Viewpoint: 4 Of 10 Flight Risk Factors Relate To Lack Of Recency, ARC Safety Says

Credit: ATR

ARC Safety Management, a sister company of AviationManuals, has analyzed the safety data submitted to the ARC SMS software in 2021 and found lack of recency to be a top concern.

A significant portion of risks reported by operators show factors that indicate a lower-than-standard total flight time within the last 45-90 days as well as factors for flight crews with lower-than-standard time in aircraft type.

When looking beyond the top 10 selected risk factors, items related to recency still made up over 20% of all risk factors submitted in 2021.

There have been many changes over the last two years leading to currency as a top risk.

The pandemic caused a significant reduction in flying. Training providers were temporarily closed forcing pilots to delay training. As the world started to re-open, aviation as a whole continues to face a pilot shortage. As a result, business aviation has seen a significant turnover compounded by the airlines targeting some of the industry’s most experienced individuals.

Though it is an area of concern, it is also encouraging that crews are conscious of how a disruption in the upkeep of their skills and a loss of experienced personnel is impacting safety.

Furthermore, it demonstrates how an effective SMS can help operators focus on newly discovered hazards.

Here are a few notable risks operators should consider from the data:

Practice Makes Better, Lack Of Practice Makes Worse

No matter how long you have been doing something, if you stop doing it regularly, your precision will diminish.

Crews may experience this effect particularly with “memory items” like flows and emergency procedures.

Forgetting even small tasks can open holes in the “Swiss Cheese Model”, which can introduce opportunities for an incident or accident to occur. This is one of the biggest risks operators may still be facing today.

Operators may also be starting to fly internationally again, something many haven’t done in at least a year.

The lack of recency in these types of operations and to less familiar destinations can lead to unintended deviations from company policy, regulations, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Crew Pairing Challenges

This can be a big issue for departments that may be facing an experience disparity as senior pilots are retiring and/or others depart to take on new roles.

Departments with a policy to pair less experienced pilots with more experienced ones might then have fewer options for crew pairings. The problem is amplified when crewmember illness occurs. 

Alternatives In Short Supply

Finding supplemental lift has become challenging since charter services are in high demand. As a result, departments may find themselves in a situation where their crews lack the recency the operation requires, and a shortage of alternatives may then lead them to accept a trip they might otherwise delay or cancel.

Operators should engage their SMS to help identify and then mitigate these types of hazards when planning flights.

Mitigations may include placing crew members with less time with pilots with more recency on routes and in aircraft they are familiar with and aiming for optimal weather and duty day conditions whenever possible.

For international travel, operators should ensure their authorizations are up to date and that crews have trained on and recently reviewed oceanic and international procedures, including any recent changes.

Crews may want to perform extended briefings on abnormal and emergency situations to ensure a shared understanding of operations and responsibilities.

Finally, operators will also need to utilize their SMS to record and monitor implemented mitigations to ensure they are working as expected and their teams have the resources and support they need to come back up to speed safely.

To access the complete list of top 10 risks operators faced in 2021 and learn how to mitigate these risks, access the Guide to Mitigating Common Flight Risks on ARC Safety Management’s website.…


Kevin Honan is a senior advisor at AviationManuals. At Aviation Manuals, Honan is responsible for overseeing operational, safety management system, and emergency procedures content for fixed and rotary-wing operators, drone operators, technicians, and FBOs. He has served on several panels alongside the FAA, NBAA, and industry operators and partners.

ARC Safety Management, based in the Washington, D.C. area, is a modular solution to manage aviation safety, communications, and overall operations. The company offers customizable web and mobile Safety Management Systems for pilots, FBO personnel, safety officers, and commercial drone operators to submit, store and analyze SMS data.