The Basic Aviation Risk Standard (BARS) program is an internationally recognised auditing program introduced by the Flight Safety Foundation. It provides organisations with a safety standard to help in the risk management of aviation-related activities. So then, exactly what is a BARS audit?
A BARS audit is a comprehensive aviation audit designed to ensure the safety of aircraft and aviation operations using a globally recognised safety standard.
BARS audits are part of the larger not-for-profit Flight Safety Foundation. The Foundation’s program consists of a multitude of aviation safety training programs and a data program analysing international aviation safety. The BARS program was designed by the Flight Safety Foundation in partnership with large mining companies to create an efficient way of assessing and monitoring the safety risk presented by charter flights.
There are many organisations around the world relying on aviation to support their operations. The BAR Standard was originally created for the mining and resources industries, but its use has expanded greatly since . Now the Standard is used by hundreds of organisations ranging from businesses and government departments to humanitarian organisations and other not-for-profit groups. Such groups use charter flights and regular passenger transport of all sizes, ranging from small helicopters to multi-jet aircraft.
The Basic Aviation Risk Standard uses a risk-based model looking at all the threats facing these kinds of operations, and linking them to control measures to produce a baseline standard ensuring aircraft operations are safe. The Standard is actually more stringent than what is required for most aviation regulatory agencies.
What is reviewed in a BARS audit?
During a BARS audit, you can expect auditors to rigorously review the organisational, flight operations, ground handling and maintenance areas with your organisation. There is a focus on reviewing the documentation of procedures and implementation evidence to confirm processes are in place.
This may include reviewing the following:
• Safety and Quality Management Systems;
• Operational Manuals;
• Flight crew licences and training records; and
• Hangars and spare parts control.
A BARS audit will look at what is called ‘design effectiveness’, with accredited auditors looking at all the operations and technical management systems of a particular aviation operator.
What are the threat controls a BARS audit looks for?
As the BAR Standard is a risk-based standard, BARS auditors will search for a wide range of controls, including ‘common controls’ applying to all threats and specific controls applying to particular threats.
Some of the common controls that apply to all threats include:
• The possession of a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC) or relevant document issued by a regulatory agency. This is a basic requirement all operators must have in order to carry out their operations. Aviation operators will need to demonstrate a good management organisation structure and have defined roles within their operations, for example ‘Head of Flight Operations’. These roles should come with detailed job descriptions.
• Aircrew meeting minimum experience requirements. The BAR Standard requires the air operator’s flight crew to have a certain level of experience, and the Operator should document these requirements for all positions within their aircrew. It also requires maintenance personnel to meet certain minimum experience requirements.
• Aircrew and maintenance personnel receiving recurrent training to civil aviation authority standards. For aircrew, this includes yearly recurrent training a minimum of two flight checks on an annual basis.
• Possession of a Drug and Alcohol Policy. This policy should meet all requirements of the local regulatory authority when such obligations exist. If no regulations exist, an operator must at least meet the requirements of the contracting organisation. It should be a formal, written policy and cover everybody involved in aviation activities that are safety-sensitive.
• Sticking to BAR Standard flight time limits. The BAR Standard prescribes a range of time limits that should be adhered to unless, of course, local regulatory authorities require more stringent limits. This includes, for example, eight hours flight time for a single pilot and ten hours for a dual pilot.
• Possessing a Safety Management System (SMS) commensurate with an aircraft operators’ size and complexity. The SMS should include things like a Safety Policy, a Just Culture policy, hazard reporting systems, risk assessment processes, incident reporting and emergency response procedure.
There are also specific threats faced by aircraft operators that must be controlled through specific safety measures. Some of these threats include:
• Runaway excursions. This is when an aircraft leaves the runway during take-off or landing, causing an accident. A dramatic example occurred in 2010 with Air India Express Flight 812 in India. Pilot error caused the aircraft to overrun the runway and burst into flames, killing 158 people. This risk can be mitigated by having strict SOPs, designing the airfield or helipad appropriately as well as conducting airfield inspections and landing site assessments.
• Fuel contamination. When fuel is contaminated, engine power can be lost and aircraft accidents can occur. Maintaining clean and high-quality aviation fuel is critical to the safety of aviation. The risk can be mitigated by regular fuel testing, filtration, sampling and storage.
• Ground collision. The Flight Safety Foundation estimated that around 27,000 accidents/incidents on ramps occur every year. This is about one for every 1,000 departures. One needs to look no further than the Tenerife disaster in 1977 to understand how deadly they can be. Basic ways to mitigate the risk of ground collisions include having a waiting area for passengers well away from the aircraft movement area, including separating between arriving and departing passengers. There should be personnel dedicated to passenger control and strict ground handling procedures in an operators’ Operations Manual.
• Medical evacuation. There are special controls that should be implemented by Medical Evacuation (‘medevac’) flights. This is where aircraft is used to transport sick or injured people to suitable medical facilities for treatment. Procedures should take into account weight and balance for operations requiring a stretcher carrier. There should also be protocols put in place when medial transfers are required and also a means of communication (such as headsets) between pilots and medical staff. Risk assessment processes should ensure that a medical evacuation emergency is kept apart from flight safety decision-making. Safe conduct of the flight must absolutely take priority.
For further information, please take a look at the Flight Safety Foundation’s BARS Implementation Guidelines to get a better idea of what you should know in preparation for a BARS audit.
Avlaw Aviation Consulting is an accredited BARS audit company with the Foundation. We have specialist BARS auditors that can audit your operations no matter where you are based in the world. Find out from this blog why we believe a BARS audit matters.