Safety Through Cooperation

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.


FSF has also identified new technologies such as Indal Technology's automated passenger bridge system which can dramatically reduce damage due to human error. These technologies are new solutions being introduced to enhance safety and improve operational efficiencies.

Finally, FSF is in the process of determining the cost of these accidents to the industry and their associated indirect costs. Their plans call for a tool where by an organization sustaining apron damage can input several key items and get a complete costing for the accident. Yet, IATA and NATA are in the midst of a similar benchmarking process.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) represents approximately 265 airlines comprising 94 percent of international scheduled air traffic. Its mission is to act as a vehicle for inter-airline cooperation in promoting safe, reliable, secure and economical services.

In December 2003, the IATA board of governors implemented the Ground Damage Prevention Program (GDPP) based on figures similar to Flight Safety foundation's estimate of four billion dollars spent by airlines in repairing aircraft following ground damage. They decided to launch a program to address the issue from two different angles: 1) preventative actions that can be taken to reduce ground damage and, 2) what can be done to assist airlines in recovering uninsured costs resulting from ground damage.

According to Lorne Riley, manager of corporate communications in Geneva, the major element of the program is the implementation of voluntary Safety Management Systems (SMS) certification program for ground handling companies or airports providing ground services, similar to IOSA (IATA Operation and Safety Audit), which currently exists for the airlines. The target set by the board is a 10 percent reduction in ground damage for 2005 and a reduction by 50 percent by 2010. Like the other agencies, IATA views this as an industry-wide initiative that should involve all of the stakeholders including airport authorities, ground handling companies, airlines and GSE manufacturers. Also like the other agencies, IATA believes they might be "in a slightly better position to implement measures to reduce the damage" using data gathered by different stakeholders in the industry.

The overall goals for National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and Airline Services Council (ASC) combined are to effectively unite the smaller companies that depend on general aviation for their livelihood and to further the interests of companies that provide ground handling services to scheduled air carriers. NATA interfaces with Congress and federal government agencies that impact aviation, including the Flight Safety Foundation, providing its members with the necessary recognition for "a segment of aviation that has been well off the radar screen [in Washington DC] and working to increase profitability by lowering operation costs," according to James Coyne, president.

NATA/ASC have also announced the ambitious objective to cut losses by more than 50 percent, thus hoping to cut insurance a comparable amount, by implementing a Safety Management System (SMS). The five components to the SMS are: 1) get senior management to "buy into the program" of supporting a new safety culture, 2) create and implement a SMS, 3) data collection - work with the insurance providers to determine a root/cause analysis by developing a database containing information from the last 5-10 years regarding injuries and losses, 4) develop a recurrent ‘complacency-fighting' internet safety management training (SMT) program with the assistance of SH&E International Air Transport Consultancy (the first phase of which is the GAP e-Toolkit and ‘webinars'), which are currently available and 5) set up an audit system.

Coyne believes this should be a proactive, voluntary and private initiative to "meet the standards of professionalism that the industry needs to be successful to grow [business] and to reduce costs." He would like "the SMS mentality to be uniformly embraced across the entire industry in a consistent and similar way" by incorporating all five elements with one common team. But when asked about the other agencies that are pursuing similar benchmarking and SMS objectives, Coyne commented, "They have all said they are doing it, but frankly none of them are yet ... and we are. We believe in getting things done and we don't wait for the bureaucracy."

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