Safety Solutions

Galaxy Aviation's decision to make safety training a priority has resulted in their membership in NATA's Safety 1st Program, giving the company the chance to reduce fueling accidents through intensive training, writes Alicia Hammond

March 2003

In aviation, fueling is a very important process that occurs constantly in airports around the world. For such a common operation, fueling involves a high level of danger. Mistakes can be made and the results can be costly, as well as possibly deadly. While this danger cannot be fully contained, there are some things that can lessen the risk of accidents. One possible answer is simple enough: training.

Safety training may seem obvious but it can be a very important part of lowering the number of fueling problems and accidents. This belief is held by Ken Bray, the Safety Training Manager of Galaxy Aviation, in Boca Raton, FL, who incorporated an intensive safety training program into the company.

Galaxy Aviation is Southern Florida's largest FBO with four bases in the Palm Beach International Airport, Boca Raton Airport, Orlando International Airport, and Stuart-Witham Field.

Safety First
The question for Galaxy Aviation and Bray was not the importance of safety training but how to provide up-to-date, relevant training to all employees. After deciding to incorporate a regulated safety-training program, a lot of research went into Galaxy's decision. "There were challenges as far as getting the right program that suited us," Bray says. "We considered several programs before deciding on the best one."

The solution was The National Air and Transportation Association's Safety 1st Program.

"In my opinion, it is the most recognized program in the industry," Bray says. "Most aviators know the NATA training program, and when they see the Safety 1st logo at our bases, they know that we're using the top-notch training program for line service."

The NATA Safety 1st Program Professional Line Service Training is an updated version of the original AMR COMBS PLST program. Almost 500 operators have used this program since its conception in 1998. Many groups from FBO's like Galaxy Aviation to corporate flight departments to airport authorities around the world use this program to meet training, airport, and insurance requirements.

"The Safety 1st Program was created because the industry was having problems with ground losses and needed training that covered more than just fueling. By offering all the aspects of the line service duties, it has raised the bar on training," says NATA Manager of Education and Training, Amy Koranda. "The NATA Safety 1st Program has become the industry standard that the industry looks for at an FBO."

The program identifies the knowledge and skills required of line service technicians and tests their competence. "Safety 1st is our main line service training and continuing education program. It is probably the most recognized safety program in the aviation industry," Bray says. "One of Galaxy Aviation's goals is always to provide professional and safety-conscious support to our customers. Our choice to use the Safety 1st program is a reflection of that."

Koranda believes this program has created a wonderful opportunity for line service technicians. "I think it's a win-win situation. These guys are really important out there on the line; their professionalism is as important as everybody else's at your FBO," Koranda says. "I think this has brought them into the forefront and it has given them a credential they can use."

Training and Testing
The program was developed to be an all-inclusive testing and training program in many areas that line service technician deal with on a daily basis.

Bray says the program is thorough, involving nine video modules with a corresponding test after every section. "There are 37 mandatory hands-on exams and a final written test with 125 questions, which is graded by the NATA," he says. "The program is very intensive. The average time [it takes to complete the training] is three to four months before [the technicians] get completely certified."

The modules cover eight broad areas including general safety practices, fueling quality, aircraft fueling operations, fuel farm management, ground service equipment, other aircraft services, airport operations, and customer service. Information on these topics is presented through video and readings.

"[I think] the video modules definitely help training. Seeing is truly believing," Koranda says. "They get to see what you are talking about and they have actual specific orientation with the aircraft they will be dealing with."

Two types of tests are administered. Practical exams test the important concepts and skills by requiring technicians to demonstrate their abilities to safely fuel and service aircraft. Technicians must score 100 percent on this part of the exam before passing, while 90 percent is required to pass the written exam. Grading is done by the company management for the practical exam and by NATA for the written exams.

Galaxy's Quest
In order to be an official part of the Safety 1st Program, all technicians in a company must complete and pass the testing. This is true at Galaxy Aviation. "They can only work in the areas they are signed off on. For example, if they are not signed off on one particular aircraft, they can't fuel or service it. they have to be certified," Bray says. "It is mandatory that [technicians] reach this plateau."

Altogether, Galaxy has trained 80 technicians. Each participant receives a certificate and a uniform shoulder patch, while the company receives a certificate of participation to display for customers to see. The program requires that every new technician complete the training 90 days after they begin working.

The Safety 1st program requires retraining for a company to remain in the program. According to Koranda, companies are recommended to retrain every year although NATA re-certification is every two years.

"The retraining involves going back through the modules every year," Koranda says. "There are probably some individuals that feel that they shouldn't have to but I always remind them that even though the airline pilots are flying on a daily basis they have to prove their proficiency, so why shouldn't the line service technicians also be tested?"

Bray agrees that this requirement is beneficial. "An important part of the program is the retraining Galaxy Aviation does to keep everyone current. when different techniques, different aircraft, different hook ups, and things of that nature come out, we immediately put our technicians through the new training," he says.

Insurance Benefits
Joining the Safety 1st Program requires completing a short application and a $100 fee. Companies are charged $25 for each employee to cover fees. Although these fees do add up, Koranda says NATA believes this investment will reduce insurance costs and employee turnover over time as well as supplying a marketing benefit.

"We have been working hand in hand with the insurance companies. They know what it involved [in this program] and how much training and testing there is," she says. "There is no guarantee because it all depends on your accident and incident rate but surely training is going to have an effect on your insurance rates. If you have a fully trained staff, knowing what they should be doing or not be doing out there, evidence would prove that the training would help bring down the accident and incident rate insurance rates."

While Bray could not discuss Galaxy's insurance rates, he said he did believe that the Safety 1st Program was very valuable to his company. "It is definitely a plus to have this training. When line service completes the Safety 1st program, they are the best of the best in their field, and that's a benefit to both Galaxy Aviation and our customers," Bray says. "In the aviation industry this sort of training should definitely be mandatory."


Galaxy Aviation/Boca Aviation
Tel. 561-368-1110

NATA Safety First Program
Tel. 703-575-2045