavatory for the sick passenger, when possible;
  • use appropriate first aid equipment, such as masks and gloves;
  • dispose of contaminated equipment appropriately;
  • advise the captain so that the illness can be reported prior to landing.

Communicable diseases may be transmitted to passengers who are seated in the same area of an aircraft, usually as a result of passengers touching parts of the aircraft and furnishings that an infected passenger has contaminated by coughing, sneezing or touching.

The risks of transmission to fellow passengers will vary according to the disease, the infectiousness of the case, the ventilation in the aircraft, the dose of exposure(which depends on duration and proximity), and the passenger's susceptibility to that disease.

For some communicable diseases, the risk may extend beyond passengers and crew on board the aircraft and include people exposed en route to and from the airport, and workers and other travellers at the airport. Some infected passengers only manifest the disease after arrival, magnifying the potential for epidemic spread.

The advent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome(SARS) in 2003, as well as the continuing concern about the potential for a global influenza pandemic, has highlighted the need to ensure reliable notification procedures to port health authorities at the aircraft's destination, in the event that a suspected case of communicable disease is identified on board.

Section 34 of the Quarantine Act requires that conveyance operators arriving in Canada inform a quarantine officer as soon as possible before the conveyance arrives at its destination if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that any persons or cargo they are carrying could be infected with a communicable disease listed in the schedule under the Act.

Transport Canada is proposing an amendment to section 8, "Aviation First Aid," of the Flight Attendant Training Standard(TP12296) to include the subject of communicable diseases. This addition would ensure that flight attendants receive instruction on the signs and symptoms of communicable diseases, and instructions on ways to minimize the risks of spreading the disease.

Transport Canada recently published Advisory Circular(AC)LTA-001, titled Protecting the Health and Safety of Employees On Board Aircraft in Epidemic Situations Involving Airborne Communicable Diseases(available on-line at: This AC recommends that air operators implement certain precautionary procedures in the event that an ill passenger is detected on board.

Although research has shown that there is very little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on board an aircraft, safety is everyone's responsibility.

CBAA Column-Safety Management System(SMS): Step Forward or Step Back? Canadian Business Aviation Association CBAA Logo
by Tim Weynerowski, Certification Specialist, Canadian Business Aviation Association CBAA. This article was published in the May2008 edition of News Brief, reprinted with permission.

SMS is seen by some as a means of providing more oversight with fewer resources. However, if we look at how SMS oversight is conducted, it will be apparent that this carefully thought-out approach to risk management has compelling merit.

A well-developed quality assurance(QA) department's objective is similar to that of an SMS. Regulatory oversight of an organization is carried out, at least in part, by assessing the effectiveness of the QA department. If this department is found to be proactive, then the regulator's involvement can be reduced without compromising the organization's level of safety. Included in this assessment are such things as: the development of training programs, internal auditing, maintenance control, and incident investigation. If, on the other hand, the QA department is ineffective, then the demand for regulatory intervention automatically comes to the fore.

The goal of an SMS is to develop the tools and skills to enable an organization to manage and mitigate risk to levels extending beyond the capability of current regulatory oversight. The introduction of an effective SMS involves a change of philosophy within the organization and greater emphasis on operator accountability. For the transition to be effective, regulatory oversight is especially critical during the development phase. Not unlike a QA department, only when the organization demonstrates a significant level of maturity in its SMS can the regulatory oversight be adjusted accordingly.

Regulatory oversight is as important under SMS as ever before. The approach now is somewhat different. Rather than providing oversight in the traditional manner, it becomes a matter of assessing the effectiveness of an organization's SMS. Effective oversight of an SMS relies on the skill and knowledge of the auditor derived through comprehensive training.

The operator, as principal stakeholder, has a vested interest in embracing and engaging in a system that will play a key role in the organization's future success. There is a perceived comfort level in being able to divert responsibility onto the shoulders of the regulator by following the conventional prescriptive method of oversight. The idea of a more active role brought about by the introduction of SMS may initially appear to be slightly intimidating or cumbersome. However, this performance-based system achieves maximum efficiency by tailoring itself to the unique needs and characteristics of each organization.

One of the fundamental requirements of an SMS is to engage in a comprehensive program of hazard assessment and risk analysis performed by key personnel or industry experts. This helps to provide an organization with a solid foundation on which to build effective safety policies and procedures. The goal of an organization is to continue to evolve and mature into an even safer and more efficient establishment with a well-developed safety culture that promotes such things as non-punitive reporting and proactive input from all levels of the organization.

Contrary to some opinions, an SMS is neither designed nor intended to cloak an organization in secrecy. Some efforts have been made to protect personal identity with the intent of encouraging non-punitive reporting. In no way has this reduced the transparency required to conduct effective oversight by the regulator. Hopefully, as a result of SMS, safety culture in Canada will advance to a point where the efficiency of regulatory oversight is maximized to help meet the growing demands of tomorrow. I strongly believe SMS is an important step forward in the evolution of aviation.

Call for Nominations for the 2009
Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award

Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized? The Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award was established in 1988 to foster awareness of aviation safety in Canada, and to recognize individuals, groups, companies, organizations, agencies or departments that have contributed to this objective in an exceptional way.

Safety Culture: SMS Goes Vertical
by James T. McKenna, Editor, Rotor & Wing magazine. This article was originally published in the Flight Safety Foundation's AeroSafetyWorld magazine, January2008. Reprinted with permission from the Flight Safety Foundation.

Smaller helicopter operators are the target of a new tool kit that will ease the pain of developing a safety management system

A campaign to convince commercial helicopter operators to embrace a host of new recommendations for improving rotorcraft safety, including a tool kit for developing a safety management system(SMS), has been launched by an international coalition of helicopter manufacturers, regulators, operators and customers.

The coalition, the International Helicopter Safety Team(IHST), modeled on the airline-oriented Commercial Aviation Safety Team(CAST), since late 2005 has been pursuing the goal of reducing by 80percent the rate of rotorcraft accidents by 2016(see "International Helicopter Safety Team," p.13). The team has two main subteams. One spent 18 months analyzing the root causes of 197 helicopter accidents that occurred in 2000, and recommending means to prevent similar accidents. The other subteam is just beginning the task of turning those recommendations into pragmatic actions.

This group aims to gain industry support for its efforts by offering individual helicopter operators a simplified tool to assist in developing and implementing an SMS tailored to each firm's mission and business circumstances. Group leaders expect the SMS tool kit will help persuade operators that its recommendations could improve both safety records and bottom lines. The tool kit is available on-line at

In developing the tool kit, the group aimed to win acceptance of the SMS approach-and by extension the group's subsequent recommendations-from operators of five or fewer helicopters. Such operators make up the largest single segment of the civil helicopter industry, approximately 80percent, and are involved in the vast majority of helicopter accidents.

"The real target audience is the operator of two to five helicopters," said B.Hooper Harris, manager of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) Accident Investigation Division. Harris is co-chairman of the subteam that watched over the development of the SMS tool kit and participated in drafting it. He shares the chair of the Joint Helicopter Safety Implementation Team(JHSIT) with GregWyght, Vice President of Safety and Quality for CHCHelicopter Corp., among the world's largest providers of helicopter services to the global offshore oil and gas industry.

The IHST calls an SMS "a proven process for managing risk that ties all elements of the organization together laterally and vertically and ensures appropriate allocation of resources to safety issues." It urges that the term "safety management" be taken to mean safety, security, health and environmental management. The key focus of such a system, though, "is the safe operations of airworthy aircraft."

The helicopter industry faces challenges in making such an approach common. To date, the SMS approach has been applied in industries large in scale and homogeneous in mission: railroads, energy, chemicals, airlines, aircraft maintenance and air traffic services. While there are large helicopter operators, such as CHC, and many of them have adopted SMS or major components of SMS, most helicopters are spread among many small operators, and are used in a wide variety of missions.

Specialty operations are the bread and butter of helicopters. The tool kit will assist in developing and implementing an SMS tailored to each firm's mission and business circumstances.

Photo: Graham Lavery

Specialty operations are the bread and butter of helicopters. The tool kit will assist in developing and implementing an SMS tailored to each firm's mission and business circumstances.

When the Joint Helicopter Safety Analysis Team presented its recommendations for mishap-mitigation measures, for instance, it did so in a number of mission-specific categories. They include instructional/training, personal/private, aerial application, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and offshore oil and gas platform support. Other categories are business/company-owned aircraft, aerial observation/patrol, air tour and sightseeing, electronic newsgathering, external load, logging, fire fighting, numerous other commercial activities, and utilities patrol and construction. The Joint Helicopter Safety Implementation Team proposes to adhere to the same divisions in developing its mitigation recommendations.

"That means we're not after the bigs, we're after the little guys," said RoyG.Fox, Chief of Flight Safety at Bell Helicopter, who worked on drafting the SMS tool kit.

There is ample cause to target the small operator. The number of helicopter accidents has remained fairly constant for the last 20years, including U.S. civil and military operations, and operations outside the United States.

"The rotorcraft industry understands its risks more clearly than other elements of the[aviation]industry," said the FAA's Harris, "simply because they have an accident rate that is significant."

In its bid to change that trend, the IHST adopted the general approach used with great success in the U.S. by the CAST. That team began its work in 1997 with the objective of cutting the U.S. airline fatal accident rate by 80percent in 10years; it has nearly achieved that goal. The foundation of its work was basing safety initiatives on reliable, verified data about accident causes.

The helicopter team works on the same basis. Yet its Joint Helicopter Safety Team had not yet completed its work when it called for widespread use of SMS. Team members said that their interim analysis argued strongly for adoption of such systems. The analysis team looking at the 197 accidents found that a major contributing factor in most accidents was the failure to adequately manage known risks, said Keith Johnson, Safety Program Manager for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. Johnson is a member of the JHSIT and participated in drafting the SMS tool kit.

In addition to the benefits an SMS brings in itself, they said, it also would serve as the framework for subsequent safety recommendations.

"We needed something to start this structure," Fox said.

"A good, strong SMS is a springboard"[for other improvements,] said Fred Brisbois, Director of Aviation and Product Safety for Sikorsky Aircraft. He is a member of the JHSIT and helped develop the SMS tool kit. "You can have the most modern, best-equipped aircraft. If you don't have an SMS, you compromise all the other safety advances."

The drafters of the tool kit said they reviewed several SMS models, as well as regulations and guidance material from around the world, to tailor a kit for the helicopter industry. They also said they included contributions from small, medium and large helicopter operators, airlines, industry groups and from governments.

"We're taking what's out there and putting it into laymen's terms that the smaller operator can use," said Brisbois.

The result "is somewhat unique," said Harris. "Almost everybody else talks around SMS in a ‘big system' way."

In a bid to win acceptance from the broadest range of smaller operators, he said, the team opted for a tool kit that fosters a performance-based SMS, as opposed to one that lays out a rigid structure and procedures. Harris explained the difference:

"Every person has a financial management system. You balance your checkbook, you pay your taxes and you pay your bills. You may do that by yourself, with a checkbook and a calculator or computer.[Microsoft founder]Bill Gates may rely on accountants and lawyers. Whoever you are, the functions are the same and the performance objectives are the same: to manage your funds, pay your taxes and honor your debts."

Toward that end, the IHST tool kit lays out 11 attributes of an effective SMS and offers checklists of steps operators should take to achieve each attribute. But it leaves the details up to each operator.

Perhaps most important to its efforts to win widespread acceptance of its SMS tool kit, the team gives operators the option of integrating such systems into their activities in incremental steps. "This allows the organization to become acquainted with the requirements and results before proceeding to the next step," the tool kit says.

The core attributes of the IHST's SMS are:

  • An SMS management plan;
  • Safety promotion;
  • Document and data information management;
  • Hazard identification and risk management;
  • Occurrence and hazard reporting;
  • Occurrence investigation and analysis;
  • Safety assurance oversight programs;
  • Safety management training requirements;
  • Management of changes;
  • Emergency preparedness and response; and
  • Performance measurement and continuous improvement.

Essential to the effectiveness of an SMS, Johnson said, is its acceptance by senior management as a core business responsibility.

The team plans additional steps to promote acceptance of SMS. It is developing computer software to help operators assess the savings that could be achieved through use of an SMS. It plans to offer training in the use of that software and of SMS at the Helicopter Association International's Heli-Expo annual convention in February in Houston. It also plans to develop a second edition of the tool kit targeted at medium-sized operators.

Team members believe their efforts got an important boost in October, when ExxonMobil Aviation issued a memorandum to vendors. The unit that contracts and oversees aviation support for that company's oil and gas exploration activities worldwide, ExxonMobil Aviation, noted that its "mature and established aircraft operators" have SMS in place.

"However, smaller operators often face challenges in the implementation of a fit-for-purpose SMS that meets operational requirements whilst being economically viable," the memo states. Nonetheless, ExxonMobil Aviation considers 11 elements, or attributes, of an SMS "as a minimum standard template for long-term contracted aviation activities." Those are the same 11 listed in the tool kit.

"Having people outside the aviation community saying it can be done lends credibility"[to adoption of an SMS,] said Sikorsky's Brisbois.

International Helicopter Safety Team

The Safety Management System Tool Kit for helicopter operators is the first product of a 10-year effort to cut worldwide rotorcraft accidents by 80percent.

Making this effort is the International Helicopter Safety Team(IHST), the outgrowth of a September2005 gathering of manufacturers, regulators and operators from around the world. That gathering was supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) and regulators in Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Also backing it were Canadian, French and U.S. accident investigators, rotorcraft manufacturers, and major civil and military operators.

Convened in Montreal, Que., at the behest of the American Helicopter Society International and the Helicopter Association International, the gathering marked the participants' recognition of a daunting challenge: their inability, year after year, to reduce the number of accidents. That inability seemed to reinforce a public impression of helicopters as unreliable and unsafe, an impression that stood as a critical obstacle to the growth and prosperity of the industry.

To dismantle that obstacle, the 260 attendees of the first International Helicopter Safety Symposium agreed to draw on the successful experience of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team(CAST) in the United States. That is, they would search all credible data on helicopter accidents for root causes and use that data to prioritize mitigation measures to address the most common problems.

While the IHST is drawing on the model of CAST, its goals are more ambitious in several respects.

First, while CAST focused on an 80percent reduction in fatal accidents, the helicopter team aims for a similar reduction in both fatal and non-fatal accidents. Second, CAST's target group is a fairly homogeneous one: commercial airlines generally flying large fleets drawn from a small set of fixed-wing transports. Roughly 80percent of civil helicopter operators have fleets of fewer than five aircraft, and they fly aircraft built by more than 15different manufacturers, including those from former Soviet republics.

Third, CAST concentrates on scheduled airline service. The helicopter team must cover aircraft used in a variety of missions, with each mission type having unique operational, training, and equipment aspects. The IHST settled on grouping its analysis and mitigation work into 15 different mission sets.

Most challenging of all, perhaps, was the lack of reliable utilization numbers for helicopters. Hours flown by commercial airlines are tracked in detail by regulators and financial markets. But helicopter flight hours in the United States, the world's largest rotorcraft market, are based on sampling by the FAA, an approach that has proven inaccurate for the small fleets involved. So before it could tackle its goal of reducing helicopter accident rates, the international team had to build the database for establishing those rates.

"You can't even meet the goal until you know how many hours are flown," said Roy G. Fox, Chief of Flight Safety at Bell Helicopter, who is leading the effort to compile that database. That work should be completed in 2008.

Most of the team's work has focused on the United States, but team leaders aim to establish regional teams throughout the world, already under way to varying degrees in Australia, India and Latin America. The European helicopter community is pursuing a parallel effort. This year, team leaders plan to meet with industry officials in the United Arab Emirates, Japan and South Africa to launch regional teams in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.


Safety Management Systems(SMS) for Canadian Helicopter Operators
by Jacqueline Booth-Bourdeau, Chief, Technical and National Programs, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Safety management system(SMS) regulations impacting the Canadian helicopter industry are expected in 2009. The Canadian Aviation Regulations(CARs) reflect the SMS principles established by bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) and, in many respects, exceed the basic requirements. Over the years, Transport Canada(TC) has actively supported domestic and international activities relating to SMS through training, working group participation and the provision of feedback to other aviation authorities and organizations. This has provided TC with the opportunity to ensure that the interests of the Canadian aviation industry are heard, while providing the occasion to share ideas and learn from the experience of others. The knowledge acquired from participating in these activities has been used to enhance TC's comprehensive set of guidance materials, including material specifically designed for smaller operators.

As the knowledge level in the industry increases, we are seeing initiatives emerge, such as the International Helicopter Safety Team(IHST) SMS tool kit. This work will help to enhance our understanding of SMS in smaller organizations and make the prospect of implementation simpler. While no off-the-shelf package is ever a perfect fit -it must be tailored to meet the individual needs of the organization-tool kits like the one offered by the IHST provide a good starting point for implementation. With a little adaptation, operators can take this tool kit and form the basis of their SMS.

An effective implementation strategy will naturally involve changes in processes and procedures and will almost certainly involve a shift in the corporate culture. Getting the foundation of the SMS right will facilitate this and provide a framework that promotes a healthier safety culture. The success of the system will hinge on the development of processes that foster continual improvement through proactive safety assessments and quality assurance.

Blackfly Air
Click on image above to enlarge.

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