5 Most Important Things to Know Before Buying Aviation SMS Database

SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

5 Most Important Things to Know Before Buying Aviation SMS Database

                                                              Northwest Data Solutions

Posted by Christopher Howell on Dec 6, 2018 10:00:00 AM  

I Don’t Need an Aviation SMS Database!…or Do I?

Many aviation service providers today are researching features and capabilities to acquire databases to address documentation requirements of their aviation safety management system (SMS). Alternatively, these operators are not looking to acquire an SMS database, but to:

  1. learn how to design an SMS database in-house; or
  2. cobble together single point solutions to satisfy SMS regulators.

Why are aviation SMS databases important?

What should an aviation service provider know before running out and buying the cheapest SMS database on the market?

Aviation (SMS) are composed of structured processes. In most cases, aviation SMS enforce, and in other situations, encourage, aviation service providers to manage their SMS according to best practices established by:

The reason SMS databases are so important to aviation service providers is that many SMS documentation requirements need long term data storage and retrieval strategies from many disparate data sources. Let that sink in. You may even wish to re-read that sentence. The important phrase is:

long term data storage and retrieval strategies from many disparate data sources

For readers whose eyes are rolling back in their heads, this simply means that you need to store and retrieve data from many areas of the SMS that have different data elements, such as data from:

  • Safety reporting;
  • Accident investigations;
  • Hazard identification;
  • SMS Training;
  • Risk controls; and
  • Safety communications.

SMS Databases Automate Labor Intensive Tasks

In an SMS, there are many risk management activities that are time sensitive with due dates that cannot slip through the cracks. Otherwise, SMS regulatory auditors will identify your substandard safety performance and issue audit findings. After reacting to repeat audit findings, operators either:

  • end up complying and get proper tools to address substandard performance;
  • modify company’s risk management processes; or
  • lose their certificate (in two to four years based on my experience).

In addition to alerting safety teams and management of “problems in your risk management processes,” SMS databases are use to accurately automate labor-intensive data analysis and monitoring tasks, like

  • generating reports and trending charts;
  • providing and tracking SMS training;
  • detecting trends and automatically alerting management of trends;
  • collecting safety reports from various sources (web, email, third parties);
  • tracking hazard identification processes;
  • risk management processes;
  • safety communications;
  • setting and monitoring key safety performance indicators (KPIs or SPIs).

Based on many years of observations, aviation service providers are not having problems with reacting to events and applying corrective and preventive actions, the problems I see are operators having problems are managing the documentation. As I mentioned earlier, there data management tasks required in an SMS are no joke.

Furthermore, operators know what is most important to their operations (KPIs), their problem arises from:

  • monitoring;
  • measuring; 
  • analyzing; 
  • identifying trends; and
  • documenting results and corrective actions when necessary.

SMS is structured process. Operators need help documenting their risk management processes. As they start working the process and documenting their actions, then they will start being able to demonstrate continuous improvement of the SMS.

Factors Determining Benefits of SMS Database 

To help safety teams in their search for an aviation SMS database, here are a few things to consider before you throw time and energy into implementing aviation SMS software or building your own. Not every aviation service provider needs an SMS database.

I’ll be the first to tell you that some operators should not purchase an SMS database. Their safety culture and management commitment will not support long term data management initiatives.

There are several considerations that determine whether an SMS database will add any value to your company, such as:

  • Top management commitment;
  • Safety budget
  • Organization’s size and complexity;
  • Existing technological capabilities;
  • Employee technological maturity;
  • Maturity of SMS implementation;
  • Short term strategic business initiatives;
  • Effectiveness of regulatory oversight; and
  • Safety culture.

What Is an Aviation SMS Database?

Northwest Data Solutions

As of 2019, the Australians and Canadians are still the ones who most fully embrace the ICAO 2006 SMS mandate. These requirements are explained in ICAO Document 9859.

The rest of the world can learn from the growing pains suffered by the Canadians and Australians during their SMS implementations. For those of us that have been following SMS from the beginning, we have been able to identify trends in their SMS implementation processes.

Since these two countries paved the “SMS way,” countries following in their footsteps can leapfrog technological hurdles faced earlier by these two countries. “Leapfrogging” is a concept that you may run into during business and economic discussions. The best example that always sticks with me from my college days is the “mobile phone” example.

Third world countries adopted mobile phones without having to bear the huge expense of “hard-line” phones. In short, they leapfrogged over the hard line phones and directly adopted mobile phone technology. This leapfrogging allowed these counties to forebear the horrendous expense of telephone poles and tens of  thousands of miles of telephone wires.

Along the same vein, aviation service providers that are not in the leading technological edge of SMS data management can leapfrog technologies that have proven ineffective in managing SMS documentation requirements, such as spreadsheets and poorly integrated “point solutions.”

If your company has more than 50 employees, you should not consider spreadsheets to store SMS data. You will regret this and the accountable executive will not be pleased with the unnecessary risk. Another rule of thumb based on over a dozen years of observations is:

Do not use spreadsheets in companies with high employee turnover, even for small companies with 15-20 employees.

Point Solutions Next Phase of SMS Data Management Evolution

Point solutions are software products designed to satisfy one major business requirement, such as:

  • Safety reporting system;
  • Auditing system; 
  • Document management system; or
  • Training and qualifications system.

There are companies like Sabre and ETQ that actively search to acquire and market point solutions to provide to the aviation industry. These companies don’t generally develop solutions, but acquire point solutions and add them to their stable of software offerings.

In a few instances, these companies will integrate multiple point solutions into a single platform or product and relabel the new “integrated solution” under their brand. You may know this as “white labeling.” A white label product is produced by one company and then rebranded by another company to make it appear as if they made it. 

Point solutions may satisfy a particular business need, but often are not easily configurable to meet unique business needs. This becomes more true with white label SMS solutions because the company marketing the SMS solution doesn’t have the technological ability to easily customize the solution.

Another disadvantage of point solutions is that technical and customer support are not as responsive because support tickets are routed from the solutions provider back to the original software developers, and then returns through the same process. This “support ticket routing game” becomes obvious when tech support takes more than a couple hours to contact you with a solution to your problem. If technical support and flexible configuration capabilities are important to your company’s long term data management strategy, point solutions should not be considered.

The advantage of point solutions is that they are cheaper than fully integrated databases that have all the features required in a complete SMS database. Most operators don’t need all features in the beginning of their SMS implementations, so a point solution scratches the immediate itch.

Point solutions are a short-game strategy. There are valid business cases for adopting point solutions, but if you are a small company with fewer than 60 employees, these point solutions will come back and haunt you in five to six years into your SMS implementation. Larger operators may have available IT resources to integrate multiple point solutions, but if you are a smaller operator, or your IT support staff are overworked, then you should avoid point solutions in your SMS implementation.

Integrated Point Solutions Comprised of Multiple Databases

Point solutions usually have at least one database for each system; therefore, if your company has six point solutions to manage all SMS documentation requirements, then you will potentially have at least six distinct databases to store data. This is not an efficient data management strategy for aviation SMS.

Unfortunately, this complexity is hidden from clients who buy an integrated solution comprised of multiple point solutions. To the customer, they are buying “Brand X SMS.” They think they are buying “one product” when in reality, they may be buying 6 or 8 different “white label” products wrapped in a cute package with fancy marketing speak. Unsuspecting customers may not know what is under the covers until years later as they wonder why it is so hard to have a user-friendly configurable system.

The quickest way to spot these “white-label” integrated SMS solutions is look at their public facing documentation. How much detail do they show? If they don’t show much detail about their SMS solutions, chances are that this will be a white-label SMS package that may have been created for another industry, like:

  • Chemical;
  • Energy (petroleum);
  • Automotive, etc.

Best SMS Database is Designed For Specifically for SMS

The best solution with the lowest long-term maintenance cost is the single, enterprise-capable SMS database that was designed specifically to address aviation SMS documentation and performance monitoring requirements. An easy way to tell if an SMS database was designed specifically for the aviation industry is to look at the industry types the company markets to. It becomes highly unlikely the SMS database was built for aviation SMS when the SMS database provider is also selling to the other industries, like:

  • Automotive;
  • Chemical; 
  • Food;
  • Construction; and
  • Oil and gas.

Is it important that your SMS database provider sells to other industries? Are you concerned about the depth of SMS database provider’s subject matter expertise? These are both valid points to consider.

Retooling Systems In-House to Manage SMS Data Needs

Similar to the white-label software providers, some operators have been re-tooling existing database solutions, such as SharePoint and Spiceworks to serve as their SMS database. We have seen some ingenious hacks using “help desk support software” that was designed to support IT teams. The business argument was that the price was right.

This is again a short-game strategy.

As we have seen in Australia and Canada, in the early stages of the SMS implementation, safety mangers don’t know what data they are going to collect. What are they going to do with the data once they get it. These safety managers were addressing one implementation point at a time, without the experience of what the end game looks like. It was only years later, usually six to eight years, that accountable executives and safety teams realize that they had an unrealistic picture of the final product – and by final product, I’m referring the fully implemented SMS.

Based on what they knew at the time, safety managers adopted available tools in house, which were the spreadsheets, point solutions or retooled software solutions hacked together to satisfy the “immediate need” to demonstrate “something.”

Major shortcomings these operators finally realize after about three-to-five years is that they lack:

  • automated notifications of schedule slippages;
  • real-time SMS performance monitoring;
  • KPI management and KPI monitoring;
  • industry-accept hazard identification and risk control monitoring;
  • SMS-specific charting tools to analyze data and spot trends; and
  • automated email notifications from major activities (feedback and task assignment notifications).

As you can see, point solutions are great and scratch an immediate itch, but lack long term sustainability. For a long term SMS data management strategy, don’t implement your SMS using point solutions.

Benefits of an SMS Database During SMS Implementation

We have worked with hundreds of aviation service providers in many countries since 2007 as they implemented SMS, or as they re-implemented failed systems. We provide an SMS database built following ICAO’s four components. In short, we have seen hundreds of SMS implementations and we are also SMS data management experts. We are not white-label SMS resellers, but genuine aviation SMS database architects and developers.

We have worked with many different types of operations, which is very cool for us. As you may know, it is not just airlines and airports that are required to implement formal SMS. The list also includes, 

  • Aviation maintenance;
  • Air traffic control;
  • Flight Schools;
  • Aviation equipment manufacturers;
  • Ground handling companies.

In the early days after ICAO mandated formal SMS adoption, the Canadians and Australians resorted to tools they knew best and had in-house, including:

  • MS Word,
  • MS Excel, 
  • MS Access, and maybe
  • SharePoint.

After several years of implementing their SMS, many of these companies realized that the data management requirements of fully implemented SMS required professionally designed SMS databases. To be perfectly candid, they didn’t realize this solely on their own, but from SMS auditors. This became even more evident for companies with more than 100 employees, regardless of whether they were:

  • Airlines;
  • Airports; or
  • Aviation maintenance organizations.

For the major operators with more than 1,000 employees, these companies have IT support that could either develop their own system or integrate multiple point solutions to address regulatory requirements.

These smaller to mid-sized companies also tried in-house solutions and point solutions. Finally, they had come to realize that it is easier, more cost effective and less risky to simply acquire an SMS database from a company that focuses on such systems. After all, you don’t buy an aircraft from an auto manufacturer. Subject matter expertise runs more deeply in a company that dedicates its energies to satisfying SMS data management requirements.

From my experience, aviation service providers in the Middle East and Europe didn’t suffer as long as the Canadians in their SMS implementations. This may be due to better training or a better understanding of the data management requirements of these fully developed aviation SMS. If you are an operator in the Middle East, your biggest challenge will be to acquire top management commitment and support to acquire tools to demonstrate SMS compliance. Each geographic region has their own challenges. Luckily, I’ve been blessed by being exposed to most regions around the world.

So what does an aviation SMS database offer before, during and after an SMS implementation process?

  • Centralized data storage;
  • SMS gap analysis tools to evaluate existing tools and processes;
  • SMS implementation management;
  • Secure access by all members of the aviation organization based on role;
  • Improved data security;
  • Improved organizational communication; 
  • Enhanced accountability;
  • Less risk to the organization; and
  • Real-time SMS performance monitoring.

Best Practices Achievable Using SMS Databases

Professionally designed aviation SMS databases can also ensure that operators are following data management best practices. When multiple managers have access to the same data, there is less chance to ignore reported hazards and safety concerns. There is increased accountability and transparency across the organization’s SMS.

In addition to best practices, employees become more involved in the SMS when the SMS database is user-friendly and the workflows are logical. There is nothing more of a buzz-kill than a crappy SMS database that doesn’t work or is not user friendly.

A poorly designed SMS database is a threat to your safety culture. I learned long ago that an airline will suffer a long time before ditching substandard software. It is expensive to change. You have to consider

  • legacy data to import into the new system;
  • training employees on the new system; and
  • reviewing SMS manual to align risk management processes to new software.

The point is that it is less expensive to choose wisely in the first place. Otherwise your company’s safety culture will suffer for many years to come, unless you get out of the bad relationship within the first year or two.

SMS Databases Encourage Repeatable Risk Management Processes

SMS is a structured process. Perhaps the single most important advantage of an SMS database is that it facilitates repeatable risk management processes. Business rules can be enforced to ensure designed risk management procedures are followed according to your SMS manual. This becomes increasingly important for larger companies that are “process driven” or companies with high staff turnover.

The SMS database also reduces risk for the accountable executive. They can be assured the SMS is performing in all areas of the organization and alert management when substandard safety performance is detected. If your company needs repeatable risk management processes, and you don’t have time to develop your own, the quick fix is to acquire an SMS database.

Not having defined risk management processes becomes especially more important when the operator still doesn’t have a good SMS manual. SMS manuals are a major concern for new SMS implementations as safety managers work diligently to organize:

  • Safety policies;
  • Duties and responsibilities of key safety personnel;
  • Organizational chart;
  • Safety reporting processes;
  • Risk management processes;
  • Auditing and safety assurance;
  • Hazard analysis (safety risk analysis); 
  • Safety training;
  • and so on…

Some SMS database solutions have an SMS manual template to get new operators started on the right track and to reduce frustrations. SMS manual templates allow safety managers to get a huge jump start on their SMS implementation. This becomes increasingly important when safety managers come to an organization with poorly documented risk management processes. 

Safety managers without documented risk management processes are grasping for some sort of help, and these SMS manual templates are wonderful because they have well-defined, industry accepted best practices already incorporated in the SMS manual templates.

What to Expect from Aviation SMS Software?

When we talk about an aviation SMS database, it is important to understand that the database is simply half of the solution. The user interface is the other half. Most safety professionals think that the SMS database and the user-interface are the same. However, if the safety manager has an IT background, the safety manager will realize the database is only used to store organized data in logical tables, like a spreadsheet.

To be absolutely correct, SMS software, in most cases, is a Web application. This is a detail that may not excite you, but if you are thinking about buying an SMS database, you will also be getting the front-end where the user interacts with the database using pretty workflows and business logic that prompts you to do something. The Web application may also enforce data restraints, such as required fields, or send email notifications when you assign a task to another user.

To us in the IT world, what I described is a Web application, but you may recognize it as a “software program.” There is a database in the back end that stores data. You can think of the database as having hundreds of related data tables. Software (the Web application) accesses this data, either retrieving or storing the data according to security and functional requirements of the software.

An aviation SMS software program offers little value unless the user interface is:

  • Full-featured;
  • Intuitive;
  • User-friendly;
  • Flexible (or configurable); and
  • Easily adaptable when technologies change (such as from desktop to mobile).

When you shop for your aviation SMS database, consider your goals and needs. For example, if you are already using SharePoint, you may not need a robust version-controlled document management system integrated within your safety portal.

At the bare minimum, your aviation safety database should consist of the following:

  • Web-based hazard reporting forms;
  • Automated email notification of events;
  • Risk management workflow to assess, classify and perform investigations;
  • Corrective/Preventive Action tracking;
  • KPI management and monitoring;
  • Data analysis and export features to MS Excel; and
  • User-friendly charting and graphing tools.

Again, these are the bare minimum features the cheapest aviation SMS database software should offer. The more sophisticated systems will have:

  • Offline features for safety reporting and auditing;
  • Proactive hazard analysis (safety risk analysis);
  • Hazard and risk registers;
  • Message boards with “read files”;
  • Auditing suites for scheduling and managing audits;
  • Training and qualification management; 
  • SMS training delivery and tracking of initial and recurrent SMS training; and
  • SMS performance monitoring dashboards.

To sum this up, your SMS database scratches the itch affecting all aviation safety managers:

“how and where do I store all my SMS documentation?”

SMS Performance Monitoring Is Required

Your accountable executive has major responsibilities to the SMS. For starters, they need to make sure their SMS is properly implemented and working as designed across the entire organization. They also need to regularly review safety performance. Whenever problems are identified, either by the safety team or by external auditors, they are responsible for fixing the substandard safety performance.

In order to assure the accountable executive that the SMS is performing, you will need tools to monitor SMS performance. SMS performance monitoring dashboards and email notifications (or alerts) afford accountable executives some assurance that the SMS is performing as expected. The alternative is the accountable executive may as well be on another planet, unaware of what will happen to him should a major event occur.

The unaware accountable executive will be the one who is not committed to the SMS and will not support the SMS budget for the SMS database. The unaware accountable executive deserves a “spreadsheet SMS” because they are telling the safety team that all he is concerned with is a “paper SMS.” He just wants to check the box.

I’ll keep repeating that a “paper SMS” is not always a bad thing. There are business cases that support “checking the box.” However, if your company really is sincere about benefiting from SMS risk management processes, then the accountable executive needs to budget for an SMS database to effectively monitor SMS performance and be able to respond to substandard performance in a timely manner.

What Options Do I Have with Aviation SMS Databases

When it comes to aviation SMS software solutions, the options are virtually endless and are growing daily. Technology constantly changes, so even the existing aviation SMS databases are changing rapidly.

Most of the popular aviation SMS solutions are subscription based and some have the option of hosting on your server. With a subscription to aviation SMS database software, the subscription payments are typically monthly or annually. Costs vary by the number of employees or number of aircraft. Operators that focus pricing on the number of aircraft are commonly flight operations specific and their solutions are not as flexible as those that don’t focus on aircraft.

There are also some free aviation SMS solutions on the market. Free aviation SMS software may be great for starting your SMS program, but don’t expect to have all the features of a paid subscription. Smaller operators and many governmental agencies without an aviation SMS budget typically sign up for the free aviation SMS subscriptions.

Are Aviation SMS Databases Right for Our Company?

If your company has more than 20 employees, you should invest in an aviation SMS software program to save yourself pain and misery caused by managing the aviation SMS requirements.

Experience has shown that aviation service providers will suffer about eight to ten years of pain before realizing that they need help managing all the data associated with required aviation SMS documentation.

If you don’t have top management support, then an aviation SMS database may not be your answer. Lack of top management support is the number one reason why aviation SMS fail.

A good rule of thumb is; if your company has 40 or more employees, you will definitely need software tools to manage your data. Otherwise, expect to have audit findings and know that you will suffer repeatedly whenever auditors come calling.

What Benefits Can We Expect with Aviation SMS Database

We will review the benefits described above:

  • Centralized data storage;
  • Secure access by all members of the aviation organization;
  • Improved data security;
  • Improved organizational communication;
  • Enhanced safety culture;
  • Repeatable risk management processes;
  • Enhanced accountability; and
  • Less risk to accountable executive.

Which Aviation SMS Databases Are Worth Considering?

There are probably three or four aviation SMS software providers that have comparable products. If you Google “aviation SMS software,” you will find the top companies on the first page. Aviation SMS database programs are not that expensive, with some of them as low as $100 per month for smaller operators.

Before you purchase an aviation SMS software solutions, make sure the database will be able to grow with your needs. Also, research how the SMS database will help solve your problems when you are implementing your aviation SMS program.

Did I mention that we provide an SMS database?

If you need an SMS database,

  • we are not white-label; and
  • we have a single, enterprise-grade database; with
  • excellent customer support


After watching the videos above, you may have questions. Sign up for a live demo. No pressure.

Published August 2015. Last updated January 2019.

Topics: Aviation SMS Database

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body

Aviation Fatigue Risk Management integration with Jeppesen CrewAlert

FRMS Integration

Fatigue has been cited as a contributing factor in aviation accidents. Therefore, a robust Safety Management System (SMS) must take fatigue into account. Capturing and analyzing data within the SMS provides tangible evidence to both airlines and pilots on the effect of fatigue.

An effective Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) will rely on a culture that encourages reporting of observed hazards during operations. Under this culture, the pilot will be comfortable feeding back information on their performance during a flight. The analysis of the data captured provides information to the airline operations department, allowing them to proactively manage the impact of fatigue and adjust their recommendations for flying hours and rest times. This analytical, proactive approach to fatigue risk management builds on the same principles as those applied to SMS.

Ideagen Gael have partnered with Jeppesen, (Press release) a unit of Boeing Flight Services, to provide airlines with a new automated solution to report crew fatigue. CrewAlert, an iPhone application built on the Boeing Alertness Model (BAM), has been designed to help airlines and their crews manage alertness and fatigue. Through the partnership, CrewAlert is able to automatically submit crew fatigue reports directly into Ideagen Gael’s Q-Pulse product. This co-ordination allows airlines to create safety reports that aid root cause analysis when working to reduce crew fatigue

Dassault to expand Little Rock completion centre

By:   Dave Majumdar Washington DC

12:00 3 Jun 2013 Source:FLIGHT

Dassault is planning to expand its completion center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in anticipation of the company’s new Falcon SMS business jet, which will be unveiled later this year.

“Our next step in the Falcon family is an airplane – the code name is SMS – and that’s really why we needed to extend our presence here,” says John Rosanvallon, president and chief executive of Dassault‘s Falcon Jet division. “This brand new Falcon will be introduced at the next NBAA [National Business Aviation Association] convention in Las Vegas [Nevada] in October and we believe it will be the best Falcon yet.”

Over the next three years, Rosanvallon says Dassault will invest $60 million in new construction and the refurbishment of its existing facilities in Little Rock.

The construction will add 250,000 sq ft (23,225 sq m) to the factory’s 1 million sq ft of floor space. The project will also include refurbishments of the cabinet, upholstery and headliner shops and upgrades to older hangars.

Site preparation for the work will start in early 2014 and construction will be undertaken through the early part of 2016.


Sextant Readings Solutions – aviation professionals with a focus on Safety and Risk Management, Quality Management and Quality Assurance, and Compliance for the Aviation Industry.  Sextant Readings Solutions is an IS-BAO Support Services Affiliate, IS-BAO safety consultant, and Auditor.  Ideagen Gael Limited recognizes Sextant Readings Solutions as the authorized re-seller of Q-Pulse®, Ideagen Gael Risk® and MindGenius® for aviation for the Americas.

Risk Integration

Sextant Readings Solutions - Integration


An effective SMS Information Management solution has the ability and framework to be successfully integrated with other software systems – allowing organizations to link their existing business systems with the risk management solution.

The integration is achieved by utilizing APIs, allowing organizations to seamlessly operate a series of existing systems concurrently with the SMS Information Management solution for increased benefit. Indeed, if there is intelligent data being stored on a standalone system within your organization, it would make sense to integrate this system with a SMS Information Management solution.

An effective SMS Information Management solution can be integrated to ensure your risk management is effective and allowing you to make the right preventive decisions before it is too late. For example, when reviewing a risk control linked to a procedure, The SMS Information Management solution provides you with a summary that highlights key information such as non-conformances, review dates and audit dates and links to documents, assets, incidents and non-conformances to provide the information you need to assess your system.



Risk Learning and Sharing

Sextant Readings Solutions - Risk Learning and sharing

Learning and Sharing

Lessons learned from incidents and near misses need to be shared across the organization. This can be very challenging in multi-national and geographically disparate situations and can leave organizations exposed if it can be proved that an incident could have been prevented, or would have been less serious, had the learning from a previous event been shared effectively.

Sextant Readings Solutions - Global Reach

An effective SMS Information Management solution provides the ability to share learning and best practice in a controlled manner. This capability imust be two-way, allowing for command and control from a central location and also from the local autonomy where conditions differ from what is regarded as normal

Management Oversight

Sextant Readings Solutions - Risk Management Oversight

Management Oversight

While executives have ultimate responsibility for risk and safety, it is not always practical for them to know or be aware of all the detail. They typically rely on appointed staff to provide them with reports to satisfy themselves that risk and safety is managed effectively.

An effective SMS Information management solution provides key insight into the risk management system to provide executives with status reports, outstanding actions, alerts and gap analysis.

A dashboard facility is available to bring focus to what needs closer scrutiny. The dashboard is flexible, allowing each individual user to determine the information that is of relevance to them.

Action management highlights actions pending and those overdue. Workflow management provides the ability to route information across the business as appropriate. Escalation management is provided to alert where the management system is not been responded to.

A comprehensive range of standard reports is further complemented with an intuitive report designer, enabling users to create and add to the library reports they find of interest.

All management systems generate reviews of systems, processes, people and risk assessments. These are managed with all relevant staff made aware of their responsibilities.

Intelligence from other sources of information within the business, can be made available in in an effective SMS Information Management solution to get closer to real time risk assessment, test assumptions and further strengthen the management system. An effective SMS Information Management solution must be a very open system, and is designed to share information with other sources of intelligence within an organization.

AIN Online reports “Safety should be a core value for every business aviation operation, not just a priority,” according to Merlin Preuss, CBAA

“Safety should be a core value for every business aviation operation, not just a priority, ” according to Merlin Preuss, CBAA

It’s wrong to label safety a priority, according to Merlin Preuss, vice president of government and legislative affairs for the Canadian Business Aviation Association. “That’s because it’s much too easy to change priorities as the world evolves,” he told last month’s Business Aviation Safety Seminar in Montreal (BASS).



Sextant Readings Solutions – aviation professionals with focus on Compliance, Quality Management and Quality Assurance, Safety and Risk Management for the Aviation Industry, is an IS-BAO Support Services Affiliate and IS-BAO safety consultant and Auditor

Good new book on the dangers of bureaucratization of your SMS. Reviewed by Rick Darby representing Flight Safety Foundation and Aerosafety World

 Proceed With Caution

Is over-specification of procedures a potential safety hazard?

BY RICK DARBY representing Flight Safety Foundation and AeroSafety World

A Never-Ending Story

Trapping Safety into Rules: How Desirable or Avoidable is Proceduralization?

Bieder, Corrine; Bourrier, Mathilde (editors). Farnham, Surrey, England and Burlington, Vermont, U.S: Ashgate, 2013. 300 pp. Figures, tables, references, index.

Trapping Safety into Rules — there is a title as provocative as you are likely to see this year in books aimed at aviation safety professionals.

No one needs a definition of rules. Bieder and Bourrier describe “proceduralization” as “firstly, the aim of defining precise and quantified safety objectives, and secondly, the aim of defining a process, describing and prescribing at the same time how to achieve such objectives.” Unfortunately, “these two aspects are usually not defined by the same entity. Some inconsistencies may even exist between the two types of procedures.”

Questioning the role of rules and proceduralization goes to the heart of commercial aviation, one of the most heavily rule-bound industries. Almost every aspect of the industry is covered by regulations (a subset of rules), standard operating procedures, standards and best practices. Accident investigation reports usually conclude with recommendations for new regulations and procedures.

The remarkable safety record of the industry is due in large part to effective procedures. They are the result of lessons learned from accidents and incidents, as well as research and predictive analysis.


Airline Safety System Comes to Helicopter Sector

Reported May 2 2013, the FAA is expanding the safety data collection capabilities of The Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system with the move to open the program to Helicopter operators.  With the proven success of ASIAS in reducing accident rates in commercial air space operations, we believe that the ASIAS capabilities will help helicopter operators achieve measurable safety improvements.

Source:  Aviation International News » May 2013

by  Mark Huber

May 2, 2013, 5:35 AM

The FAA is planning to expand a new safety data collection and analysis system beyond scheduled air carriers to all elements of the aviation community, including helicopters. The move comes as the helicopter industry formally acknowledged earlier this year that, while it has made considerable progress, it will likely fall short of the International Helicopter Safety Team’s (IHST) goal of reducing the helicopter accident rate by 80 percent by 2016. Industry efforts to date have resulted in a 30-percent reduction since 2005.

The Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system collects information from a wide variety of sources, including flight data recorders. Initially, when the program began in 2007, thirteen airlines and the FAA joined the initiative. The FAA’s role is non-punitive. Today, membership has grown to 44 airlines representing 96 percent of commercial airspace operations and 131 safety data sources, according to the FAA. The Mitre Corp. analyzes and safeguards proprietary airline data; integrates it with Mitre’s own aviation safety databases covering weather, radar tracks, airspace and traffic and other public data; conducts studies; and builds analysis capabilities. Airline data is shared over Mitre secure servers and includes pilot safety reports and FDR data. Mitre began delivering safety studies generated by the program to the FAA and stakeholders in 2008. The studies had an immediate benefit, including the redesign of airspace in select regions to thwart false Taws alerts. ASIAS also establishes safety measurement benchmarks that allow individual operators to see where they stack up against the industry as a whole.

The data trove collected to date is huge. It includes 125,000 aviation safety action program reports, 10 million flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) reports, and 50,000 air traffic safety action program reports. Although the system is relatively new, to date, seven of the 76 safety enhancements proposed by the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (Cast) have been derived from ASIAS data. ASIAS also tracks the effectiveness of those enhancements as well as 51 distinct metrics. Twice annually, 500 airline aviation safety professionals share safety information at closed-door “Infoshare” meetings. Issues discussed are linked to ASIAS for early detection and analysis.

Helicopter Applications

ASIAS is scalable to the helicopter industry, particularly in areas where there is a high concentration of operations such as the Gulf of Mexico, according to several sources familiar with the program. Preliminary discussions have already begun with the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST), said Stan Rose, director of safety for the Helicopter Association International (HAI). Morphing ASIAS for helicopters would involve different metrics and data, but similar analysis tools could be used. “The reason the Gulf is attractive is that it is a big enough [data set] and accounts for approximately 25 percent of the helicopter flight hours in the U.S.,” Rose said.

To a certain degree, major operators in the Gulf are already sharing safety data and other information through the HeliShare program and its quarterly meetings, said Stuart Lau, chairman of the IHST’s helicopter flight data monitoring committee. Lau said that current plans are to integrate HeliShare members and their data fully into ASIAS by the third quarter and add major helicopter EMS providers into the group. “The FAA has funded the rotorcraft segment to be included in ASIAS, and we are currently working with operators on memoranda of understanding and other logistical details.” Lau said Gulf operators are a natural starting point because they have “the most mature flight data monitoring programs. It’s really the beginning stages of ASIAS for us and we are going to continue the quarterly HeliShare meetings. So far it has been successful and at every meeting more events are shared operator to operator. Once we get ASIAS involved we will have the opportunity for directed studies.”

NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told AIN he thinks the application of ASIAS to the helicopter industry will add to safety management initiatives and be a good way to prevent data siloing. “If you are just stove piping and not sharing information” accidents can result. “You need to collect, analyze and disseminate the information,” Sumwalt said, adding that “protocols need to be put in place to make sure that information is not being misused. The ASIAS protocols have been vetted. The air carrier industry has been doing this for a number of years. The ASIAS executive board decides the cases it wants to study and queries its members to check their databases. Nobody at the FAA or at Mitre can tap into member databases. It’s been really successful.”

“This is one of the next steps” the helicopter industry must make to further reduce its accident rate, Sumwalt said. “Until it does it is not going to make any appreciable improvement on the accident record until it is willing and able to go to this next step. The IHST effort has been fairly successful, but if they want to continue the uphill climb, they have to go to the next level, which is something like [ASIAS].”

Sumwalt said that for the helicopter industry to hit a plateau in the accident reduction rate is not unusual, based on the airlines’ experience with safety goals set by Cast, widely acknowledged as the model for the IHST, in the 1990s. “Even that model had to move the goal post a couple of times, but they still did a heck of a lot and they still did make a difference. Good safety is good business. ASIAS is a good model to share information in a non-threatening way.

Obama taps Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as Transportation Secretary

President Barack Obama has tapped Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next Transportation Secretary.

Should the Senate approve of the nomination, Foxx will replace Ray LaHood, who decided to step down from his position near the end of January.

LaHood decided to stay on until a suitable successor was found and in the time since then has been very vocal about the state of decline American infrastructure has found itself in.

LaHood also took to his FastLane blog to discuss Foxx’s nomination calling him “the right man for the job.” LaHood pointed out pieces of Foxx’s experience that deal with specific infrastructure issues the country is currently facing, citing the Charlotte Streetcar Project, improvements made to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the expanded LYNX light rail system, freight and passenger rail upgrades and redesigned intersections on Interstate 85.

In response to his nomination Foxx said reaching across the aisle will be a priority under his oversight. “We must work together across party lines to enhance this nation’s infrastructure,” he said