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Ctrl, Alt, Delete – Part I: A Plea for Sanity

IS-BAO, SMS | June 12, 2015

Author: Scott Macpherson

Business aviation has embraced Safety Management Systems as the way to systematically identify and manage risks through a performance-based approach. As a result, many consultants and service providers have introduced “necessary” elements that aren’t part of the ICAO Safety Management Manual requirements or any other standards requiring SMS, such as the IS-BAO. To make matters worse, some regulators have taken a highly prescriptive approach for State-required SMS and require nearly “one size fits all” elements for operators of all sizes and profiles.

Whether due to ill-informed regulations or consultants promoting their offerings as “requirements,” we have reached a point in this sector of the industry where SMS programs appear to require full-time staff with post-graduate degrees in safety management. Manuals exceed 300 pages for single-aircraft operators and line personnel feel like they can’t fly without carrying a piece of paper that contains a magical numerical value saying that the flight will be continuously within someone’s idea of a safety envelope.

We long ago reached the absurd point in many countries where a single-person flight department has to list the same person’s name in four to five separate lines in its Operations Manual, stating that the person is responsible for Operations, Maintenance Control, Chief Pilot Duties, and Safety Oversight. Some require even more lines which do not add to safety or oversight efficiency. There are flight departments that have been convinced that they need to conduct a Flight Risk Assessment for every leg of every day of flying, even if it is the same set of trip legs that they do three times a week. This increases crew workload, distracts from real flight planning activities, and results in crews simply manually adjusting FRAT entries until the aggregate score falls in the “go” range. The selections used to achieve that FRAT score are irrelevant, from an operational or safety perspective.

So, in the next few blog entries and newsletter excerpts, I hope to give a cogent plea for sanity and to encourage those who are faltering in their SMS use. SMS should be simple, scalable, and effective. I will show that if done correctly, it will reduce workload and costs, improve availability and reliability, free up more time for flying and maintaining, measurably improve safety, and act as a great team builder.

I believe that many people are so frustrated and frozen regarding SMS that we need a “Ctrl, Alt, Delete” kind of reboot. I hope that you will give me feedback about this and engage in the discussion.

View Part II of this article here.


Scott Macpherson is the President and Founder of and Vice-Chairman of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) Governing Board. He is currently Captain on a Falcon 900LX.

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