The culture of aviation and ramp safety has long since been a topic of discussion in our industry. Although safety is dependent upon communication, performance and maintenance, many agree that cooperation is the key.
Cooperation is necessary among the entire community of individuals on the ramp; including but certainly not exclusive to GSE and ramp operation managers, line workers, technicians, mechanics, flight crew, etc. This being said and with safety being such an importunate topic, shouldn't the industry be working together in every way possible to benchmark numbers and bring standards to fruition?
Over the past two years, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF); the International Air Transport Association (IATA); the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), in conjunction with the Airline Services Council (ASC-an arm of NATA) and the Airport Operations Safety Panel (AOSP - formed by the Armbrust Aviation Group with the assistance of John Goglia, former member of NTSB) and others, have all heightened and concentrated efforts on ramp safety and the development of industry standards for ramp operations. However, the same cooperation necessary for a safety culture on the ground does not seem to be occurring among the organizations attempting to forge a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS).
The interested parties do agree on what many of the issues are regarding ramp damage and incursions. For instance, all agree there has been a paradigm shift over the past three decades and there is the need for increased attention regarding ramp incidents. What once was considered "hanger rash" and "the cost of doing business" during the barnstorming days is now a more serious form of the "disease" costing the industry nearly four billion a year. It is also agreed that the primary cause is believed to be human error and solutions need to be data driven.
Who's Saying and Doing What?
For nearly sixty years, the Flight Safety Foundation's (FSF) mission has been to pursue the continuous improvement of global aviation safety and the prevention of accidents. One of the stated purposes of FSF is for "the aviation industry to be able to meet in a noncompetitive environment to identify safety concerns, determine solutions and implement ideas and actions to improve safety." The 57th IASS reported by Flight Safety Foundation's Executive Director Robert Vandel, states that the "assault on apron damage and human injury [must begin] not only by obtaining data but by looking at such things as management oversight, training deficiencies, language difficulties and fatigue, as areas where we can begin this effort. By accepting the premise that human error is the primary cause of apron damage, it mandates that we specifically identify an error taxonomy that has identifiable and measurable parameters."
It makes perfect sense, given the FSF organizational goals, that they should be the "neutral umbrella" in leading an international effort to bring all of these organizations together, according to Vandel. "The FSF does not have the parochial interest. If you look at NBAA, they are interested in solving it [ramp incursions] for the corporate operator, good for them; they have done the work, let's use it. NATA is looking at insurance data. IATA is looking at the air carrier, good work, let's use it. But who's taking care of the non-IATA airlines?" questions Vandel.
As of the March IASS report, the FSF has in development several tools to assist in reducing ramp damage. In conjunction with NATA, FSF is designing a web-based GAP (Ground Accident Prevention) e-Tool; a ground safety focused toolset that will provide the industry safety-related successes, solutions and best practices in the aviation apron community.
Another tool under development is an Operating Safety Procedures (OSP) template document which covers key topics and innovations associated with apron servicing (aircraft turnaround - loading/unloading). According to Vandel, the "OSP is considered an industry model document and covers a wide industry audience including airlines, freight/cargo, business/corporate aviation, regional, re-fuellers, caterers, etc."