The idea of having an independent safety audit of a company has become an aviation industry best practice. For FAR Part 135 on-demand charter operators, it has become an integral way of doing business if a company wants to provide services at the highest levels in our industry.
Yet the question being asked today is, “How many audits equal safety?”
Our company is big into audits -- we average about one every week. Most are pretty straightforward: financial reviews; performance of fuel control; maintenance procedures; FAR recordkeeping; etc. We’ve learned a lot from these audits and willingly accept the opportunity to improve.
However, we are a part of the industry that’s had a growing concern about the increasingly confusing audit world regarding our charter and flight operations. When we were asked by the Air Charter Safety Foundation if the industry was getting all it should from the existing audits, we agreed with many of our competitors that there needs to be one standard. We can’t possibly continue the multiple audits every year in order to get our product approved. We’ve watched as one after another audit brand stamped their approval on our operation; each with a slightly different twist and none satisfying all of our customers’ approval.
Considerable time, expense, and resources are required in order to host the different entities conducting these audits. Then there is the issue that they all have their own standards (some of which are proprietary) and you as an operator are expected to make changes in your company in order to be found acceptable to fly the clientele they represent.
The world’s scheduled airlines faced the same dilemma years ago, when they too were subject to multiple audits. This problem was finally resolved when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) developed the International Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) as the single “gold standard” by which all airlines would be evaluated.
IATA does not perform the audits. It oversees the accreditation of audit organizations authorized to conduct IOSA audits, and ensures the continuous development of the standard and manages the IOSA Registry. An air carrier must be listed on the registry as a condition of membership in IATA. The FAA requires all international airlines that code-share with a U.S. air carrier to be on the IOSA registry.
We have the same opportunity in the air charter industry to adopt a single audit standard by which all charter operators should be measured. The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) has developed the Industry Audit Standard as a single, comprehensive evaluation of a charter operator’s or fractional ownership management company’s regulatory compliance, adherence to best practices, and development of a safety management system. The ACSF audit standard is the gold standard for auditing the charter industry.
Similar to the airline program, ACSF doesn’t conduct the audits, but accredits the audit companies and auditors in order to ensure consistency, and maintains a registry of operators that meet or exceed the ACSF standards. The charter customer can be assured that the operators on this list meet a robust set of safety standards. Those companies listed on the ACSF Registry can be viewed free-of-charge on the ACSF Website (www.acsf.aero/registry).
Our company has decided to forgo the various audits offered by the commercial entities, and has elected to undergo the ACSF gold standard audit solely.
The concept of safety auditing is a good idea. It’s time that the air charter industry adopts a single standard just as the airline world has done. Both our industry and the customer benefit.
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William ‘Bill’ Haberstock is president and CEO of Million Air Salt Lake City, which was recently named the FBO of the Year for 2011 by NetJets, Inc. Haberstock is vice chair of ACSF, and a former board member of the National Air Transportation Association, which is a sister organization to the Air Charter Safety Foundation. He was recently named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Utah.
Cutline: William Haberstock
“IATA does not perform the audits. It oversees the accreditation of audit organizations authorized to conduct IOSA audits, and ensures the continuous development of the standard.”