Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

In today’s world and global economy, many industries face inherent risks involved in their operations which affect their customers or the environment. The chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, and nuclear power have all embraced safety management systems (SMS) for years. The aviation industry has also now adopted a comprehensive, systematic, formal approach to safety designed to mitigate and manage risk while eliminating the management bias from the equation.

The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) was formally introduced and made available to the business aviation community at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibit (EBACE) in Geneva, May 2002. IS-BAO was developed by the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is a code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve and ensure a high level of safety and professionalism. In many business sectors, international standards are recognized for their role in facilitating global commerce. IS-BAO is similar in this respect as its fundamental purpose is to foster standardized, safe, and highly professional aircraft operations.

The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) introduced the IS-BAO program for many reasons. IBAC recognized the need for the business aviation community to take a lead role in fostering harmonization of operating procedures and requirements. IBAC works closely with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) toward international standardization.

The president of the ICAO Council has endorsed the efforts of the business aviation community in developing an industry ‘code of best practices’. IS-BAO incorporates the International Standards and Recommended Practices for the Operation of Aircraft applicable to business aviation prescribed in ICAO Annex 6, Part II for International General Aviation.

The SMS Connection

Even after all the SMS “buzz” of the last couple of years, many operators and maintenance facilities are still asking themselves what SMS is all about. Very simply, ICAO has adopted Annex 6 via its member states. Annex 6 simply says each member state will require the implementation of an SMS by aviation service providers. Minimally, the implemented program must: identify safety hazards, ensure remedial action is taken to maintain an acceptable level of safety, provide for continuous improvement to the program and level of safety, and finally provide for the continuous monitoring and assessment of the achieved safety level. Direct accountability for safety both throughout the organization and at the senior most level of management must be clearly defined.

What this means for maintenance facilities is that when a SMS is implemented, safety requirements become part of the decision-making process of management just like any other part of running a business. No longer can safety be disregarded as a matter of cost cutting or managerial bias. A structure will be put into place that contains a set of practices and policy that looks keenly at the operation to determine just what the hazards are and what to do about them. For a maintenance facility particularly, there are added benefits to the operation: improved communication, enhanced performance, and clear expectations, resulting in everyone “singing from the same sheet of music.”

Basic Elements of SMS

There are four basic elements to an SMS, the first of which is a safety policy. The safety policy should clearly outline objectives that can be measured against. For a maintenance facility it is imperative everyone in the organization identify with and can get behind the stated objectives. Everyone understanding their contribution and viewing the safety objectives as a clear game plan will lead to a safer overall operation.

A risk assessment tool being the second primary element of an SMS is useful in identifying hazards that potentially could pose a risk to the operation. What this means in a maintenance operation is not only recognizing dangerous conditions, but looking at or seeing situations from a different perspective, one where you visualize all the ways something could fail, and proactively protect against them.

Thirdly, safety assurance is the element that ensures a means to figure out ways to control or mitigate risk. This may be accomplished by assigning people inside and out of the operation who are responsible for both internal process reviews for compliance as well as external vendor compliance with established performance parameters.

Finally, we must promote and encourage safety throughout the organization by establishing a positive safety culture through ongoing analysis and communication.

The IS-BAO standards for maintenance providers focuses on the maintenance operator’s Maintenance Control System which should be described in the company operations manual and identify the accountable person in the organization responsible for the maintenance control system. Additionally, the maintenance provider’s control system should define the details, scope, and parameters of maintenance agreements, to include the conditions under which they may be performed. Let’s review just some of the areas of maintenance operations where safety is enhanced with the implementation of an SMS.

The Maintenance Connection

The standards are written to ensure regulatory information and technical data appropriate to the work performed are utilized, and the work is in compliance with the operations manual. Maintenance training must ensure that personnel are familiar with regulations, standards, and procedures associated with certain work. Initial training of personnel, as well as aircraft type training, and recurrent training programs become embedded in the SMS.

Defect reporting and control should be included in the maintenance operator’s control system to ensure that defects detected during aircraft operation and during the performance of maintenance or servicing are recorded. Technical dispatch instructions which form the basis upon which the pilot in command will determine aircraft serviceability in respect of airworthiness directives, maintenance, and operational or operator requirements have their place in the SMS.

Positive tool and material control processes can reduce aircraft accidents and incidents which can result from tools and materials left inside an aircraft after maintenance has been performed. The process should be accounted for within maintenance forms and appropriate checklists such as final inspection checklist.

By now it is apparent that there is a fairly robust portion of the IS-BAO standard devoted to the maintenance function. The areas described are those that an auditor of your operation and facility will look at to determine if you are actually doing what your operations manual states you are doing.

When considering the development of an SMS, and registered compliance with the IS-BAO audit, many companies view the task as overwhelming. Do not let this deter you. In reality, you are most likely already doing about 85 percent of the work that the IS-BAO standard and the SMS would require. Instead look at the SMS as a way to review, prepare, and cross-check everything you are doing currently, then identify the safety gaps, and remedy them.

It should be pointed out that the IS-BAO standards have been established with the goal of enhancing safety, not to look over someone’s shoulder for what is wrong. Through a second set of eyes, it is verified that things are being done correctly for the benefit and safety of the I/A, the A&Ps, and the customer. The human factor pressures latently inherent in a maintenance operation often overwhelm managerial and nonmanagerial personnel. Complacency can creep in disguised as an attitude of “I am operating safely and don’t need to be criticized.” Truth be known, with this attitude prevalent, the longer you go without an accident or incident, the closer you are to having one.

Effective Aug. 25, 2009, IS-BAO is recognized as an industry standard for business aircraft operations by the European Committee for standardization, which enables a maintenance provider’s IS-BAO registration to be recognized within the proposed European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Implementing Rule System. EASA has formally begun the process of implementing SMS regulations for international operations.


Additional IS-BAO Information: International Business Aviation Council (IBAC)
Original Article: International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO)
Credit (Article): DeborahAnn Cavalcante
Credit (Photo): Textron Aviation