Case Studies

“AUDITING THE CORPORATE JET OPERATION”

 Corporate reputation, brand recognition and the continued need for industry support is leading a resurgence in company processes which hold reputation and best practice principles fundamental to longer term financial rewards. Central to these principles is a need for a clearer understanding of operational audit process and the benefits achievable.

You will no doubt be cognisant that ‘one’ isolated event never causes an accident. An accident is always preceded by a chain of events and the ‘links’ in that chain are flight safety hazards, or ‘unsafe’ events. In any chain of events there always exists at least one and frequently a number of hazards, which were considered insignificant and therefore not rectified. As a ‘stand alone’ hazard they were insignificant, but within a chain they maintained the momentum towards a mishap. The contribution of seemingly insignificant hazards to any ‘chain of events’ is just as important in producing the mishap, as is a significant hazard. The elimination of all hazards, significant or otherwise, is needed to break that chain.

Safety audits are a pro-active approach to safety. These audits should aim to:

  • – identify and either eliminate or neutralize safety hazards before they become a link in a chain of events.
  • – seek to reduce the population of safety hazards in the work place, thereby reducing the probability of forming a chain of events.

A proper audit program should examine both operational and engineering aspects. Audits can target specific problem areas or be quite general in nature. The audit process should be methodical and proven, with company members encouraged to contribute solutions which neutralise or eliminate the hazards identified.

A Safety Audit is an important safety management tool with which the company executive may make informed decisions regarding the ‘safety health’ of the company.

The Flight Operations Audit

The objectives of any Flight Operations Audit needs to be the detection of as many safety hazards as possible within the organisation. Hazards which are considered serious will need immediate reporting by the audit company and direct action by the subject company as well as those likely to fly the aircraft. Those hazards not likely to immediately affect the operation, need to be advised to the auditee via a face to face ‘hot wash-up’ at the completion of the audit and then followed by a detailed, yet instructive, audit report.

The scope of the Flight Operations Audit will vary depending on the needs and size of the operator. The flight operations audit of a typical Corporate jet operator should encompasses, amongst other items:

  • – Management and Supervision,
  • – Standard Operating Procedures,
  • – Check and Training,
  • – Fatigue and Staffing Levels,
  • – Accident and Incident Review,
  • – Safety Program Management,
  • – Safety Equipment,
  • – Aircraft General,
  • – Documentation,
  • – Communication Systems,
  • – Facilities, and
  • – Other audit specific requirements

The audit should evaluate the operation reviewing; current operational management structure and process, operational tasking, training, reporting procedures, safety philosophy and safety program management and activity. The auditors should meet with senior managers, as well as key management personnel involved in authorization, tasking, usage and operation of the various aviation sections. This should include local management, pilots and engineering staff. You should expect the auditors to require access to various operational and managerial documentation. Depending upon the various items identified, the simplest of operational safety audit may take up to two days.

The audit priority should be to advise on items and actions deemed appropriate to the principles of ‘best practice’ and a pro-active safety philosophy. It is important that managers remember that any audit is only a “snap shot” of the organisations safety health, but nonetheless a good indicator of the safety activity of their organisation.

The Audit Team

An aviation audit company should provide, as a minimum, a two man audit team. This team should comprise of either qualified Aviation Accident Investigators and/or Aviation Safety Officers, who are experienced in the management, supervision, standardisation and general conduct of flight operations. Their expertise and practical experience in aviation safety and accident investigation should offer an acute awareness of the quality systems required to ensure appropriate safety management. As a minimum two man team, higher levels of objectivity and a better depth of review can be attained.

Flight Operations and Engineering Audits are an essential management tool, aimed at the application of best practice philosophies which are designed to protect Corporate Reputation and reduce operating costs.

So… how long since your last Flight Ops Safety Audit and how would your company stack up ?