“Good enough” has never been a sentiment associated with the aviation industry. A “good enough” attitude would have hampered the enormous, innovative accomplishments the industry is known for, and it would have undermined a central pillar of aviation: safety. Creating and nurturing a culture that champions safety takes time, resources, and a foundational understanding of how safety ripples throughout the aviation ecosystem. Actions like the FAA’s Safety Management System (SMS) mandate exemplifies the industry’s desire and duty to continue delivering on a safety-first mindset.
However, a safety-first mindset can impact more than just the immediate security of passengers and crew members. Leveraging tools like an SMS throughout the aviation ecosystem impacts crucial elements of the stakeholder’s experience in an objective, data-driven way, providing decision-makers with actionable insights they need to deliver on an ideal passenger journey. This all relies on an organization’s ability to adapt and adopt the right technologies at the pace the industry demands.
“One of the unique elements of the aviation industry is that safety really is an integral part of all business processes within an organization,” explained Steve Bruneau, VP of Aviation Services with Polaris Aero, in a recent conversation with Connected Aviation Today. “We have an opportunity to continually improve our business by continually improving our processes, just like any other business. But because it is so tightly woven into the industry, we have a greater opportunity than many to improve safety as part of those efforts.”
Aside from helping achieve the obvious goal of keeping passengers and crew members safe on board an aircraft, a clear prioritization of safety helps cultivate a sense of loyalty and trust among travelers and employees alike, according to Bruneau. “No one wants to work for an organization that isn’t going to prioritize their safety in the same way a passenger wouldn’t want to travel with an organization that doesn’t prioritize their safety,” he remarked. “They want to know and feel that they’re aligning themselves with an organization that reflects the quality and safety that they expect. The reality is that when you have an organization that puts safety at the forefront of their business, everyone can see and feel that. That’s how you build loyalty and trust in an organization, which is another return on your safety investment.”
From a technical standpoint, tools like SMS bring the power of objective data to aviation decision-makers which helps support motions for necessary improvements in concrete ways. Bruneau explained that an SMS helps the increasingly data-driven world of aviation establish a framework that puts those mountains of data to work in a highly visible way.
“Safety management isn’t something that you do on top of your typical business processes,” Bruneau stated. “It really should be something that’s embedded within your business practices. Ultimately, that approach is going to help you better manage your organization overall.” Bruneau also spoke to improved ROI when it comes to SMS, noting that the more safety data that can be made quantifiable with the help of digital flight risk tools, the more effective a flight department can be at making informed decisions about operational improvements and training. Understanding that there will be a notable talent vacuum in the aviation industry in the near future as a good portion of the current workforce moves towards retirement, Bruneau acknowledged that SMS will contribute greatly to safety knowledge management as new talent enters the workforce.
“Safety in our industry is an ever-changing dynamic,” Bruneau concluded. “There are new lessons to be learned every day and safety processes that need to benefit from that learning as we move forward in time. SMS is really about enabling that continuous process improvement and contributing to the evolution of the workforce that really facilitates the aviation industry.”
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