Don Baldwin, President & CEO of Baldwin Aviation, discusses his company’s development of easy-to-use, intuitive, customized Safety Management Systems to provide a comprehensive and supportive safety programs for each client’s organization.
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In his three decades of general and global business aviation experience as Aviation Director for Coca-Cola and long-time flight department manager for Texaco®, Don devised countless creative ways to integrate services and software among the company’s small, satellite flight operations to improve safety and standards.
While serving as NBAA interim President and Chairman of the Board, Don became even more convinced that smaller flight departments require and deserve the same level of resources, services, and safety management as their larger counterparts. With the creation of Baldwin Aviation Safety & Compliance, safety management programs became available to all sizes of flight departments that weren’t fortunate enough to have Texaco or Coca-Cola sized support.
In 2010, Don was awarded certification in Aviation Safety & Security through the renowned University of Southern California – Viterbi School of Engineering program and is a Registered Safety Professional of the ISSP (International Society of Safety Professionals). Besides chairing the NBAA Board and sitting on numerous NBAA committees, Don’s industry involvement has also included positions on NetJets Advisory Board, FAA FOARQ Committee, Gulfstream Advisory Board, Signature Flight Support Advisory Board, and Embraer Advisory Board to mention a few.
Founded in 2004, Baldwin Aviation Safety & Compliance became the only IS-BAO registered SMS implementer in 2007, followed by Stage II registration in 2010. In 2013, Baldwin successfully met the requirements for a Stage III audit. In 2012, Baldwin became the 1st IS-BAO Support Services Affiliate (I3SA) – further supporting Baldwin’s leadership position by providing the assurance that Baldwin SMS programs meet regulatory compliance requirements.
The safety management program and proprietary Safety Lab™ are tools that can be used in any size flight organization to monitor its safety culture. Baldwin Aviation, Inc. is a member of the following organizations: NBAA, EBAA, FSF, HAI, AAAE, AAMS, IFBOA, IS-BAO, ALEA, NEMPSA, AOPA, SCAA (SoCal), SCAA, TOPS, ACSF, SCASA (South Carolina), GBAA (Georgia), and CBAA.
To manage risk and prevent accidents, including loss of life, personal injury, and damage to equipment and infrastructure by supporting our clients in the pursuit of organizational excellence.
To be the premier Safety/Quality Management System provider worldwide, known for innovation and customer service, while continuing to cultivate and develop our professionals to lead the company, and industry, into the next renaissance in safety and quality management.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight and your host.
Tony Kioussis (00:43):
Safety is primary on the mind of every aviation professional, and it should be as the margin for error in our industry is virtually zero. Baldwin Aviation’s core business is safety and its mission is to meet the needs of its clients by developing easy to use, intuitive, customized programs that provide comprehensive and supportive safety systems for the organization. The company’s core business is supported by a team of highly experienced and credentialed aviation safety experts and Baldwin Aviation is serving over 50,000 users. With me today to discuss the issue of safety is Don Baldwin, a well-known individual in the safety arena as well as a highly respected figure within the business aviation community. Welcome to our educational podcast series, Don. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.
Don Baldwin (01:34):
Thank you, Tony, and it’s a pleasure being with you here today. And yes, it’s been way too long. Since I tried retiring 17 years ago, I’ve been focused on developing and expanding our transportation safety technology, services and programs, and really been focused on four areas. One is safety management systems, quality management systems that are very closely related, a document management system and virtual and on-site training. We do many other safety support services supporting our core business. These areas represent a full and comprehensive safety management program.
Tony Kioussis (02:20):
The industry’s desire to continually improve safety is commendable and understandable yet safety management systems are not a requirement. I want to start off by defining what a safety management system provides to an aircraft operator and why an organization needs safety management programs.
Don Baldwin (02:39):
Simply stated, an SMS program is designed to identify and manage risk and hazards to reduce or eliminate any potential for injury to people and damage to equipment and SMS has its roots in quality management. Most all companies have some quality management programs such as ISO. Company and private aviation operations should not be an exception and should take the lead from their own company as SMS is aviation’s equivalent to a quality management program. This is something your companies will understand and readily adopt.
Don Baldwin (03:20):
Every organization is exposed to risk and hazards without exception that can potentially disrupt or cause unwanted results no matter how minor, such as leaving a landing gear safety pin engaged or something that’s more significant such as physical damage to an aircraft. These need to be known and manage, and you can’t manage without knowing the hazards and risks that are existing in the field today. Over 85% of the safety issues are caused by human factors, not so much as technical ones today. Most equipment in the world of aviation is quite reliable resulting in less technical exposure. An SMS is mostly about discovering those human activities that somehow are technical related that lead to serious incidents and accidents.
Tony Kioussis (04:18):
I’m a big believer in establishing a safety focused culture within any organization. Is there a metric or perhaps some evidence you can cite as proof that safety programs truly work?
Don Baldwin (04:31):
Yes, they do work and safety culture is unique to each organization just like an individual personality. It’s usually driven primarily by an organization’s leadership. Safety culture is about organizational and individual engagement in a safety program. There are many tools available to measure safety culture through carefully tuned surveys. An assessment of data collected through these surveys will assist in validating a safety culture. Data can be very telling as it will assist in validating a survey. For example, we conducted some safety culture surveys a few years ago and the survey came out really excellent. However, when we started digging into their data and looking at report submissions and trends within the flight operation, it told a very different story. It was a real challenge for us to work with the operator to determine the difference between what the safety culture survey was telling us versus what the data was telling us.
Don Baldwin (05:42):
And lo and behold, the data was actually more accurate in there indicating what their real culture was all about. But after a bit of work, we are able to manage to turn around and start improving their overall focus on safety and their safety culture. Feedback is very important for any organization and we produce an annual report for our clients that participate in the Baldwin safety culture program to guide a sense where each organization is compared to their peers. Another industry indicator is review in accident reports. Many accidents do reflect a lack of SMS or poorly run SMS program. Also, poor safety culture is usually identified as part of the investigation and a lot can be learned from just reading industry accident reports and summaries. And looking deep, you’ll see where safety culture and this culture of the organization had a key part in the role of the accident.
Tony Kioussis (06:50):
How did the FAA and NTSB view operators without a safety program?
Don Baldwin (06:56):
The FAA and NTSB are avid proponents of a safety management program because they do work. Operators without an effect of SMS raises red flags for the FAA. Airlines have a spectacular safety record primarily due to SMS programs that have been mandated decades ago. Put yourself on a defendant stand after an accident. The lawyer asked, “Do you have a safety program?” The answer is none. Then the question becomes, “Are you negligent? And are you really attempting to find and manage all aspects of safety in your organization?” Operators who have had an accident felt they were safe until that point. Their statements frequently are, “We are safe. We’ve never had an accident.”
Don Baldwin (07:46):
Number of accidents is not a measurement of how safe an operator is. It’s all the little things that can lead up to a bigger issue that count. Business aviation has a good record, not quite as good as the airlines. Still, many operators are not adopting SMS. So to expect any significant change in business aviation is a false sense that we are as safe as we can be. Business aviations need to get serious about SMS for all operators before the FAA starts to mandate it for us.
Tony Kioussis (08:20):
There are some voluntary programs offered by the FAA such as the voluntary disclosure reporting program and the, I think, it’s called the aviation safety action program. Are these beneficial?
Don Baldwin (08:35):
Any program that can assist an operator in developing, manage and evolving their safety program is a good one. The FAA programs are effective and it helps an organization stay engaged with their safety programs with some relief in regard to regulator and certificate actions. These programs help develop confidence and trust between the stakeholders including the FAA, the operator, and the individuals within the organization. Individual certificate holders such as pilots and maintenance techs potentially have a means of relief. And should there be an inadvertent violation of a regulation, the FAA will be adding regulatory requirements to commercial operations such as 91K, 135, 145, 141 operations, 91 tours in the next few years. And just this morning, I did learn that the FAA is expected to have a draft rule out by September of 2022 and then a final rule by the first quarter of 2024 in regards to mandating safety management programs for commercial operations. An SMS is necessary to make these programs work well and it beholds us all to continue implementing or start implementing a program.
Tony Kioussis (10:04):
Is there a propensity to move or to establish an SMS system more prevalent to large aircraft owners as opposed to smaller aircraft owners and maybe turboprops?
Don Baldwin (10:17):
Not necessarily. We’re supporting quite a few single engine, mostly turboprop aircraft and King Air type, and a lot of it is really driven by the department’s leadership and by the folks who understand safety management. And many times we see the small operators engage in safety management because a leadership came from a larger organization, inexperienced and understands the value of an SMS. The other thing to consider is an SMS provides continuity. It provides standards. It provides the direction for everybody in the organization. Even if it’s two or three people, when you hire new pilots or personnel or there’s been some change or the flight department expands, all of that is already documented and it’s one less function that a flight department needs to go through in order to grow and really establish itself.
Tony Kioussis (11:26):
Let’s talk about insurance underwriters for a minute. How do they view safety programs and how do safety programs impact insurability?
Don Baldwin (11:37):
Remember when flight simulation was introduced in the late ’60s, early ’70s? Underwriters encouraged operators back then to use simulation through discounts and insurance feeds. Today, as we shifted, operators are expected to use simulation. If not, insurance rates may be actually much higher and there are definitely more risks involved in an operator that does not use simulation for training. Today, an SMS has looked in the same light. Operators are expected to have an SMS and it is now considered best practice. Most operators will not necessarily get a discount, but operators without an SMS may be paying higher insurance rates. Some underwriters such as Global aerospace offer programs such as the SM4 and other benefits that encourage their clients to engage in safety program whether it’s SMS, emergency planning, upset training and so on. Some of these programs may be free or very low cost to the insurer.
Tony Kioussis (12:43):
How does an operator engage in a safety program and how complex is it to establish and maintain an SMS?
Don Baldwin (12:52):
Well, first of all, an SMS does not have to be complicated. Many external programs and consultants tend to overcomplicate an SMS which immediately puts up barriers to any program. Crawl, walk, then run, this may take years to evolve into a fully functional SMS. This is okay. An operator should expect a long period of time for an SMS to be fully implemented. SVO is an excellent foundation on which to build an SMS whether registration is an objective or not. The key thing is establishing policy, procedures, expectations through documentation such as an FOM, ERP, and international ops manuals and so on. This is 75% of your SMS. Most operators have already done this so the additional work is not that much for any operator. Start out by collecting risk and hazard data through reporting and feedback by all stakeholders. Safety reports, internal audits, policy waivers, risk assessments, et cetera are all key tools in collecting safety data. All of the above is necessary to engage an organization. The key is to make it easy as possible for everyone to engage and very importantly, trust your safety leadership.
Tony Kioussis (14:18):
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this topic, Don. Is there anything you would want people to know about Baldwin Aviation Services relative to the business aviation sector or the market?
Don Baldwin (14:29):
We’re currently supporting transportation safety with a team of nearly 20 professionals. They are incredible people and industry experienced individuals including backgrounds and private Part 91 operations commercial, including 121 and 135 flight operations, ground and space line operations. We have a large diversity of clients worldwide including executive transportation, commercial, non-commercial operations, aeromedical transport, aerial and ground firefighting, law enforcement agencies. This diversity brings to the table a safety resource that benefits all of our clients. Our 24/7 live support whether it’s a safety issue or a password reset is invaluable in supporting our clients. Our technology is supported by our own US-based in-house developer team. All software is proprietary and is driven through our regular feedback we get from our clients and our client advisory board. Bottom line, all operators should have or should be implementing some level of safety management program. It does not have to be difficult, keep it easy, keep it simple, take little pieces at a time.
Don Baldwin (15:49):
Safety management has always been a sensitive topic. Many operators just don’t understand the need and we especially find this with small operations where there may be only two people in one airplane. And we have, as an example, a client with one G4 and one full-time person, and yet they have taken the time to become SVO registered and are fully committed. However, there are many operators that just don’t see the need because they fly with each other every day. And they’re very close knit group so just to find a safety management program in their minds is quite difficult. So we do work with a lot of small operators. We’re probably supporting around 70, 80 small flight operations, and they’re all doing an excellent job, but it’s just the commitment from the leadership of any organization to really see through and fully implement a safety management program.
Don Baldwin (16:55):
Quality management is a part of safety management and becomes an important factor and that’s where management really gets in tune and supports an SMS. And I’m speaking about the aircraft owners or corporate management. And once they understand that an SMS is a quality program, the buy-in becomes a lot easier.
Don Baldwin (17:23):
The other thing we run into is many operators also are doing flight risk assessments and believe that that’s the only thing they need to do for a safety management system. It’s been misdirected, misunderstood in regards to safety management and risk assessments are only one tool in a whole toolbox of SMS tools. Education continues to be a real challenge, and I believe our many associations, MBAA, NATA, HAI and so on are really starting to ramp up safety management education. And I think this is one of the key areas our industry needs to focus on at this time.
Tony Kioussis (18:16):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at assetinsightpodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis and, as always, thank you for listening.
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