Life is a Risky Business: Business Aviation Shouldn’t Be
- Advanced Aircrew Academy
Risk is a function of being alive. From the moment you took your first breath, you have been living a life of risk management, always balancing risk versus reward. Should I pass the car in front of me? Should I change jobs/careers/spouse? Should I try the gas station sushi?
For the first years of your life, your parents and guardians were the ones to decide the level of risk you could take. Some have more tolerance than others. You learn what is acceptable to you and that sometimes, it's worth the risk (and sometimes not). For example, both you and your parents knew you were probably going to fall off your bike when the training wheels were removed, but you must take that risk to learn. The depth of risk is minor, and the reward is learning how to ride a bike.
When you left the nest, you set your own boundaries, always unconsciously or actively weighing the risk versus reward. Sure, getting a scar from riding a bull for 8.7 seconds is a much better story than earning the same looking scar from cutting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but the bull riding scar came with much higher risk. Then again, it's also a matter of perspective: a trained bull rider sees the risk differently than someone who isn't sure if a bull has horns or not. But if the risks are unknown, getting on the bull maybe isn't as scary as it is for the person who has already been injured on a bull. You can see the conundrum of what's acceptable risk. It depends on who you're asking.
Working in aviation has always operated with calculated risks. The elimination of risk in aviation is unachievable; so when the pandemic began, instead of just shutting down, work began on risk management procedures. The world needs aviation, so as a community, we knew we had to continue but at the same time had to figure out what we can do to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to a manageable level, both for employees and the flying public.
The objectives of any safety management system in aviation are to ensure the risks associated with the hazards of flight operations are identified, assessed, and managed. In other words, we realize the risk but believe that with identification and training, those risks are mitigated to a level where it's not considered a hazard but rather a practicable risk. Operating during the COVID-19 pandemic is no different.
How much does a pilot's perspective change after they've contracted COVID-19? For Don Wade, not much. Don has 57 years of professional flying experience, is the Director of Safety and Lear 45 captain at Pinnacle Aviation. He has spent a lifetime operating in a world of risk management. He now has an informed perspective on operating during the pandemic. When asked where he thought he might've contracted the virus, Don says, "As much as we disinfect everything for operations in aviation, the reality is that I probably didn't pick it up during my travels. I probably picked it just doing everyday life tasks."
Don has also seen the economic impact on aviation, but the ramifications on business aviation are different than the airlines. "Except for an initial slowdown at the beginning of the pandemic, we've actually been busier than we've ever been. But I'm not sure how long that will last. What we're seeing is a kind of 'panic travel' in business aviation. Nobody wants to use the airlines; so we've received a lot of charter requests for passengers who might not have ever chartered before. It's encouraging to see customers seeking charter flights for the first time, but it might not generate new, long‑term customers. These might be onetime pandemic charters, but time will tell."
When asked what the future might bring for business aviation, Don is hopeful but realistic. "At this time of year, we usually have our holiday charter flights booked, but as of right now, there's nothing on the schedule. So, even though business aviation is moving, there is still uncertainty about travel and what the future holds. Especially because each state is setting their own terms, it's a challenge for our flight crews and passengers to keep up with the variables of rules in each state. Once we see operating standards the same around the country and the world, we can plan with more confidence, even with restrictions."
In addition to being the Director of Safety at Pinnacle Aviation, Don is also the Safety Management Systems Subject Matter Expert at Advanced Aircrew Academy. His SMS eLearning module is designed as an introduction to the SMS concept and how an SMS can enhance safety in a flight operation. The module is organized around the four core elements of the SMS: Policy, Risk Management, Assurance, and Promotion. The module provides web links, background, references, and examples. This training is appropriate for all flight operations personnel, not just aircrews. The SMS module can be customized to your organization, SMS, and COVID-19 flight department procedures.
Versions of the SMS module are available for Safety Managers, Pilots, Flight Attendants, Schedulers/Dispatchers, Line Service, and Admins.
The SMS module can be used for one hour of credit towards IA Renewal. FAA Course Acceptance Number: C-IND-IM-160330-K-006-002.
The NBAA Management Guide recommends advanced flight crew training above and beyond the regulatory requirements of the FAA as a best practice. That recommendation specifically cites Safety Management System training. This training module satisfies that NBAA recommendation.
The SMS for Safety Managers module has been accepted by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) to meet the IS-BAO/IS-BAH auditor training requirements for "completion of an SMS training course" as defined in the appendix to the Audit Procedures Manual.