Broadening the global profile of Flight Safety Foundation’s Basic Aviation Risk Standard (BARS) program is one of Larry Swantner’s mandates, and his focus in the early weeks of 2012 was Africa. Swantner, manager of program development for BARS, spent much of the first quarter on the continent, primarily in South Africa, working to raise awareness of the Foundation and BARS in what he described as the “first extensive push” of BARS into Africa.
“We want to increase our BARS footprint in Africa,” said Swantner, who has had extensive experience in Africa during his 35-year aviation career. His stint in Africa this year included making presentations at four aviation safety-related conferences, one of which he chaired.
BARS was launched less than three years ago in response to a need identified by resource s ector companies. Mining, oil exploration and similar interests rely heavily on charter aircraft operators to move personnel and equipment to and from operations in some of the most remote locations on earth, flying aircraft that range from single-engine helicopters to multi-engine, transport category jets.
Many of the BARS member organizations (BMOs) use multiple operators. BARS was developed to establish a common safety audit standard that could be applied to on-shore resource sector aviation support activities. BARS draws on industry best practices and is “a high standard recognized throughout the industry,” Swantner said.
The BMOs benefit by having their charter operators audited to a common safety standard by qualified auditors trained specifically in BARS. In addition, all the BMOs have employees who oversee their aviation operations. BARS provides training opportunities for non-technical staff to become more skilled in managing aviation safety risks. The two-day Aviation Coordinator training course covers “things to look for when overseeing air operations,” such as controlling animals that may walk across runways, securing fuel supplies and ensuring that center-of-gravity and gross-weight limits are not exceeded during cargo loading. “You don’t treat an airplane like a truck,” Swantner said. Other training courses are in the pipeline, including one for senior executives on aviation capabilities limits and operations and another on managing remote airstrips.
The audited operators, who pay for the audit and control the release of the results, benefit by working to a single standard and by reducing the burden of multiple audits by multiple customers. Also, audited operators are potentially more attractive to BMOs that are initiating or expanding operations in a particular region.
Swantner is quick to point out that BARS is not a regulatory endeavor. “We are not there to usurp their oversight,” he said of local regulatory agencies.
The actual audit is designed to take two auditors two “very full” days to accomplish, with flexibility for a third day, if needed, Swantner said. The process of preparing for the audit, however, can take a few months of manuals, certifications and other data being traded back and forth. “A good audit starts three months before the auditors show up on-site,” he said.
The BARS program is directed by Greg Marshall and includes several safety specialists in Australia, which has an extensive mining industry and support structure. Audit findings are tracked by the BARS quality control office, which is based in Melbourne. Of the 79 aircraft operators that already have undergone a BARS audit, 27 are located in Australia, according to Foundation statistics. Another 16 are based in Africa.
Many BMOs that are not directly based in Africa have operations or affiliates in Africa, as does the United Nations–affiliated World Food Programme, which also is a BMO and represents a move by BARS beyond resource companies, according to Swantner. South America and the Caribbean region have 11 audited operators. Ten operators in Asia and the Pacific have been audited. “I see Indonesia and Papua New Guinea as among other areas that could benefit from BARS membership,” Swantner said.