The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) was founded in 2007 as an offshoot of the National Air Transportation Association, which until recently was overseeing its operation. This summer ACSF hired its first full-time executive director, Bryan Burns, to direct and grow its membership, which is made up of Part 135 charter/aircraft management firms and Part 91, Subpart K fractionals, along with associated companies. The foundation’s mission is to raise the bar regarding safety and has incorporated a formal audit program by which companies can be certified. A key goal, says Burns, is to offer customers a vetting process for finding a safe charter flight. AIRPORT BUSINESS recently visited with Burns on his new role, and the impact ACSF is having.
Prior to joining ACSF, Burns spent some 28 years managing at FBOs, among them Signature Flight Support; Jackson Hole Aviation; Midcoast Aviation; and Miami Aviation Corporation. He holds a B.S. in Air Commerce/Transportation Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology. Following are edited excerpts of our interview ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: Some key NATA members, like Charlie Priester and Jim Christiansen, were involved in the ACSF start-up. What did they seek to achieve?
Burns: They wanted to pursue a couple of goals: Develop a robust, consistent audit standard that the public could rely on; and they wanted to help charter operators adopt a safety management system.
The ultimate goal might be operators listing themselves on a registry; we now have about 15 operators listed on the registry. They have gone through the safety audit program. The intent was to get them listed so users and clients can simply rely on that Air Charter Safety Foundation certification to vet the operator. It is a certification that customers can use.
AB: And ACSF is now separate from NATA?
Burns: ACSF is a stand-alone foundation. When it comes to research, education, and that element of what we do for charter operators and managed aircraft, we look at what FlightSafety Foundation has done for airlines; ACSF is trying to emphasize the Part 135 and Part 91-K operators.
We coordinate the logistics; we set up the schedule. There’s a pre-checklist. Most of the work involved in the audit is actually done prior to the auditors stepping onsite. It could be a couple of months in preparation prior to the audit.
AB: Who actually does the audits?
Burns: We contract auditing out to several different companies -- Wyvern; R Dixon Speas; and the like. We have six to eight auditors that we contract with.
AB: What type of fees can a new member expect?
Burns: It varies, depending on the size of the fleet. For most entry level operators, it is a three-day audit; $9,100. It goes up to a five-day audit, with 50-plus airplanes -— $13,120.
We have an agreement with Executive Jet Management regarding accepting our standards. If you want to fly on behalf of EJM they are putting every one of those operators through the ACSF audit program. It’s something that they came on board with over a year ago. EJM picks up the tab.
AB: As a member, do I pick the firm that does the audit?
Burns: We’ll give you options; suggestions. You have that choice.
AB: What might an operator expect to come out of a typical audit?
Burns: One thing we’ve discovered is management involvement, or lack of involvement, has an impact. What seems to surface is the director of operations has to realize that this is an across the board compliance. It’s not just checking the boxes and thinking you’re going to be certified. This is about going into every component of the business, from cleaning airplanes to the director of aviation -- to ensure they’re doing what they say they’re doing. The real measuring stick is … is it being implemented?
That’s what we’ve discovered being inconsistent from one operator to another. We’ve also discovered that for those who have been successful in completing it, they say they are a better company because of it. It brings peace of mind to the safety component.
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