Richard Collins’ Insights point to a possible SMS mechanism for General Aviation

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General Aviation SMS (Safety Management Systems)

Enhancing GA Safety Through Aircraft Owner Associations

Richard Collins is a legendary GA safety writer, author of approximately 1,000 published articles and 11 books. His private pilot’s license is dated 1952 and he has logged over 20,000 hours in various GA aircraft. He is the “go to” expert on this segment of flying. The two below articles trace the flight records of Cirrus pilots. The 2012 analysis in Air Facts can be summarized as follows:

A question that has to be asked is whether or not the pilot would have even been flying IFR in bad weather over rough terrain at night in his single-engine airplane if it had not been equipped with a parachute. I have always thought that a pilot who would do anything in a twin that he wouldn’t do in a single is an accident looking for a place to happen. Same goes with the parachute…

When I look at the Cirrus accidents, I get the feeling that many of the pilots did not realize how quickly an airplane can bite, hard.

Four years later, Mr. Collins concluded as follows:

I think it is obvious what is right with Cirrus pilots. They have become much more realistic about the balance between the risks and rewards of using airplanes like this for purposeful private air transportation. Once that is done, there isn’t a better way to go.

The Cirrus pilots learned from the past and adjusted their flying tendencies. Obviously, that’s a good thing.

There has been exceptional improvement in the safety record and much of that success is attributable to the FAA’s Safety Management System. That method is premised on a proactive effort to manage risk, as described at the agency’s website:

SMS is the formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risk. (FAA Order 8000.369)

general aviation sms

One of the tools which permits SMS to be forward looking is its collection of meta data and the analysis of risk trend numbers. Individual certificate holders collect its safety indicia numbers and enhance their reliability by referring to other similarly situated operators’ data profiles.

General aviation has difficulties with SMS. The owners of the planes do not have comparable staffs to record the information; there is no ready means of amalgamating the specific aircraft type performance; there is no available team of people to process such experiences.

The GA safety expert’s article suggests that there may be organizations available to assemble and assess this valuable source of safety actions. In his case, he mentioned the Cirrus aircraft community. The major aircraft types have collections of owners and here is a sample of them.

general aviation sms

general aviation smsThrough the good offices of the EAA, there is an association of aircraft owner associations called the Type Club Coalition.

Through one of the automated SMS programs, properly modified for ease of entry by a GA pilot, the necessary computerized infrastructure could be created. The individual aircraft owners groups could support the aggregation of their members’ aircraft performance trends and the TCC or AOPA or EAA could take responsibility for calling out operational problems.

SMS is only as useful as the acceptance of safety culture of the operators. The true indoctrination of these pilots could be performed by any of these organizations.

GA is doing a lot to advance its safety  record and there is more that can be done. Adding a GA SMS based on these aircraft owners groups could result in designing safety improvements directed to specific types.



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1 Comment on "Richard Collins’ Insights point to a possible SMS mechanism for General Aviation"

  1. The source of the picture is Air Facts Journal and it is fair to assume that Richard likes it.

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