Business aviation’s safety record isn’t bad but it needs to improve to match commercial air transport, and the Flight Safety Foundation is working to achieve that. FSF’s Greg Marshall talks to Dave Calderwood.
Business aviation has a long way to go to become as safe as commercial air transport and the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), along with other organisations and partners such as the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) and National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA), are highlighting the specific threats to business aviation, wherever it takes place.
Comparing accident numbers per hours flown is commonly used but that favours commercial air transport because of the generally longer time spent in the cruise, traditionally the safest part of a flight. So, these days, another measure to look at is the fatal accident rate per departures – the reasoning is that the greatest threats to flight are during take-off, approach and landing.
Boeing’s much-respected annual accident report shows that scheduled commercial air transport has a global fatal accident rate of 0.033 per 100,000 departures. That’s an incredible one in three million chance.
For business aviation, turn to the 2015 safety report by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and the corresponding global fatal accident rate is 0.40 per 100,000 departures for all business aircraft, jets and turboprops. That’s one in 250,000, a much higher accident rate. These figures are averaged over a number of years to iron out any ‘bad years’.
However, it’s not all bad news. Dive deeper into IBAC’s figures and corporate aviation jet traffic is achieving a very similar figure to commercial air transport, with 0.03 accidents per 100,000 departures. So, business aviation can be just as safe as commercial air transport.
The FSF isan international non-profit organisation whose sole purpose is to provide impartial, independent, expert safety guidance and resources for the aviation and aerospace industry. Vice-president of global programmes, Greg Marshall, said: “In commercial aviation, the risks are very well known. However, in business aviation, it’s quite different as it’s obviously on-demand services in support of a corporation’s activities.
“There are a number of areas where we have concerns. One is ‘rates of effort’, which looks at how much flying activity is being undertaken by an organisation and the utilisation of crews. So, when you have a high rate of effort, you’re basically maximising the use of the airframes and the crews that you have available.
“High rates of effort can be fine provided they’re adequately managed but problems can occur if you have a number of changes that affect crew scheduling,” continued Marshall. “If you have crews rostered for certain flights and you have a number of short-notice changes to those flights that affect rostering, then you introduce the potential for fatigue issues. The trick is to have adequate systems in place so you are managing the fatigue that’s associated with high rates of effort.
“We know that a number of business aviation operations are running under fairly high rates of effort. There’s more demand on crews to operate long-haul, where they are required to operate fairly frequently to and from various destinations in the world. That can result in a number of issues, including fatigue for crew, but also it can mean management pilots are not spending enough time administering the business because they’re required to fly more often. The other consideration is that there are time pressures put on crews to operate at relatively short notice.
“One of the biggest risks we see in business aviation is within a company that might have a small flight department and there might only be a limited set of crews. The potential demand