DragonFly Aviation Services
BAN's World GazetteerWashington
Top rate training for crews and the latest avionics are critical issues for charter operators seeking to win business on the basis of safety and reliability. The demands have generated advances in simulation and research that promise to maintain and improve private aviation's strong safety record despite concerns over a rising number of illegal flights.
Business aircraft operators in Europe and the Middle East take training in safety and the addition of the latest avionics very seriously. These include Gama, Comlux, FAI rent-a-jet, Dragonfly and DC Aviation.
Gama's Dave Edwards says: "The next big development for us is in flight data monitoring. It's already in place on our large cabin aircraft but we are very keen to roll it out across the fleet. The benefits to us are clear - they allow us to spot trends early on and use our training team to address them quickly."
But he stresses: "The latest technology is only ever as good as the people operating it and that's why it's so important for us as an organisation to focus so heavily on our training. There's been a sea change in the way we've developed our training department over the past ten years from one which relied heavily on in-aircraft flying to one which now oversees some 300 simulator training events a year running our own specific programmes."
These programmes have been refined to train and test Gama crews in environments and scenarios that the company has identified as being the ones it feels benefit the safety of its passengers, crew and aircraft the most.
Edwards says: "The advent of safety and quality management systems has also been a watershed in the professionalism of the industry, changing the way we work and think on a daily basis."
Gama, he says, has made great efforts to ensure that everybody in the organisation embraces the systems fully. "After some ten years we're very happy with the result, a dynamic system which continues to evolve with every day that goes by but which assists us in identifying problems before they occur. Likewise, the introduction of flight safety officers and security managers has changed the way in which we assess and undertake each flight so that we're not only thinking about how we operate in the air, but also how we look after our passengers and our team on the ground."
Business aviation, Edwards points out, has traditionally been at the forefront of technological advances. "As a result, we're operating aircraft which are virtually unrecognisable from the first jets we operated back in the mid-1980s. Technology such as EGPWS and infrared head up displays were things that were only being whispered about 15 years ago. Now we are operating aircraft every day which benefit from the additional safety margins that these developments provide."
Claas Detel, an FAI rent-a-jet quality management flight operations specialist, puts into context the challenge for operators of mixed fleets. FAI operates a range that includes the Learjets 35 and 60, the Challenger 604 and Global Express and the Falcon 900 EASy.
"We carry out point-to-point vvip business charter and worldwide ambulance flights and in addition we are operating up to five bases for the United Nations in Africa," he says. "For us, crew training is one of the biggest challenges in the whole business. On the one hand we are managing three different types of operation with the same equipment and personnel, while on the other hand we have a floating base concept for ambulance and vvip charter and the bases in Africa.
"To comply with EU OPS and JAR FCL 1 we send all crew members in annual cycles to simulator training. But we do not rely solely on the simulator aspects - we are also running a large amount of of CBT which is focused on training the pilots in issues such as TCAS, CFIT and special airport procedures. All our aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art avionics to guarantee the highest level of safe operation.
"From our point of view the most important skills in the modern cockpit environment is system knowledge combined with outstanding CRM skills which are honed by training updates. Having advanced equipment on the aircraft is good but the pilots have to undergo man-machine interactions more than once a year in the simulator to ensure the right actions in difficult situations and to maintain a minimum communication level between all crew members."
Howard Palser, ceo DragonFly Executive Charter, says: "Safety is paramount. We work closely with Executive Aviation Services Limited, the holders of the AOC under which our aircraft are operated, to ensure that safety is to the forefront of everyone's thinking at all times, whether as operations staff or flight crew."
He adds: "One factor that singles out DragonFly from most other operators of King Air 200 series aircraft is that although technically classed as suitable for single pilot operation we choose to operate these aircraft at all times with two fully qualified, type-rated pilots. This policy involves the company in significantly more cost in terms of recruitment of flight crew, salaries and crew expenses, as well as the time and cost spent in initial and recurrent training."
Palser says: "Our pilots operate on a strict multi-crew basis which should be differentiated from single pilot operators who may have a pilot of some description in the right-hand seat, but who is unlikely to be type-rated. We feel strongly that the cost of multi-crew operation is more than justified by the greater safety that results from sharing the workload in the cockpits of complex aircraft that operate in the congested airspace and seriously inclement weather that is experienced in the UK and Europe. We find it to be increasingly the case that charter brokers and private clients insist on multi-crew operation."
The EBAA says that the importance of security and safety cannot be stressed too highly and points to its focus on recognising achievements. Recipients of the 2010 EBAA Flying Safety Awards presented at the Bombardier fourth annual Safety Standdown Europe reception included Dassault Falcon Service which received the 2010 Platinum Safety of Flight Award (50 years or 100,000 hours without an accident). Other companies honored were: Tyrolean Jet Services and Abelag Aviation, recipients of the 2010 Gold Safety of Flight Award (40 years or 80,000 hours); Tyrol Air Ambulance, recipient of the 2010 Silver Safety of Flight Award (30 years or 60,000 hours); and VistaJet Luftfahrtunternehmen, recipient of the 2010 Bronze Safety of Flight Award (20 years or 40,000 hours).
"Safety is certainly the top concern for the people in our industry, and we've got the data to prove that we are seriously committed to achieving the highest safety standards possible," said Brian Humphries, EBAA president and ceo. "These outstanding companies are examples of how this dedication to safe operations adds up to exemplary records."
Humphries says: "Safety requires a year-round focus, and we at EBAA work daily with government and industry officials to enhance our already good safety record. The EBAA also works with the International Business Aviation Council to develop safety management systems and other industry standards of best practice."
Investment in safety makes business sense
Charter operators that invest in new aircraft equipped with the latest avionics and ensure that crews receive top rated training stand to benefit from broker referrals.
Jens Henry Dreyer, who runs Aviation Broker based in Frankfurt, says: "Russian customers hardly ever ask for turboprops. What they want are brand new business jets. Clients from the US flying in Europe in particular ask for detailed information about security and the experience and qualifications of the pilots."
Julian Burrell, md, says that The Charter Company takes safety and security issues very seriously. "We do all the important checks on behalf of our clients and these obviously include the age and sometimes ownership of the aircraft. The safety record of the operator is a prime consideration. We do a full due diligence before placing any business with a new operator."
EBAS International, founded by Jochen Petereit more than 10 years ago, takes the view that such high standards are not only desirable from an ethical and legal point of view but the only basis on which to build long-term international business.
Monika Petereit, Jochen's wife and director of sales and marketing, says. "We always take the trouble to get to know the aircraft as part of our due diligence and also to examine how the operator's pilots, cabin crew and other staff serve the charter clients."
Britta Martin, international marketing and relationship manager for EBAS International Gmbh, confirms that safety and security concerns are the top priority. "When we book an executive jet our upmost priority is to select the best and safest air charter company for our clients," she says. "In many cases we do know the air charter companies, their aircraft, and most of their crews personally.
"This gives us an advantage in being able to be certain that the aircraft is in top condition, not only from the exterior and interior appearance, but also from a technical point of view."
She adds: "According to the EU OPS aviation regulations every air charter operator is obligated to have a safety manager and for aircraft over 5.7 tons to also have a security manager."
The safety manager must make sure that the flights are conducted safely and legally and also to schedule the checks for recurring crew training. But EBAS has its own procedures to ensure safety and security issues are properly addressed. These require documents to be provided including the AOC and insurance record and documents, crew safety record, license and medical information.
EBAS charter and handling staff are themselves very safety and security conscious, she says. "Each staff member has special safety training, plus many years of operating expert knowledge within business aviation. Keeping up-to-date on safety and security issues is absolutely vital for any broker since we have the responsibility to make sure that the customer can travel with peace of mind."
Dreyer says Aviation Broker insists on vetting documents including the AOCs and insurances. "We use online quotation systems which allow access to updated information on how the aircraft and pilots compare with the Wyvern Standard. These systems provide background to the company including safety intelligence reports. These span accident and incident data, pilot information and audit reports."
Aviation Broker has an annual in-house audit procedure. "Once a year we check with both existing and potential carriers and ensure that at least a minimum of information is provided."
Updates focus on AOCs, validity of all insurances and flight safety programmes and ensure that carriers with aircraft weighing more than 5.7 tons have an emergency response plan and meet airport parking requirements. "We check airworthiness reviews and whether the charter operator has authorisation for low visibility operations," says Dreyer.
"We check if the pilots are qualified to operate under low visibility circumstances. Pilots are expected to conduct flights safely and remain in compliance with the aviation regulations. Ramp checks are conducted to ensure pilots meet these expectations.
"A typical check involves the inspection of the pilot's air and medical certificates and aircraft paperwork and an exterior inspection of an aircraft. Inspectors are authorised to check for the airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, the operating handbook, weight and balance information, minimum equipment list, and the general airworthiness of the aircraft," Dreyer points out.
Volker Meissner, director of Aviation Charter Limited, says that one of the most important issues is to ensure that brokers have the systems and knowledge in place to exclude unscrupulous operators. "Aviation Charter sets great store by ensuring that all the requisite checks are made on a regular and timely basis," he says. "One challenge for the industry is to ensure that no-one is tempted to undermine the probity of the majority by cutting corners to win short term business."
Business aviation experts help to set the standards
The European General Aviation Safety Team (EGAST) was launched at EASA headquarters in Cologne, Germany, at the end of 2007 as an ambitious partnership between the aviation community and the authorities, responding to the need for coordinated safety efforts in Europe. "The sharing of good practices among operators and the industry, including from different aviation sectors, is increasingly recognised as an efficient way to improve safety. This approach is encouraged worldwide by ICAO," the organisation explains. "Building on existing initiatives identified in the European general aviation community, EGAST creates a forum for sharing best practices. It seeks to improve data sources and promote safety through communication and education."
EGAST is composed of representatives of aircraft manufac-turers, national and European civil aviation authorities, the aviation community, research institutes, and national and international representative organisations.
It points out that, each year, EASA publishes a review of aviation safety in Europe. The 2009 edition reported 1,234 accidents causing 264 deaths in the general aviation sector on aircraft registered in EASA member countries. Statistics indicate that from those 1,234 accidents, only 12 involved an aeroplane over 2,250 kg. "Such figures are not new. In 2007, EGAST therefore decided to focus on the most safety beneficial domain: the lighter part of GA."
The project is run by a core team of 20 organisations representing the various GA sectors. EGAST conducts its work through three subgroups addressing safety promotion (development of subject specific safety leaflets and videos), data collection and analysis, proactive safety (addressing today the risks of tomorrow), and links between research and the GA community (identification of needs and promotion of results).
The organisation explains: "The team is working actively on safety promotion for pilots and other GA personnel. In 2009, EGAST has produced a leaflet on reducing the risk of collision in collaboration with UK CAA and videos on preventing the loss of control during take-off together with the Institut pour l'Amelioration de la Securite Aerienne (IASA), France.
"To improve safety, regulatory compliance can be complemented by voluntary commitment to safety improvements," EGAST says. "The establishment of standards by the industry with the support of the authorities is one key pillar of this voluntary commitment to continuous safety improvement."
Abelag is among fixed wing and rotary operators in Europe and the Middle East that are placing an increased emphasis on safety while seeking stronger action to deter illegal flights exploiting gaps in rule enforcement.
Abelag's Herve Laitat says he welcomes a launch by the EBAA of a campaign targeting a minority of brokers who refer business on price and ignore safety issues. Laitat, who reports a rising number of illegal flights, says the national civil aviation authorities should be encouraged to take firmer action. "Operators without an AOC are carrying out commercial flights or are not respecting the rules," Laitat says, and argues that regulators need increased powers. SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) inspections are common at airports and carry out checks for deficiencies such as worn tyres or oil leaks or whether flight crew members have licences.
However Laitat says: "We do not feel that national authorities have sufficient powers to stop illegal flights. Illegal operators are exploiting loopholes in bilateral laws between countries. National authorities should consult with local operators to assess how to better monitor illegal flights and what legal action can be taken. This is not only causing safety problems but is proving detrimental to professional operators who are investing increased resources in strengthening safety measures only to see potential clients flying with cost-cutting illegal operators."
Training must involve the cabin crew too
The private aviation industry as a whole in Europe and the Middle East is benefiting from an increasing number of training facilities, advances in avionics and greater dissemination of information and advice.
But Brian Hayvaz, an experienced airport rescue firefighter paramedic and a senior lead educator for FACTS Training International, and G Blain Stanley, a firefighter/medic and SAR team leader, believe that some areas of training can be under-valued or neglected.
Hayvaz says: "When considering advances in training technologies and methods relating to corporate aircraft crews and flight departments, one must think about the ever-improving realism provided in today's emergency procedures training. While 'flying skills' have been realistically addressed through decades-old advances in the flight control simulator, cabin crew simulators have historically been obsolete commercial fuselages with inaccurate corporate configurations and overall compromised realism."
Stanley says: "The more realistic one can make the training for a given student, the more event-driven stress can be replicated resulting in realistic behaviour and reactions during an 'emergency' event. This is, and should be, the focal point of any quality training session."
Both say that rapidly advancing tools now enable trainees to experience effects such as hypoxia at 8,000 metres and see how other crew members react.
Hayvaz says: "From water survival to fighting live fires, experiencing realistic safety training as a complete crew builds confidence among all who participate. Showing reliance on each other under stressful but safe conditions highlights the importance of teamwork in effective decision-making."
There is now training for almost every conceivable type of weather conditions. Kilfrost, for instance, specialises in safe flying in the winter months stressing de-icing and anti-icing measures.
The private aviation industry is adept at ensuring that training facilities are available as new aircraft come into service. Training facilities for the Phenom 300, which is proving popular in the Middle East and Europe, are being expanded and simulators added to cope with rising demand for training. The Phenom 300 training is being delivered through the Embraer CAE Training Services (ECTS) joint venture which has also provided pilot and maintenance technician training in Dallas, Texas, and Burgess Hill, UK, for Phenom 100 operators. "Phenom 300 training is focused for single crew or multi-crew operations, depending on the client's preference," ECTS says. "It began in July at CAE SimuFlite in Dallas and the programme incorporates a CAE 5000 series full-flight simulator. Students also receive hands-on lab training with the Garmin 1000 avionics system, as well as instructor-led classroom sessions."
Among the pilot training programs available are accelerated transitions from the Phenom 100 to the Phenom 300 or from the 300 to the 100 as well as full initial and recurrent training for the Phenom 300.
"We are committed to expanding training options for corporate aircraft fleets," says Jan Van Engelen, CAE civil aviation regional leader for Europe and Africa. "We recognise that the past couple of years have been very challenging for the business aviation market. However, the consensus forecasts are for steady growth going forward, and CAE's mission is to enhance safety and efficiency - through technology innovation and best practices as well as delivering training in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas so pilots and technicians can train close to their home base."
Several new simulators were added in the first half of 2010 with more to follow. Aircraft for which training is being made available include the Citation II, the Falcon 50EX, the Challenger 300, 604 and 605, the Global Express and Learjet 40/45, the Bell 412 and the AS350. London Burgess Hill has a Citation II simulator that was approved by EASA in May.
Bombardier and CAE will have added six new simulators to their worldwide training networks in five locations by the end of this year. The first FFS in Europe for Learjet 40, Learjet 40 XR, Learjet 45 and Learjet 45 XR aircraft is in operation at Burgess Hill. Global Express aircraft operators in the Middle East now have convenient access to a simulator located at the Emirates-CAE Flight Training facility in Dubai.
A simulator for Challenger 300s will be added at a CAE location in Europe in the third quarter of 2010. A Challenger 604 FFS currently located at Bombardier's training centre in Montreal will also be relocated to the CAE training centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in early 2011.
Simulators have become crucial for flight crew training, according to Helisim ceo Alain Salendre. "They play a key role in helping crews maintain their qualifications so that optimum flight safety can be guaranteed."
Helisim simulates rescue operations involving hover flights over water as well as land in day and night conditions. The company says: "We also simulate evacuation flights to the hospital which is normally the final phase of such missions."
It adds: "The trainees are forced to deal with many technical and operational problems that test their teamwork skills. A wide variety of challenges, from the most simple to the most difficult, are introduced to force flight crews to optimise their task management and improve their decision-making process."
Urban areas pose difficulties because of the many obstacles that must be avoided, including antennae and power lines. Helisim says it has developed a high definition urban backdrop. It can also simulate mountain areas. "A variety of different scenarios can be re-enacted in close-to-real-life detail so as to immerse the trainee in missions ranging from law enforcement to vip transport and from aerial works to medical evacuation," the company adds.
Weather and environmental conditions are integrated into the simulation. Helisim says: "Flight crews must nowadays master a wide range of technical and operational skills to perform these complex missions both day and night over sea and land in all weather conditions and on all five continents."
Demands for safe and reliable navigation in difficult weather conditions have led to sophisticated research including the Mature Applications of Galileo for Emergency Services (MAGES) European research project. Eurocopter and Funkwerk report: "The Galileo satellite positioning system, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2013, will provide flight crews with extremely reliable and precise positioning signals. It will be the first navigation system operating independently of the American GPS service but will nonetheless be compatible."
Eurocopter project manager Stefan Haisch says: "For rescue flights, we will probably be able to rely on the GNSS signal alone. But if a failure should compromise the availability of one of the two systems - due to heavy fog for example - we'll be able to use the other system for navigation."
The Malta Business Aviation Association has teamed up with the EBAA to host its first SMS Seminar in Malta in October. "The objective of the introduction to SMS workshop is to provide business aviation operator personnel with an understanding of the basic principles of safety management and safety management systems," says Stanley Bugeja. "The workshop is based on the SMS Toolkit developed by the International Business Aviation Council. The association is supporting public and private colleges in Malta to support growth in the aviation industry. The Maltese College for Science and Technology in partnership with local maintenance organisations is already providing a number of courses aimed at the maintenance sector recently."
Recently the association has organised a series of meetings in Malta with the minister of information, transport, and communication, Transport Malta and the department of civil aviation to investigate how Malta could attract leading international organisations to provide the industry with the necessary training for cabin and cockpit crew. Bugeja says: "While some local enterprise is already providing training such as CRM, aviation security and training in dangerous goods, we feel that Malta could become a centre of excellence for providing training not only to the local community but in the Mediterranean region."
Fixed wing and rotary manufacturers and equipment suppliers stress that the latest advanced avionics enhancing flight safety should be ready as new aircraft are introduced and that upgrades be available as soon as possible.
Agusta Westland says its GrandNew is the first type certified light twin to enter service with a new EFIS featuring Synthetic Vision. "It is also the first helicopter in this class on the market fully compliant with the latest advanced global positioning system-based navigation requirements for all weather operations."
Sloane Helicopters, which also acts as a service centre, maintenance facility and type rating transition centre for AgustaWestland helicopters in the UK, recently signed a contract for ten additional helicopters comprising the AW109 Power and GrandNew light twins. "The latest avionics are a strong selling point," the company says.
DC Aviation, one of the largest business aviation operators in Europe, has one of the most rigorous training standards for both cockpit and cabin crew with a certification that not only involves a German EU OPS AOC but also an audit to Wyvern and IOSA standards.
Daher-Socata is expanding its customer service activities to support the growing number of TBM owners and ensure its light aviation support is available for aircraft below 19,000 lbs (8.6 metric tons) This involves providing avionics modernisation as well as maintenance and repair.
Flight safety today involves much more than abiding by procedures and organising updates of avionics. It requires full commitment to an evolving partnership between manufacturers, maintenance support companies and training firms that feeds effectively through to pilots and cabin crew.
These men and women are in the frontline of professionals that must become familiar with increasingly complex avionics and use virtual reality to understand how to deal with problems in the real world of private aviation.