Part 135s Talk Safety; Security

The on-demand charter industry takes a look at its record; safety programs


CHANTILLY, VA — The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF), founded in part by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) in 2007, recently hosted the 2010 Air Charter Safety Symposium. Hot topics included a ‘steadily’ improving industry safety record, general aviation facility security, and safety management systems (SMS) — with particular focus on the latter regarding concern for operating in foreign states without an internationally recognized/accepted safety management system.

Remarks ACSF chairman Charlie Priester, “In the last few years, we have come to understand as an industry, that an FAA standard for safety is a minimum standard. We owe it to the guests we fly to take that safety level to a much higher standard. We are seeing attitudes change; we are all taking this to a higher level.”

Jim Coyne, president of both ACSF and NATA, followed Priester by highlighting a recent study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding air charter safety.

“What this foundation does is critically important,” says Coyne. “It shows the public, and it shows people here in Washington, that we are serious about safety.”

Jim Ballough’s role at the conference was to address the NTSB study by presenting on the implications, opportunities, and challenges that may result from it.

Ballough, senior advisor and special assistant to FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety Peggy Gilligan, began by pointing out the variety of operations that make up Part 135 activity. “There are those that would contend it’s one single coherent set of flight activities,” says Ballough. “However, much like general aviation, the term captures the collection of very different types of operations.” Some examples of this include air tours, cargo, the business jet market, traditional passenger service, heavy lift, survey, and air ambulance.

“All industry accidents have gone down over the years, including fatal accidents,” explains Ballough. “In terms of on-demand Part 135 activity per 100,000 hours, again there is the same scenario … trends are improving steadily.

“However, the figures are still high compared to much of the GA environment — but the 135 numbers also reflect the mixed activity within the industry.”

Key factors that explain the “steady” improvement of the industry safety record include technology and equipment, relates Ballough. Efforts to push ahead with ADS-B, the sustained expansion of business jets in Part 135 service, the expansion of turboprops, and the near disappearance of reciprocating helicopters play a big role in the improved record, he says.Evidence of these factors can be found in the sharp decrease in CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) and loss-of-control in flight accidents.

Continued risks are apparent when looking at the following numbers, says Ballough: 21 percent of fatal accidents are VFR (visual flight rules) and IMC (instrument meteorological conditions); 16 percent of fatal accidents are VFR at night; 4 percent are VFR at night and IMC; and 13 percent involve issues of continued airworthiness, or maintenance. “These are areas where we can focus our future safety initiatives,” says Ballough.

The long-term story for Part 135 is good, he contends, stating, “rates and numbers are improving steadily, especially in recent years, both for accidents and fatal accidents. Fleet trends and advancing technology promise continued improvements.

Regarding NextGen, Ballough says to cynics who view the inability of the FAA to deal with the question of equippage, “What’s different today in terms of NextGen focus is that we have this stuff on paper now. Never have I seen the type of implementation plans that have been developed and followed through with like I see today.” Examples of effective implementation include ADS-B in the Gulf, and the case with UPS in Louisville, he says.

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