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Industry Focuses on the Safety of Single-Pilot Operation of Business Aircraft

SRM | February 1, 2017

Author: Robert A. Wright

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Safety Committee held its annual risk assessment meeting in January. This event is designed to identify and rank the safety risks faced by business aviation worldwide. Among the top ranked risks is the single-pilot accident rate.

Single-pilot operations are common among small business owners who use light business aircraft (LBA) for transportation. For these individuals, piloting their LBA is incidental to their main role in their business. This contrasts with the typical two-pilot professional crews that fly larger turbojets for major corporations. These crews are paid primarily to perform flight crew functions full-time, as opposed to single-pilot operation, which is only a part-time activity for the owner-pilots of small businesses. The accident rate of the largely single-pilot operation of LBA is several times higher than the rate for aircraft crewed by two-pilot professional crews.

The NBAA Safety Committee has formed a Single-Pilot Work Group (SPWG) to focus on the safety issues faced by single-pilot operators. The SPWG has emphasized that single-pilot operation is not about the source of the “paycheck.” That is, single-pilot operation needs to be conducted in a professional manner even though the pilot may be operating the aircraft as an “additional duty” associated with their other full-time duties in their business.

Single-pilot LBA operators often don’t have access to, or participate in, the tools and activities available routinely to two-pilot professional crews of large turbojets. These tools include regular simulator training, dispatchers, and other safety support activities. The SPWG recognizes this reality and is planning to create tools and alternate training paths that are more convenient and appealing to single-pilot LBA operators.

To give single-pilot operators a chance to focus on those issues which directly affect their daily flight operations, especially risk management and SRM, the SPWG has developed a Single-Pilot Risk Management Guide to help such pilots identify, assess, and mitigate the risks in their flight operations. The Guide and its associated risk management tool are available on the NBAA website.

As part of a multi-year plan to address single-pilot safety issues, the SPWG plans to reach out to LBA owner-groups and organizations in 2017. In addition to promoting the Risk Management Guide and an excellent video on avoiding loss-of-control accidents, the SPWG intends to highlight the availability of quality training courses that target single-pilot skills needed for safe operation of LBA., in cooperation with Crew Resource Management LLC, offers a complete online SRM course for business aviation (available for purchase through our storefront).

Robert A. Wright is the president of Wright Aviation Solutions, LLC. He is a member of the leadership team of Crew Resource Management, LLC, which has been providing comprehensive CRM training to corporate flight departments for over four years.

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