International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO)

What does it mean for maintenance?


In today’s world and global economy, many industries face inherent risks involved in their operations which affect their customers or the environment. The chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, and nuclear power have all embraced safety management systems (SMS) for years. The aviation industry has also now adopted a comprehensive, systematic, formal approach to safety designed to mitigate and manage risk while eliminating the management bias from the equation.

The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) was formally introduced and made available to the business aviation community at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibit (EBACE) in Geneva, May 2002. IS-BAO was developed by the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is a code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve and ensure a high level of safety and professionalism. In many business sectors, international standards are recognized for their role in facilitating global commerce. IS-BAO is similar in this respect as its fundamental purpose is to foster standardized, safe, and highly professional aircraft operations.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) introduced the IS-BAO program for many reasons. IBAC recognized the need for the business aviation community to take a lead role in fostering harmonization of operating procedures and requirements. IBAC works closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) toward international standardization.

The president of the ICAO Council has endorsed the efforts of the business aviation community in developing an industry ‘code of best practices’. IS-BAO incorporates the International Standards and Recommended Practices for the Operation of Aircraft applicable to business aviation prescribed in ICAO Annex 6, Part II for International General Aviation.

The SMS connection

Even after all the SMS “buzz” of the last couple of years, many operators and maintenance facilities are still asking themselves what SMS is all about. Very simply, ICAO has adopted Annex 6 via its member states. Annex 6 simply says each member state will require the implementation of an SMS by aviation service providers. Minimally, the implemented program must: identify safety hazards, ensure remedial action is taken to maintain an acceptable level of safety, provide for continuous improvement to the program and level of safety, and finally provide for the continuous monitoring and assessment of the achieved safety level. Direct accountability for safety both throughout the organization and at the senior most level of management must be clearly defined.

What this means for maintenance facilities is that when a SMS is implemented, safety requirements become part of the decision-making process of management just like any other part of running a business. No longer can safety be disregarded as a matter of cost cutting or managerial bias. A structure will be put into place that contains a set of practices and policy that looks keenly at the operation to determine just what the hazards are and what to do about them. For a maintenance facility particularly, there are added benefits to the operation: improved communication, enhanced performance, and clear expectations, resulting in everyone “singing from the same sheet of music.”

Basic elements of SMS

There are four basic elements to an SMS, the first of which is a safety policy. The safety policy should clearly outline objectives that can be measured against. For a maintenance facility it is imperative everyone in the organization identify with and can get behind the stated objectives. Everyone understanding their contribution and viewing the safety objectives as a clear game plan will lead to a safer overall operation.

A risk assessment tool being the second primary element of an SMS is useful in identifying hazards that potentially could pose a risk to the operation. What this means in a maintenance operation is not only recognizing dangerous conditions, but looking at or seeing situations from a different perspective, one where you visualize all the ways something could fail, and proactively protect against them.

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