The Most Common Risks Operators Face Day to Day

Quick, accurate risk identification is essential for a successful operation. While some risks may be specific to a location, flight path, or aircraft, there are many that occur regularly and can be planned for ahead of time.

Through ARCrisk, ARC’s digital Risk Assessment Tool, flight departments log thousands of risk assessments every year. We’ve taken a look at the top 10 selected risk factors flight departments are facing and how to mitigate them. How do these compare to your top 10 factors and subsequent mitigations?

Read the full article and download the guide on ARC.

Emergency Response Plans in the Age of Social Media

With the emergence of social media, everyone can be a reporter. This means the release of information during a crisis has become a lot quicker. Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) must evolve to include a social media policy. Take a look at how you can use social media to your advantage, and how you can manage risks from other users?

The social media turning point

When the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul to San Francisco crashed on the morning of July 6, 2013, the incident became a turning point for many companies regarding social media during an emergency. The news was online within seconds and spread like wildfire. Eyewitnesses, even passengers, had instantly taken to their mobiles to share the incident with the world. During the first hour alone, there were up to 50,000 tweets talking about Asiana Airlines. The companies involved were left scrambling to take control of the narrative. The concept of the “Golden Hour”, the time it took companies to assess the situation and activate an ERP, became a thing of the past.

When you decide to implement social media usage in your ERP, make sure it’s quick and easy to use, because you’ll have to execute the first steps immediately. Social media can be used either to the advantage or to the detriment of your operation. It’s important to understand how both sides work.

How to use social media to your advantage

Operators can use social media in two ways during a crisis:

  • To communicate to stakeholders and the public

Nowadays, posting a statement on social media is equivalent to releasing a press announcement. It’s good practice to use social media for regular updates to build trust, show transparency and establish yourself as the go-to entity for updates on the situation. Keep in mind that if you plan to participate in the investigation, any updates pertaining to the investigation you share will first need to be approved by the investigative authority (in the U.S., that is the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB).

  • To monitor news and rumors

Keep an eye on local news outlets around the area of the incident and online chatter. That way you can swiftly intervene in case of misinformation. There will likely be witness reports, photos and video of the incident, and lots of speculation in the absence of conclusive facts. Make sure you also follow the investigative authority’s social media accounts (for the NTSB, there’s the @ntsb_newsroom).

Smaller operators could use a third-party ERP provider to monitor these channels, as resources will potentially be tied up during an emergency.

The flip side of social media

While putting social media to good use, keep these potential risks in mind:

  • People outside your organization

Thanks to smartphones and social channels, anyone can be a reporter nowadays. What they choose to share about an incident that involves you; however, is often more likely to harm than help. If someone posts an image of the incident on social media, people may recognize faces, company logos, or aircraft registration numbers.

  • People inside your organization

Company employees need to be extremely careful about discussing the incident online. Information should come from one appointed source in an organization. Employees who don’t adhere to that rule, even on their personal accounts, could potentially harm those affected by the incident – including those involved or loved ones. For example, they might share the name of someone affected, making this information public before there has been a chance to notify that person’s family. They also run the risk of compromising the company’s ability to participate in the investigation should they release facts or speculation pertaining to the investigation, since their shared information would not be approved by the investigative authority. Finally, unvetted, unconfirmed rumors could seriously impact the company’s reputation.

How do you wisely implement social media in your ERP?

There are 4 things you should do to when developing policies regarding social media use during an emergency.

  • Set clear policies on social media. Prepare this well in advance and make sure your staff knows the rules inside out. What to do, what not to do, and how to handle questions. They should also be well-versed in deploying the ERP, as well as their role in it.
  • Appoint a communications officer. They’re responsible for working with the corporate office. If there’s no corporate office, they’re the one dealing with the media. Everything should come from one source, and one source only.
  • Twitter is the fastest social media channel, and the one most likely to be used in a crisis. Get on there, get monitoring, and know how to use the platform. If you want to be fully prepared, you can create Twitter lists of local news channels and airports of the regions your aircraft are flying to.
  • Coordinate with your HR and External Communications departments on these policies. Planning for an emergency begins long before anything goes wrong. Consider simulation exercises with all parties involved to train everyone on their role and the cooperation between them. Coordination will also ensure your company knows what to expect from the Flight Department to help avoid any surprises.

Our Emergency Response Plans have an incorporated social media policy. If you have any questions on how our ERPs work, feel free to reach out.

Evaluate your operation with an Internal Audit Program to stay continually up to date

When it comes to planning for an external audit, whether regulatory in nature or through one of the well-known standards bodies, most operators come prepared. But for maintaining high standards between audits, having an ongoing audit process is best.

By implementing an Internal Auditing Program (IAP), you can proactively identify areas of concern or non-compliance on a regular basis and continuously improve, similar to a Safety Management System (SMS) process. We explain how it can work.

Read the full article on ARC

Change Happens. Be Ready for It.

Change Management goes beyond dress code policies, onboarding new employees or simply implementing new procedures – especially in aviation. So how do you ensure your flight operations department is ready for the inevitable changes it will face in the near and/or long term? You need to have a sound change management plan in place.

What is Change Management?

Change Management is a term used to describe the process for organizations to review all aspects of a potential change, develop an action plan to implement the change, and then execute the plan while mitigating risk. The basic change management process flow should include:

  • Identification and assessment of a change and associated risks
  • Development of a plan to implement a change and mitigate risks
  • Implementation of the plan across the department
  • Review and reassess the new level of risk of the department as a whole after the change

For business aviation, managing operational changes can range from a change in equipment, to bringing maintenance in-house, to revamping your home base. Additionally, it’s not just new stuff that fosters the need for a solid change management plan. It is also critical to have a process for your team to seamlessly follow when operational changes happen to existing protocols or procedures.

Existing operational changes can include shifts in your clients’ travel profiles or an airport implementing new apron protocols. Anything that can affect your operation.

It’s Time to Make Change Easier

For many years, change management was not a focal point for most operations, but during the past two years, its importance has become more appreciated. This is due in part to more and more operators adopting a Safety Management System (SMS) and realizing that change management is an integral part of SMS.

For business aviation pilots and flight departments, adopting change management procedures can be easier than for a commercial operator, since business and general aviation operators tend to have smaller, less complex operations. That’s good news, because it means that the implementation of a change management plan can be easier and faster.

In fact, it is critical for smaller operations to adopt a change management plan early on, as it can provide a sound foundation and ultimately one less thing to have to consider when an unexpected situation arises.  Smaller departments or single-pilot operators have to juggle multiple responsibilities, unlike larger flight departments that may have more staff to whom they can distribute operational responsibilities. This makes having a change management system all the more important. But this doesn’t mean larger flight departments should neglect change management planning. They can also benefit from effective change management in order to help streamline the dissemination of procedural changes throughout the various departments.

In general, there is a growing list of drivers that can increase the need for proper change management. Whereas personnel changes, such as new hires, role changes or loss of personnel along with aircraft changes were often the traditional focus of change management, as flight departments formalize, new factors have become equally important. Changes to flight profiles, a change of base or hangar, any changes at familiar airport destinations, changes with maintenance, changes with scheduling / administrative software, changes to passengers, new passengers, pets, children, cargo, etc. can all trigger a need for an effective change management process.

How to Start the Change Management Process

Operational changes will often go deeper than just superficial procedural alterations. They may impact everyone in your department along with your Safety Management System (SMS), Operations Manuals, procedures, and risk profiles. There is a lot to consider during the first step of the process. Here are a few questions you can start with:

  • What is the nature of the change itself? Is this an isolated, one-off or broad, systemic change?
  • What are the possible risks/hazards associated with the change?
  • Will it impact training or other administrative tasks?
  • Will there be any impact to your hangar environment or ground handling operations?
  • What effects will the change have on scheduling and dispatching?
  • Will it affect restrictions on duties or duty times?
  • What operating, personnel, or pilot experience restrictions should be considered? (regulatory and company imposed)
  • Are there new regulatory requirements that the department needs to be made aware of (including State of Registry, State of Operations, and local governing bodies)?
  • Will the change affect your passengers?
  • How will your team feel about the change?

Establishing a change management procedure will give your team and fellow managers a solid framework for making change easier to implement. A little bit of planning can save a lot of grief and potential risk introduction later on.

Have questions or need help with change management? AviationManuals can provide you with a process and web based form that easily guides you through the different steps you have to take every time change happens. Contact our experts today.

Internal Auditing for Part-NCC Operators

EASA’s Part-NCC regulations and compliance need to be kept up-to-date continually. But what is the best way to make sure you are operating in accordance with what is defined in your manuals, policies and procedures? Recurring small internal audit tasks are an easy way to help keep your operation running smoothly and ensure you are ready when an auditor visits.

Why perform an internal audit?

Part-NCC, established by EASA, is a set of rules governing private aircraft operators of certain aircraft types. These rules outline requirements operators must meet including specifications for operations manuals, SMS, and compliance monitoring. For operators subject to Part-NCC, there is now the possibility of being audited by their respective national aviation authorities at any time. It is therefore critical to always stay up to date and compliant.

Performing internal audits will help ensure you are better prepared for an external audit by confirming that you are operating in accordance with regulations and what you have defined at all times. The audit tasks will check that you are conforming to the latest regulatory guidance and that you are following the procedures defined in your manuals. Expanding the internal audit beyond regulations to include your operational authorizations, approvals, exemptions, and manuals will not only ensure you are following them, but also provide you with the opportunity to ensure they are still appropriate for your operation in their current form. Implementing smaller recurring checks will help you remain on top of things as changes occur, so you don’t have to worry about updating everything all at once with a backlog of revisions.

In essence, the point of internal audits is to discover what needs to be changed and then actually making those changes. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve your organization, without automatically having to rely on an external person coming in to help you.

How do you do an internal audit?

As a best practice, internal audits should be performed throughout the year with the participation of multiple parties so the program becomes an easily manageable part of your operation. Start by creating a book of audit tasks.

Each operation is different and your book of audit tasks should be customized to how your company operates. Using standards, policies, and procedures outlined in your manuals and documentation, write a task that asks the reviewer to assess whether there is any discrepancy between what’s written and what’s actually being executed. Be sure to include a list of relevant documents the person performing the task should have on hand, such as manuals, training records, flight logs, operational authorizations, exemptions, etc., to make the auditing process simpler.

Most tasks should be written so that anyone in the company can perform them. This allows the work to be divided among all of the team members so they feel part of the operation’s improvement efforts and thus also ensuring the work does not end up solely with the Safety Manager or Chief Pilot.

After you have created your book of audit tasks, create a manageable system by splitting the tasks up into bite-size clusters to be performed periodically (e.g., monthly, quarterly, etc.). It’s easier to create an ongoing process of minor course corrections throughout the year than perform one large annual review. As the scheduled audit task dates approach, assign one or two tasks to various team members. After each person completes their assigned task, they should document their findings.

What do you do after your internal audit?

Once you’ve completed your audit, hopefully, the results show that everything is running smoothly and that your operation is complying with the regulations and following your own defined policies and procedures. But sometimes an audit can uncover issues, such as a necessary procedural update or new training requirements, which could affect the operations manual or the safety management system.

If there are discrepancies found, be sure to investigate the root cause of the discrepancy so that you can determine and implement corrective actions. Set a reminder to re-evaluate the corrective actions at a later date to ensure they have had the desired effect. Keep in mind that in some cases you may find that it is not the operation that is at fault, it’s your documents that need to be changed. This may be especially true if you have recently gone through any significant operational changes.

If your operation is not compliant, you run the risk of being grounded. So, make those spot-checks a regular part of your operation.

Take a look at our Internal Audit Program to help make self-audits easier. We can also help with Part-NCC compliance questions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The First Step in an Emergency Every Operator Should Know [+ Free Emergency Notification Form]

The best time to prepare for emergencies is long before they happen. By rehearsing, you could save precious minutes, and possibly lives, instead of panicking.

Download our free Emergency Notification Form

After all, you never know how you’ll react when an emergency strikes. Will you be cool and collected in the face of potential casualties or will you let your emotions take hold, even though the incident may be as minor as a sprained ankle from a hangar slip or fall?

Here’s some things to consider to be prepared:

Know your ERP

In aviation, a variety of incidents can occur any time – and you may be the one being called on first. Having a well established Emergency Response Plan (ERP) (that you’ve tested with your team) will help to ensure you’ve learned ahead of time which steps to take, so there isn’t a crisis you can’t handle.

1. Identify the source

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure the emergency is real. It helps if the source reporting it is reputable, such as a Rescue Coordination Center, NTSB, the FAA, or a similar organization. But if not, then you will want to gather as much information from the source as possible so your team can attempt to verify the report.

2. Gather details

Ask the caller for details. What exactly happened? Are you sure your aircraft is involved? What is the tail number? What is the time and location of the incident? What other details about the incident or aircraft can they share? There are key questions to ask, and remembering them all during an emergency is going to be difficult. It’s important to have a form available to your team so they can easily gather the information needed. Check out this free Emergency Notification Form you can download and use for your own organization.

3. Initiate your ERP

Who are you going to call? This would be the time to check your Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to see whom you need to alert.

What if you don’t have an ERP? Call the most senior flight department member available – and make a note to get an ERP once this is all over – it will make handling future situations like these so much easier.

4. Rally your team

Keep communications lines open. Has anyone been in touch with the people involved in the incident? Don’t stop at passengers and crew, but consider maintenance and other staff also – especially if the incident occurred in or around the hangar. If it’s serious enough, be prepared to notify friends and family.

Consider who may be involved in the incident and the people available to assist with a response. This may include uninjured team members near the site; federal, state, or local law enforcement or emergency personnel; or even passengers who are able to provide you with information. Your ERP may also direct you to bring in other team members such as maintenance personnel or dispatchers, who can provide technical and background information relevant to the situation.

What if it seems like a minor issue?

Even if it seems like a minor incident, rather than an accident, you should still call the next person in the ERP phone tree. This gives the responsible parties the opportunity to determine the level of response they would like to take and, if things progress further, it will be quick to fully activate the ERP if needed.

What about a false alarm?

Even if the incident or threat seems to be a false alarm, you should still let management know about it. They can then make the final determination about the incident and decide if they wish to further investigate why a call was made in the first place.

When should you report it to the NTSB?

Although not all types of aircraft incidents need to be reported to the NTSB, you may be surprised at those you should.

For example, a lithium battery fire during flight successfully handled with a fire bag with no injuries, must still be reported as an in-flight fire.

Have a look at the 49 CFR Part 830.5 list to see which emergencies to report.

Final essentials

Make sure your contact lists are always up-to-date and easily accessible: distribute print-outs and keep the list by the phone. You may want to have your team store critical, but non-confidential, numbers in their personal phones.

Here’s some advice on what to include in your ERP. Got any questions about our Emergency Response Plan service? Don’t hesitate to contact us.

Download our free Emergency Notification Form