How IS-BAH Registration Benefits FBOs

Dec. 19, 2018
The IS-BAH provides a reliable benchmark against which performance can be judged as meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectations, as well as heighten awareness of safety issues among employees.

The summer of 1984, fresh faced, with a full head of hair, I started my business aviation journey. One of my earliest memories in the first few months of starting was helping with a departing Gulfstream III – the owner turned up in his Ferrari Testarossa planeside, threw me the keys and told me to go and park it. It wasn’t a pretty sight though, bunny hopping and stalling past a variety of multimillion-dollar aircraft to park outside the FBO with a raft of other high-end cars. Thankfully I didn’t hit anything, I guess I got lucky that day.

Looking back over the following 34 years, luck has played an important role for many of those. Ask yourself, how lucky do you feel day today?

July 1, 2018, saw the release of the latest version of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH). The 2018/19 version, approved by the industry lead Standards Board at the annual meeting in May, brings a much-refined document suite including improved implementation guidance. The Standard remains fully scalable, presenting a progressive step-by-step approach to implementing an integrated management system which is built around a safety management core.

Since its initial launch is 2014, the IS-BAH has been well received by a wide variety of global business and general aviation ground handling service providers. The standards and recommended practices contained within use a proactive approach to managing workplace safety to prevent hangar rash incidents and workplace injuries.

Traditional approaches are often reactive, where problems are addressed only after an incident or accident has happened, a new standard or regulation is published, or a third party finds a problem that must be fixed. The IS-BAH recognizes that finding and fixing hazards and associated risks before they result in losses is a far more effective approach, so “luck” no longer plays such a significant role in airside activities as it may have previously.

Why is it Needed?

Currently, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 19 on Safety Management Systems requires States (National Authorities), as part of their oversight of “service providers” (including commercial aircraft operators, aerodromes and international general aviation operators of large or turbojet airplanes), to implement a safety management system (SMS).

As the SMS matures, these aircraft operators and aerodromes, will start to consider the possible impact their interfaces with suppliers and vendors has with the effectiveness of the performance of their SMS. In addition, some States are considering the inclusion of ground handling service providers (GHSPs) into the full scope of their safety plans, including requirements for SMS.

The IS-BAH provides a reliable benchmark against which performance can be judged as meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectations. It also helps heighten awareness of safety issues among employees.

The SMS component allows an IS-BAH registered GHSP to gain recognition, for having in place a well-founded safety management development process. Maturity of the organization’s SMS is a critical factor in the long-term recognition of the use of industry best practices that conform to ICAO standards and recommended practices (SARPs).

What’s Wrong with the Way Things Are Now?

Statistics and data show we have a problem that needs to be addressed.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty Claims Review 2017 states that “… the majority of loss events were caused by vehicles on the tarmac. At 31 percent, they account for almost one in three losses. More than half of these events are due to collisions with pushback tractors, baggage trolleys, aerial work platforms or washing systems (56 percent).”

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) claims “accidents related to ground handling constitute the fourth biggest accident category in the period of the last 10 years.”

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Safety Committee Survey 2016 showed a total of 48 percent of respondents reported having one to three ground handling incidents or close calls in the last three years, while 8 percent reported having four to nine incidents or close calls. Ground handling remains a top priority for the NBAA Safety Committee.

Data gathered by IBAC over the past 18 months from various sources shows 93 percent of accidents result in aircraft damage, 71 percent where the aircraft comes into collision with either GSE, other aircraft or static objects (trees, lamp post, hangars etc.) and 57 percent are happening when the aircraft is parked and under the control of the ground handler.

Potential Hurdles

GHSP owners and managers need to have an adequate understanding of the IS-BAH implementation and registration process and of the standards themselves. You need to find an appropriate balance between the documentation requirements and attending to the fundamental business of running a company. The implementation process must bring value to the organization and directing company's resources toward IS-BAH registration with a thorough understanding will be beneficial.

Some organizations may reluctantly be moved toward the acceptance of the IS-BAH and others for “me too” or marketing reasons. In both cases, the key objective has been to obtain the registration certificate which is subsequently displayed prominently in the facility and advertisements.

What may result from this type of situation is that firms may have two systems. One being what they really do, and the other being the one they show to the auditor.

In this type of a situation the firms pay all the costs for registration, but they do not benefit from it. This situation leads to a dilution of the intention of safety departments and personnel within them may not consider safety issues to be as important.

Senior management should be genuinely committed to achieving and maintaining a high level of safety and give employees motivation and the means to do so as well. Create a culture where safety is a commitment made by your management and board. If you can do this, you will show your employees and customers that their welfare is your priority.

It is better to have employees working with you to manage their own safety, in that way they feel more responsible for the safety of not only themselves, but their co-workers as well.

If the IS-BAH is introduced for the right reasons, registration becomes a secondary consideration.

I’ve Been Doing it this Way for Years - Why Should I Change?

Conforming with the IS-BAH can provide a competitive advantage and could well be a deciding factor when a customer has a choice between two, or more, comparable suppliers. By seeking and securing IS-BAH registration, organizations can provide their customers with the opportunity to tout their suppliers' dedication to safety in their own business dealings.

If conformity cannot be supported in this way, customers only have the suppliers' word regarding their services.

People are motivated differently. If you make an honest attempt to conform to the requirements of getting IS-BAH registration, you’ll learn more about your business. Change will happen with or without you. It is better for you to control the change, rather than have change forced on to you.

Change is about improvement. To work smarter, not harder. Change is best made with small incremental steps, not complete overhauls. Change is not a quick fix. What change does require is leaders who embrace it.

The registration process may expose shortcomings in operational areas. When these problems are brought to light, the company can take the appropriate steps to improve its processes. Thus, further benefiting from the auditing process internally.

Reduction in the number and scope of rapidly increasing second-party audits by customers (aircraft operators may use the registration and assessment process as a tool for risk management of their suppliers); and the use of registration as a marketing tool to demonstrate a clear organizational commitment to safety.

Can I Do It?

To start, begin to recommend better ways of doing what you already do. There's always time to do things safely.

The process requires documentation and self-assessment that many organizations can see benefits in an increased understanding of the company's overall direction and processes as a significant benefit.

Take your time and make the link between what you do on a day-to-day basis and how that can support the overall change initiative. Take the opportunity to change your own attitude, behaviors and beliefs. Show dedication and demonstrate that you want to do it right and you can drastically increase your chances of success. Keep focused on the task at hand, ask yourself how you can help build a better organization.

Safety is an investment, not a cost. Rush through the early stages and, you might find yourself derailed, killing momentum when it is needed most. 

Are We Making a Difference?

Currently 142 IS-BAH registered locations globally think it’s worthwhile to have achieved Stage I, 20 have moved through to Stage II with the maiden Stage III – American Aero FTW – was announced during NBAA-BACE 2018. Not bad going for a voluntary program.

Will I Win or Lose?

Implementing through to registration the IS-BAH shows you are ahead of the game and not playing catch up to the competition. Adapting early to change and being an ally for it is one of the simplest and most visible ways of leading change. The nice thing about being an ally and early adopter is that you aren’t seen as someone who is just giving face time to the change; you are doing it and helping to spread enthusiasm among your peers.

If you can make a single change to improve the safety of your operations, what would it be?

About the Author

Terry Yeomans

Terry Yeomans is Program Director for the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH). He began his business aviation career in 1984 with McAlpine Aviation based at Luton Airport, stayed with the GEC Marconi owned MAGEC Aviation becoming Flight Operations and Charter Sales Manager with responsibilities for the day to day ground operations of the London based award winning FBO. Prior to joining the IS-BAH Program for IBAC, he worked for Air Routing International / Rockwell Collins as Manager Ground Operations Standards & Development (Europe/North Africa) responsible for coordination and supervision (ground logistics) of ad-hoc business aviation flights operating to and from the UK’s various airports for a major International flight service company. Yeomans is a council member and previous deputy chairman for the British Business & General Aviation Association (BBGA), past chair of the EBAA Airport Handling and Ground Operations Committee (AHGOC) and council member (and treasurer) of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).