Chuck Weirauch reports from the NBAA’s 2014 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.

The trend towards evidence-based business aviation training, safety management systems, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)'s Top Safety Areas, and a discussion panel led by some of the FAA's top safety experts were some of the key focus areas of interest during the organization's 2014 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition held in Orlando Oct 21-23. The topic of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) was covered for the first time at the show in two separate panels, while other panels dealt with improving aircraft operations and the need to attract more new pilots and other professionals to careers in aviation.

Attendance at the three-day conference reflected the steady but slow growth in business aviation operations at more than 26,000, a bit more than at the 2013 show. Attendees visited the 1,100 exhibitors at the event, which included several business aviation training providers. Also on hand were more than 100 aircraft at both the static display at Orlando Executive Airport and within the Orange County Convention Center itself.

Evidence-based Training 

In the NBAA conference's primary training session, members of the NBAA Safety Committee's Training Advisory Subcommittee outlined the need for business aviation flight departments to develop an evidence-based training ( EBT) management system as an element of the departments overall safety management system (SMS). They pointed out that there is a growing trend for business aircraft operators to begin to adopt the EBT approach originally developed by ICAO, IATA and other aviation organizations for the airline industry.

EBT focuses on developing training programs based on an individual flight department's own operations, experiences, records and identified threats to that particular operation, rather than on just standardized "one-size-fits- all" training programs. The Training Subcommittee has produced an EBT guide, Maximize Your Training with an Evidence-Based Training Management System Training Management System Guide Handout, available through the NBAA Website (www.nbaa.org), in order to provide business flight departments with a means to develop such an EBT for their own operations.

J.R. Russel, leader of the Training Advisory Subcommittee, explained to session attendees that a training management system is a subsystem of a business aviation operator's SMS. Once the SMS is employed to identify the hazards and the threats to an individual operation, then operators can look at some type of training to mitigate those risks.

"When you talk about some of the ways to mitigate the risk and identifying threats, probably the number one tool in your SMS toolbox is training," Russel said. "Training is probably the most effective way to minimize risk and identify threats to your operation. A training management system allows you to take those threats identified and some training objectives to develop training or having that training developed for you."

Al Mann, director of Operations for Reynolds Jet Management, pointed out the need for developing individualized training management systems as a part of an SMS. The same type of check-the-box training for the flight operation's pilots every six months or annually, and having those pilots "jumping through the same hoops year in and year out" at times will not address the specific training needs of an individual flight department, he declared.

"The purpose of a safety management system is to allow you to be proactive," Mann emphasized. "The SMS, and the resulting EBT lets you be out in front of your operations so that you can do things from a proactive, rather than a reactive point of view."

Caleb Taylor, Founder of ProFlight, Inc., said that some business flight organizations might not have a lot of internal data to identify their threats, making the development of both an SMS and an EBT more difficult. In such cases, Taylor said that such operations need to be looking to external sources to identify those threats to their operations. One good source is NTSB accident reports. These reports are a very good source for the identification of threats to individual flight departments, he related to the audience.

"You might read about an accident that involved flying into a short, wet runway with a crew inexperienced in those conditions," Taylor described. "Then you might ask yourself if such threats are anything that you need to be concerned about in your operation. Do your crews have much experience in landing on short, contaminated runways, for example? That's one way you can determine how to proceed to mitigate the level of risk and identify threats from an accident report."

"You will be hearing the term evidence-based training more and more, because the regulators want us to incorporate these safety management systems into our operations," Mann summed up. "That's a clear indication that you need to modify your training so that it is more evidence-based."

FSF Advocates Business EBT 

In a separate interview with CAT magazine at the conference, Peter Stein, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF)'s Advisory Committee Chair for Business Aviation, also reported that the aviation community will begin to see an advocacy for more evidence-based training in business aviation. He affirmed that the NBAA Training Advisory Committee is already working to develop guidelines in this area.

When asked what threats that have been identified in commercial aviation need to be addressed via a business aviation SMS and EBT, Stein said that the Foundation considers the unstable approach/ go-around decision issue to have top priority. The FSF has conducted a preliminary study of commercial aviation operations that shows that 97 percent of unstable approaches do not result in a go-around, but rather with pilots continuing to land. The final results of this study were to be released at the International Aviation Safety Summit in Abu Dhabi this November.

"The challenge for the business aviation operator is that we don't generate the high amounts of data in as timely a manner as in the airline industry," Stein pointed out. "But just to get that information anecdotally in business aviation, you are seeing some of the same challenges as far as piloting issues as you do in commercial aviation. This means that, although business aviation pilots' approaches are unstable, they are also continuing to land. And I think that a lot of the focus out of the unstable approach/ go-around study is concentrated on such things as decision-making skills and re-evaluating the classic go-around and the classic stabilized approach criteria."

Even with such anecdotal information, there is a basis for addressing the results of the unstable approach/go-around study in an SMS-based EBT, Stein said. That means that flight training departments can now introduce scenarios, circumstances or conditions into its training environment that are now known to be conducive to perhaps the decision to not go-around, or perhaps other issues.

"So I think that (the unstable approach/ go-around issue) is certainly one of the areas that will be continuing to support efforts to move business aviation to evidence-based training," Stein summed up. "We can take the study results and see how we can drill them down to the business aviation community."

The limited amount of business aviation flight operations data available is one reason why the Flight Safety Foundation is beginning an initiative in cooperation with the FAA to look at global data-sharing of safety information, Stein said. The Foundation wants to drive towards predictive systems in aviation safety, and in order to have a predictive system, the aviation industry has to have to have high volumes of data available, he concluded.

NBAA Top Safety Areas

At the NBAA Safety Town Hall proceedings during the 2014 Annual Meeting, the NBAA Safety Committee announced its newly developed list of the organization's top Safety Focus Areas on the first day of the show. At the top of the list was Professionalism, with the list including A Positive Safety Culture; Single-Pilot Safety; Fitness for Duty; Distraction Management; Airmanship Skills; Airport Safety; Technology Management; Public Policy and Talent Pipeline. According to the Safety Committee members, professionalism in aviation is the pursuit of excellence though discipline, ethical behavior, and continuous improvement.

Another reason why professionalism was chosen as a top safety area is because it is a factor that reflects the behavior of pilots in everything they do in the cockpit, said Safety Committee member Marty Grier, senior manager of the Home Depot Aviation Department.

"We work in a terribly unforgiving industry," Grier said. "Our behaviors have an impact on everything we do. By developing professionalism in the industry, we can make an immediate and positive impact on aviation safety and attract new people to become the industry next generation's best."

Tony Kern, chief executive officer of Convergent Performance, emphasized that in aviation, regulators establish minimum standards for worker protection and safety, and the industry itself caters to the minimum standards, such as in training events.

"We are in an industry in which minimum standards might not always keep you alive," Kern emphasized. "The more you know and the more you practice what you know, the better your chance of surviving a challenge. True professionalism is a lifetime of climbing towards ever higher standards that you define and set for yourself."

FAA Safety Leadership 

A number of the FAA's top officials concerned with aviation safety participated in the "Conversation with FAA's Top Safety Leaders" session during the first day of the conference. They included John Hickey, Deputy Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety; John Duncan, Director of the Flight Standards Service; Lee Smith, Manager of the Air Transportation Division and James Viola, Manager of the General Aviation and Commercial Division.

Hickey outlined four main goals for the agency, which includes improving National Airspace System (NAS) air traffic control efficiency through the NextGen initiative. As a part of that discussion, he emphasized the importance of commercial and business aviation operators to consider complying to the requirement to equip their aircraft with ADS-B technologies well before the 2020 deadline to do so.

"The 2020 deadline will not move," Hickey said. "It is a mandate that is going to stay." Duncan discussed a number of flight standards initiatives currently underway, including the effort to increase the number of FAA inspectors available to provide checkrides.

Also presenting at the NBAA Annual Meeting 2014, was Major Gen. (ret.) Edward Bolton Jr., the FAA's Assistant Administrator for NextGen. Bolton said that a government partnership with the aviation industry is the key to the success of implementing the satellite-based air traffic control system.

First Time for UAS

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were featured for the first time at the annual NBAA event in two separate sessions. One session covered the pending FAA rules concerning the integration of UAS operations into the National Airspace System (NAS), while the other dealt with potential UAS commercial opportunities in business aviation once those rules are in place.

Dean Griffith, an attorney for the Operations Law Branch of the FAA Chief Counsel’s office, reported that the regulatory agency is finalizing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the commercial use of small UAS (those weighing less than 55 pounds), and should have it issued by the end of this year. The issue of UAS pilot training was also discussed, with aviation attorney Paul Lange stating that business aviation operators should be able to draw from their existing trained pilot population to operate those aircraft.

Rose Mooney, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech, attempted to answer the question of just how manned and unmanned aircraft will be able to operate together safely in the NAS.

“A lot of the technologies we’re developing for UAS are going to make the whole industry safer,” Mooney said. “We’re looking at ground-based solutions for low-altitude UAS flight, sense-and-avoid, smaller radar systems, ADS-B and other technologies that are going to make manned flight safer.”

Training Providers

Several aviation training providers were exhibiting the NBAA conference. They included TRU Simulation + Training, which displayed its ProFlight Citation CJ3 FTD in the Textron company's main exhibit area. Other providers at the event were Advanced Aircrew Academy, ELITE Simulation Solutions, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Frasca International, and SimCom Training Centers.