Gulf Flight Safety Council
Up until recently, an announcement that the Gulf Flight Safety Council was going to meet would receive little notice. With the Rise of the Gulf Airlines, attention should be given to this group focused on the topics of this airline safety meeting in this new regional or global center. Perhaps this may not be an epicenter of enhancing aeronautical safety, but it is now such a hub of air transportation activity that focus should be directed to the Gulf Air Academy in Bahrain on April 24-25.
GFSC was formed during a coffee in Oman in early 2000. The caffeinated attendees decided that they ought to establish an organization devoted to flight safety in this area. Participants now include
- Bahrain Airport Company,
- Bahrain’s Civil Aviation Affairs,
- Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior,
- Emirates Airline,
- Etihad Airways,
- Gulf Aviation Academy,
- Gulf Air,
- Oman Air,
- Qatar Airways,
- Saudi Airlines,
- manufacturers, regulators, air traffic service providers, business jet and VVIP operators, airlines and cargo operators and many more.
Topics include remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) flights, safety operations, cabin safety, general issues and incidents related to regional airlines. The Council meets twice yearly in April and October to promote safety improvement initiatives and hosts an annual Safety Summit each year in December.
GFSC has agreed upon a mission statement:
- Engage the International Safety Bodies, so to contribute in the safety activities in the region.
- Participate in modifying the regulations within the region and worldwide to effectively serve “Safety”.
- Educate the regional community in Aviation Safety by arranging activities such as:
- Safety Seminars, Conferences
- Safety related training Programs
- Share specific safety measures that are proven to be effective for an Airline; so it can be utilized by others.
- Disseminate safety related information to frontline workers by utilizing all available means.
- Bring together key people in the aviation sector for the purpose of highlighting safety information in an unrestricted but confidential environment.
- Share specific experiences for the mutual benefit of all, and learn from each other.
- Present/arrange topics of interest, development and relevance to improve operational safety and intelligence.
- Regularly engage with safety bodies/authorities/ministries and relevant industry, to both learn from, and encourage where appropriate, regulation/operational/manual changes.
The council turned to an academic resource, the University of Southern California’s Aviation Safety and Security Program. The GFSC/USC program provides members education on the leading edge of knowledge on a real time and constantly refreshing basis.
The visibility and influence of GFSC are enhanced due to the growth of the member airlines. According to IATA, Emirates is the #1 carrier in terms of scheduled passengers kilometers flown (230,855,000,000) and Qatar is #10 (91,800,000,000). As measured by international scheduled passengers flown, Emirates falls in at # 4 (47,278,000). SKYTRAX’s most recent airline ratings have Emirates as #1, Qatar as #2, Etihad as #7 and Oman as #22.
The clearest proof of these carriers’ clout is the battle of the US airlines against the Gulf Carriers. American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have banned together in an aggressive campaign to get the US Government to take action against the unfair financial support from their countries of origin. FedEx and Boeing disagree that the Gulf carriers should have remedial restrictions imposed.
These financial differences may inhibit , unfortunately, any joint safety efforts by A4A and GFSC. The range of aircraft age of the Gulf Carriers (5.7 years to 9.8) means that these airlines may soon encounter some of the maintenance experiences of the A4A members (9.6 to 16.9). Perhaps the valuable US experience with SMS would be of great interest to the GFSC members. Conversely, the younger airlines which have been able to design their policies, programs and procedures without a hide bound history might have some novel approaches for the US airlines.
It once was a rubric of US aviation safety that the carriers would not compete on safety. It might be a good first step toward rapprochement to share ideas on how to reduce risk and assure journeys without incident!