The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF), which formally launched its Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) in the Great Lakes region in August 2012, is working to expand the program next in the Western Pacific, New England and Eastern regions, ACSF President Bryan Burns says.
The program is one of a couple of cornerstone programs that the organization has been developing as it continues to expand its membership and reach new categories of members.
ACSF originally worked with the Minneapolis Flight Standards District Office to launch the ASAP for a couple of operators last year and has slowly grown the program to about a dozen operators within the Great Lakes region. ASAP is a reporting program that allows employees to identify and report safety issues to management and to thefor resolution, without fear that the FAA will use reports accepted under the program to take legal enforcement action against them, or that companies will use such information to take disciplinary action.
While more established with large commercial carriers, FAA has said that the Part 135/91K community is a fast-growing segment to adopt the program with close to 20 participants, including the ACSF’s program. The ACSF initiative was established to enable small and medium-sized operations to participate.
ACSF has received interest from numerous operators to participate in other regions throughout the U.S., but the program has grown slowly for a couple of reasons. First, it requires time and resources from FAA, both of which have been in short supply with sequestration and the recent government shutdown. Second, some confusion existed within certain regions about whether the program had headquarters approval, Burns says.
FAA headquarters officials, who have strongly encouraged participation in such programs, are developing guidance endorsing participation in the effort, Burns says. And even with limited resources, agency officials continue to work with ACSF on establishing the ASAP on a wider scale.
ACSF recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the agency in the Western Pacific region to establish the program there. ACSF has also been in negotiations with both the Eastern and New England regions to establish MOUs, and Burns is optimistic that those will be in place soon.
But Burns notes interest in the program is going beyond the fixed-wing Part 135 community. The Helicopter Association International has reached out to ACSF to discuss possibilities for its members, Burns says. Large corporate flight departments have also inquired about it. Burns notes the MOUs with FAA were currently tailored only for the Part 135 community, but he says the ACSF is exploring possibilities to accommodate Part 91 operations.
The expansion would enable ACSF to build up a database of safety reports to track safety trends. “We’re trying to build volume,” he says. “It’s all about the data. It’s what moves safety. The qualitative results the airlines have gotten have helped them with their safety record. We are trying to apply that to business aviation.” Early returns of the ACSF program showed that 86% of the reports are from a single source, which means that the operator might not otherwise have learned about the event.
As it focuses on ASAP, ACSF also continues to work with operators on another of its cornerstone programs, the Industry Audit Standard (IAS). ACSF developed the standard in 2008 at the request of members seeking a comprehensive single audit standard. The standard, among the most stringent of all the business aviation audit standards, has been the subject of some debate, with some questioning the need for a single standard.
But after a review of the standard, ACSF members returned to the conclusion that they supported the standard and the debate has quieted. The IAS registry currently lists 15 operators, six are going through renewal and “several more are in the pipeline,” he says. Burns notes that the bar is high to achieve registry status, and advises companies to take their time as they undertake the process. In the meantime, though, 82 audits have been conducted.
Like the ASAP, the most recent interest in the IAS is coming from corporate flight departments. ACSF last summer met with a number of the largest flight departments to explain the process. Several of those departments had indicated plans to search out operators who have undergone IAS when seeking supplemental lift.
Beyond reaching out to the Helicopter Association International and corporate flight departments. ACSF has also been working more closely with the Flight Safety Foundation, which played an early role in helping to shape ACSF when it was launched in 2007. ACSF and FSF have begun some basic collaborations such as supporting each other’s programs on their websites, Burns notes.
These activities come as membership in the foundation has tripled over the past six years. Membership has reached 106 as the foundation on Nov. 25 announced its newest member, Transplant Transportation Services, Inc. (TTSI). TTSI provides logistics support for organ transplant teams, including working with a network of charter operators.
Burns notes that the foundation continues to capture interest among charter operators, but charter brokers have lately been a driver behind the most recent additions to the memberships.