Aviation SMS in Flight Schools Benefits Everyone
When I first forayed into the aviation industry, the first thing I learned was that the aviation industry is far more than simply flying.
While flight schools' primary goals are to prepare future pilots to be successful, a critical part of that success includes safety.
When it comes to how flight schools can use aviation safety management systems (SMS), there are 2 things to consider.
First, by their very nature, flight schools operate with considerable, daily risk.
The students in flight schools are generally inexperienced on many fronts of safety, such as
- the technology of the aircraft,
- identifying safety hazards, and
- being comfortable enough flying an aircraft so that they can focus their mindset more on safety than operation.
Secondly, now that aviation SMS are now a requirement in most countries around the world, future pilots will need to be familiar with many different aspects of aviation SMS, such as:
- What aviation SMS are;
- Risk management processes involved in aviation SMS; and
- A pilot's relationship with operators' SMS.
Implementing aviation SMS into flight schools is an excellent opportunity to educate the future pilots above and beyond the standard. It allows students to acclimate faster to the real world realities of being a pilot, makes the skies safer for the public, and raises the "image" or "prestige" of the school that is preparing such qualified pilots.
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Here are 3 ways that aviation SMS implementations benefit flight schools.
1 - Aviation SMS Safety Reports: Hazard Identification and Reporting
Hazard identification awareness training, safety reporting forms and their potential uses have transformed the aviation industry into one of the safest transportation modes in the world. They are the backbone of all SMS implementations, as they give organizations the data needed to:
- Mitigate incidents (reactive risk management);
- Improve operational processes;
- Practice proactive risk management;
- Analyze trends to predict future safety events; and
- Justify SMS documentation components, such as safety policies and procedures.
Pilots will need to become extremely familiar with hazard identification and safety reporting processes, and the sooner, the better. Pilots will have to deal with:
- Fatigue reports;
- Bird strike reports;
- Runway incursions;
- Runway overrun;
- Weather issues;
- And so on.
The list is fairly large, but the point is that hazard reporting forms are a regular duty for pilots. Moreover, practicing using safety reporting forms through real-life use, examples, and safety cases necessarily entails that students learn to identify
- potential hazard trends,
- common types of safety issues, and in general,
- teaches students to have a mindset of safety.
Safety reporting forms can become multi-faceted training aids when considering how flight schools can use aviation SMS tools not only in their curriculum, but to manage operational safety with a potentially dangerous group of inexperienced aviation personnel "in training."
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2 - Weight and Balance Tools: Essential for Flight Schools
Weight and balance are a major concern for pilots in flight schools.
Having tools to aid students can be extremely beneficial in helping them learn the fundamentals of load balancing. More often, such tools generally come with presets for different aircraft types, and guide students step by step through the process of what is needed to correctly calculate weight and balance.
Weight and balance tools are not simply beneficial for teaching students how to calculate weight and balance in general, but, coupled with a flight risk assessment tool (FRAT), they also prove to be immensely useful for assessing individual flights before take-off.
Living in Alaska, I have flown many times on small 6 or 8 seat commercial aircraft, and pilots are always moving people around before take-off to distribute weight.
Having an ingrained knowledge of weight and balance will serve pilots confidence and performance for their entire careers.
3 - Gap Analysis Tools: Understand SMS Components
Directly, gap analysis tools might seem irrelevant to pilots. Ostensibly, they should be most concerned with the components of an aviation SMS implementation that is directly relevant to them. While this is certainly true, pilots should have a general understanding of all aspects of SMS implementation.
For pilots to only know the parts of SMS that directly concern them would be like knowing where the gas pedal is without knowing what pressing it actually does. In terms of how flight schools can use aviation SMS components, consider that when pilots have a broad understanding of the overall structure of SMS, they can:
- See how aspects relevant to them fit into the overall SMS structure;
- Tailor their hazard identification activities and safety reports to benefit the SMS' risk management processes; and
- Learn what is needed on their part to maintain a prescriptive and performing safety program?.
A gap analysis provides such an understanding. It gives students an opportunity to see an SMS' parts as a whole, as well as in detail.
Related Articles on Aviation SMS in Flight Schools
- Why Flight Schools Should Implement Aviation SMS
- Safety Promotion from Flight School Aviation SMS
- 3 Inexpensive Ways to Promote Safety at Flight Schools & Other Aviation SMS
Final Thought: Using Aviation SMS Principles in Flight Schools
The above points provide both passive and active aviation SMS tools that flight schools can use. Integrating active SMS components, such as hazard identification and safety reporting processes, is as simple as naturally including it into training courses, and having the same safety reporting expectations as in real life.
In general, this usually looks like giving students several ways to report issues and review submitted issues, such as:
- Online web-based reporting forms;
- Offline reporting forms; and/or
- Email reports.
Getting students in the habit of reporting safety issues (both real and theoretical) in training courses is a fairly simple integration. Passive materials such as gap analysis could also easily be used to show students how their reported safety issues fit into the overall structure of the SMS' risk management process.
SMS requirements for fight schools are the same as for other operators. The complexity of a flight school's SMS will be based on the size and complexity of the flight school.
Published May 2016. Last updated August 2021.