Almost two years have passed since the launch of the ISBAH audit standard. By now, you’ve probably heard about the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) and what it means for aircraft ground service providers. If you’re like many in the industry, however, you probably also have several unanswered questions about how the standard works in practice, and how it interfaces with the work you are already doing. While IS-BAH may sound like just another round of best practices, it is much more than a passing fad. In fact, the fundamental elements of IS-BAH provide operators with far-reaching benefits, including international compliance, marketing advantages, better efficiency and communication, and of course, safety and more resilient operations.
Many aircraft operators are ahead of those of us in the ground services industry in terms of a systems-level view of managing safety and quality. IS-BAO, Air Charter Safety Foundation and other audit standards have been around for years in Parts 91 and 135 flight operations, and are often a requirement for client contracts or charter brokers. Today, hundreds of flight operations have undergone the rigorous process for achieving IS-BAO registration. In the February 2015 issue of the Aviation Business Journal, I wrote about defining safety as much more than the absence of negative events; and the comprehensive framework of IS-BAO has proven a valuable system for helping operators better manage safety, quality, and operational effectiveness. IS-BAH provides the same benefits to ground handling organizations, and it complements existing programs for training and service.
IS-BAO and IS-BAH are managed by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and were developed by members of the business aviation and handling communities. We’ll focus a bit more on IBAC—as opposed to some of the other standardization bodies—because it is the organization that manages the IS-BAH standard. IBAC’s member organizations include 14 business aviation associations from around the world. IBAC has permanent observer status with the International Civil Aviation Organization; and is an advocate for the business aviation community in that forum as well as others. When an operator chooses to conduct an audit to the IS-BAH standard, they do so through one of the accredited auditors listed on the IBAC website. IBAC itself does not conduct audits, so any agreement for the conduct, expectations, and costs associated with an audit are arranged between the operator and the auditor they choose.
Standards at face value are a way to provide structure and assurance that products and services are delivered safely and reliably and meet certain basic levels of quality. From an organizational perspective, standards are more than just a means for achieving quality and safety. They provide a framework for strategic direction as well, by incorporating a set of tools to minimize waste and errors, capitalize on improvements in communication, and increase productivity. IS-BAH and IS-BAO share common roots in the long-established ISO 9001 standard, one of the many standards the International Organization for Standardization promulgates around the world.
The primary focus of the IS-BAH standard (and the IS-BAO) is on systems. What that often means in practice is that we must adopt a holistic, process-based view of how we approach our business. Even in the heavily-regulated world of Part 121 and 135 carriers, standards are a useful way of codifying not only what we do, but how we do it at an organizational level, and how we continuously improve as a group. An important distinction is that IS-BAH is a performance standard. Rather than focusing on compliance with a strict set of guidelines, the standard seeks to push registered operators to design systems that can be monitored and validated toward reducing inefficiency and better identifying risk. Risk is an important element to IS-BAH, because the central tenet of the standard is a sound, appropriate, and effective safety management system.
Why is participation in a standard like IS-BAH a great idea, even if you already utilize the NATA Safety 1st Professional Line Service (PLST) curricula? The short answer is Continue reading