No two flight operations are alike, but most Risk Assessment Tools (RAT) treat operators as if they are all the same. It is important to tailor and adapt your RAT to effectively capture your specific risk levels.
The Whole Operation
Risk assessments should include more than just the flight itself. In addition to flight, risk factors for private aviation can include maintenance and ground operations.
Using machinery and specialized equipment, hazardous chemicals, dispatching an aircraft after maintenance, or even small modifications can introduce risk to an operation. Evaluating these risks prior to dispatching an aircraft is vital.
Hangar rash, fuel spills, a bad-catering order, or oil on the hangar floor are just some examples of potential risks on the ground.
It is important for your system to have separate RATs for each area of your operation to reduce the length of each form and prevent personnel from having to look through factors that do not apply to them.
Incorporate SMS Results
SMS Metrics can help to identify new factors or fine-tune existing ones that you may find to be associated with elevated risk within in your operation.
During your regular analysis of SMS data, the root causes and risk factors (Operational, Technical, Facilities, etc.) listed on submitted forms should be reviewed. Recurring items or ones that result in more severe outcomes may indicate an increased risk. These factors should be added to your RAT, if not already included, or their risk value should be reconsidered.
Tailored Risk Response
The thresholds of when a risk assessment is considered low, medium, or high might be different for each company. Subsequently the process of who should be involved in evaluating those risks should also differ.
Instructions and notifications provided by the RAT system should align with the procedures in your operations manuals. Determining your Medium and High risk value thresholds and who should receive those alerts are key elements to a customized alert system.
Additionally, you want to make sure your RAT only sends notifications to people when they have actionable items. This encourages more efficient responses by preventing team members from feeling spammed with notifications that are not relevant to them.
Significant changes to your operation (e.g., acquisition of a new aircraft type, change in maintenance arrangements, new types of operations, etc.) will initiate your SMS’s Change Management process. This process should include a re-evaluation of your RAT’s factors, risk values, and response.
When significant changes occur, review whether or not your existing RAT profiles are still applicable to the whole operation. For example: If you bring aircraft maintenance in-house or you move to a new hangar, you may need to create an MRAT (maintenance) or GRAT (ground).
You should also review your existing RAT to ensure factors, risk values, and responses are still appropriate for your operation. Keep in mind that significant changes may result in new responsibilities for some team members. Risk response trigger levels and process flow should be reviewed to ensure that the correct people are involved.
Your Experience and Type of Operations
Factors included in your RAT should reflect all possible types of operations performed. Add or remove factors depending on whether or not they apply to your operation (e.g., Single-pilot flights, International operation).
Risk levels assigned to each factor should take into account your flight experience and exposure. If your operation is based in a mountainous area, your risk level will probably be lower than it would be for a department surrounded by flat terrain.
The Case for Single Pilot Operations
Each year, The NBAA Safety Committee identifies the Association’s top safety focus areas, highlighting a number of priorities in support of a greater commitment to business aviation safety standards. For 2018, single-pilot operations made the list. According to its findings, accident rates are consistently higher for single-pilot operated aircraft (there is a 30% greater likelihood of being involved in an accident than in aircraft flown with a dual-pilot crew). As single-pilot operations increase, so does the necessity to arm single-pilot business aviators with risk management tools. Without a RAT that is customizable to a Single Pilot operation, the tool does not capture unique risks to the operation and becomes ineffective.
The situations you are faced with each day are unique to your operation. Customizing and updating your RAT is key to accurately identifying and evaluating potential risks.
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