We give the opportunity to take 120 days for corrective action to be fulfilled. They’re going to be discovered; nobody comes away clean, and that’s the intent of the audit.
AB: One thing NATA has taken the lead on is safety management systems (SMS) training. How does that fit with ACSF?
Burns: That’s another component. We just spent an entire workshop with SevenBar in Dallas; 14 of their employees were in this session. We spent the day outlining expectations. Why this is important? Who should be involved? The president to the line pilots were involved; the entire staff. It gave all the guys an opportunity to question, challenge — to get a better understanding of their roles and how it affects their co-workers.
AB: How does this fit with FAA’s ongoing effort to implement official guidance for SMS?
Burns: We’re creating best practices. We know it’s coming; we’ve just taken the lead in putting that information together and capturing this data. It took a year of research and it was compiled with best practices. We’ve been working with the FAA to continue to share with them what we’re doing. They’re very supportive of what they say is a very strong program. They’re looking at our program as a potential guide for what may be out in the fall.
AB: How much exposure did you have to SMS prior to this position?
Burns: Signature has an SMS program, which is very thorough and very comprehensive. Signature is on the leading edge of safety and quality control in the FBO industry. I’m a firm believer that they do that right. They’re very thorough; have their own internal auditors. It is incredibly comprehensive, from OSHA to EPA to fuel quality control to facilities. So having been on the receiving end of that as a general manager, I can appreciate the flipside of being the one administering it. It’s a management tool to run your business more efficiently, more effectively, and safely.
AB: Besides growing membership, what do you see as other opportunities for the foundation?
Burns: A future project, in which I’m a full believer, is to establish an aviation safety action plan (ASAP), which is a voluntary employee program in which an employee voluntarily reports safety information that may be critical to identifying potential precursors to accidents.
There’s a provision, supported by FAA, that seeks to address the safety issues through corrective action versus punishment or discipline. Employees are protected from retribution.
There’s the Medallion Foundation in Alaska that has had a program for about seven years and it’s been very effective. Jim Christiansen will swear by it, based on his experience when he was running NetJets. It disclosed safety issues that may have not necessarily been brought to management’s attention.
We’re actively looking, and FAA supports … to create an ASAP program.
AB: How would you describe FAA’s overall opinion of ACSF and its activities?
Burns: I’ve met with Flights Standards and they are big supporters of this program. We’re trying to get it endorsed. We have disclosed and shared information and have a great relationship.
One of my goals is to get the message out to our audience. People aren’t familiar with the foundation; they are more familiar with the audit standards and SMS.
AB: Looking at recent economic history, it seems the foundation got started during a rough period. What are you hearing from charter operators regarding activity?
Burns: It’s on an uptick. People are seeing improvement. I haven’t stumbled on anyone who says it’s worse than a year ago. That’s a great thing.
The Part 135 Incident/Accident Review is a comprehensive look at the factors surrounding charter incidents and accidents between 2004 and 2008.
Safety Foundation Offers Tool To Evaluate SMS
The ACSF Industry Audit Standard (IAS) evaluates an air charter operator's SMS and its FAA compliance.
An article in USA Today claims to expose failures in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of on-demand charter operators.