What is IS-BAO and Should you consider registering?

August 15, 2017

Don Hammer, VP Mente Group, worked in a corporate flight department for 23 years before becoming an auditor.

Throughout his time in the business, he’s seen over 100 flight departments, and having become one of the first auditors for the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) when it was created fifteen years ago in 2002, he’s somewhat of an expert on the subject.

“The IS-BAO is focused around a safety management system (SMS), which operators in virtually all countries (apart from Part 91 operators in the US) are required to have,” Hammer explains.

“Here’s an example of standards. Let’s say you’re working for American Airlines, which has many, many pilots,” he continues. “You may never fly with the same guy twice, but when the Captain and First Officer show up, they work to the same standards and procedures. American Airlines doesn’t necessarily do it the same way as British Airways, but within their company the procedures for their individual positions are all the same.

“It’s not unusual that within a corporate flight departments with ten pilots, every day the First Officer has to figure out who’s going to be in the left seat, because that’s who sets the standard for that flight. With IS-BAO, the company agrees on setting standards that are within the goalposts that IS-BAO sets out. That way, it eliminates a lot of the confusion because everyone on the crew knows exactly what’s expected of them.”

There are many safety standards out there, but IS-BAO is the only one blessed by ICAO, Hammer points out. The benefits? Insurance companies, certainly in the US, are likely to look upon your organization more favorably when determining your rates.

If you want to think about getting IS-BAO registered, states Hammer, the first thing you should do is read ‘The Standard,’ which is available online.

“One of the biggest requirements is to prepare a proper IS-BAO compliant flight operations manual   There are commercial companies out there that can compile them to cover all the IS-BAO requirements while also addressing your company standards and SOP’s.

“There are also some fairly heavy training requirements to meet the IS-BAO, both initial and recurrent. For instance, if maintenance employees are trained on a particular aircraft they must undertake recurrent training every 24 months. But there’s also the need for things like ladder safety training.

“Pilots are required by their national aviation authority to do regular flight training, but IS-BAO requires training of all other department employees also. As an example, Flight Attendants must have training to recognize when the wings are contaminated with ice. “You have to read all those requirements and make sure your staff is trained to meet the IS-BAO standard”

While it requires some effort to become IS-BAO registered, as there’s ongoing documentation and additional training required, Hammer argues that there is a positive trade-off between that effort and the value you’re receiving from it.  The value is an improvement in level of safety.   It has been proven that IS-BAO registered flight departments operate to a higher level of safety than those that are not.

Hammer has customers based not only in the U.S. but worldwide from Russia to Indonesia, that may be registered under the Overseas Territories Aviation Regulations (OTARS), such as Bermuda or The Cayman Islands.

“OTAR operators are required by their nationality to have an SMS in place. It’s easy for them to be IS-BAO registered and then meet their nationality’s standard. To have a Bermuda registration you have to have an SMS,” says Hammer. “It doesn’t have to be IS-BAO, but what the authorities tell the operator is that if it’s not IS-BAO they have to send their own inspectors in and traditionally the costs of that are higher than getting IS-BAO registered. They’re really pushing the standard there.”

So, what happens after your become IS-BAO registered? Initially, you become Stage I. After another two years, you can have another audit to progress to Stage II, then it’s the same with Stage III. Stage I shows an operator has all the procedures and training in place to meet the standard. Stage II is achieved when an auditor can see the company is doing what they said they were going to do. Stage III is when the SMS system has become part of the company culture – that the operator is continuing to improve their processes,” outlines Hammer.

To find out more about getting your company IS-BAO registered, click here.