Demystifying the International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations and Handling

Over the past few years, a great deal has been written about two international aviation standards: the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) and the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH).  Both standards are managed by the International Business Aviation Council, which is made up of business aviation associations from around the world and based on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and recommended practices.  While over 250 aviation organizations are registered as meeting one or both standards, many others in our community still have questions as to the benefits and process of obtaining these internationally-recognized standards.

Both standards are based not only on best practices, but go on to provide operators with far-reaching benefits including:

  • International compliance
  • Better efficiency and communication
  • Marketing advantages
  • Greater safety and more resilient operations

In addition, it may even save you money on insurance.

It is important to understand that IS-BAO and IS-BAH are performance standards.  As such, they are not a set of rules with compliance guidelines.  Rather, each standard challenge operators to design systems that can be monitored and validated toward reducing inefficiency and better identifying risk.  Each standard compliments current training requirements in that the standards provide a systems-focused set of strategic level organizational process and practices, while flight and ground handling personnel training programs provide a basic set of skill-based procedures for action.

Both IS-BAO and IS-BAH are centered on the Safety Management Systems (SMS) that are fundamental to aviation and other operations-critical industries.  The standards are designed to provide a structure from the establishment of basic organizational values to a fully-established SMS program.  No one will tell you that becoming IS-BAO or IS-BAH-certified is quick or easy.  The establishment or re-working of your current SMS program is a detailed process requiring a great deal of documentation and time.  You can expect to go through multiple third-party audits during the certification process that will extensively review all aspects of your organization’s conformity to the standards.

This audit process leads the organization through the development of an SMS program based upon three stages:

  1. Stage One: Confirms the organization has a basic SMS infrastructure and safety management activities are identified.  
  2. Stage Two:  Ensures safety management activities are appropriately targeted and safety risk are being effectively managed.
  3. Stage Three: Verifies safety management activities are fully integrated into the organization’s business and that a positive safety culture is being sustained.

Many operators choose to work with a specialist that will help by providing an understanding of their organization’s current readiness to meet the standards.  Other industry specialists provide documentation support needed to meet the standards.  Some organizations believe the standards certification work itself provides value, while others believe the utilization of consultants will save their organization both time and money.  Once your organization is registered as meeting the standards, an audit conducted by a third party is required every two years to ensure continuing conformance with the standards and to provide feedback on areas for potential improvements.  

Regardless of the route you take, the registration of your organization as meeting either the IS-BAO or IS-BAH standard provides independent proof to your commitment to meeting or exceeding best practices for operational and safety performance.  To learn more about protecting yourself on the ground and in the air, contact our team of Aerospace experts.

Sources: National Air Transportation Association and the Aviation Business Journal

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