This industry group effort was successful, and the standard that was collaboratively developed has become known as the Air Charter Safety Foundation Industry Audit Standard (IAS). This world-class standard puts registered charter operators on par with the leading scheduled airlines of the world that code share, since they use a similar standard. After its creation, the IAS was used by this major U.S. operator for almost two years and, in fact, suppliers were told that they were expected to meet the standard over the next few years. Nearly 30 charter operators have achieved the IAS registration.
Following is a statement issued by ACSF President Bryan Burns:
The ACSF is reaching out to all independent auditors to get back to the proverbial roundtable and figure out how to establish and agree to one safety standard. We owe it to the charter community. But most of all, we owe it to the chartering public who have the right to know to what standard their charter provider is adhering.
So, is the standard too high? Are we heading back to a dog’s breakfast of undisclosed standards, or can the charter industry take control of its destiny in this area? There is no question that comprehensive third-party auditing of air charter companies is a good idea. Remember, the FAA regulates to a minimum standard. The question is, what standard will show consumers that some operators have invested in and obtained a higher standard thereby reducing risk?
The reality now is that some charter operators are faced with 10 to 15 audits per year, all of which have different undisclosed standards. Some operators literally have to re-write manuals from one week to the next in order to appease these different standards. Obviously, this is an industry in chaos. The ultimate downside of this confusion is a reduction in safety, and not one that the industry can risk. This situation should not be allowed to continue. And yes, looming over the horizon will be yet another standard when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determines what their Safety Management System requirements are going to be. It is not a rosy picture for the air charter industry, charter customers, safety in general and, ultimately, the national air transportation system.
The FAA sets the minimum standard for both scheduled and on-demand air carriers. With the development of best practices, quality management systems and now safety management systems, there are ways to reduce risk continually. The scheduled air carriers of the world recognized this and developed a way to measure one’s ability to achieve a world-class status. The FAA recognized this and allowed this standard to be used to meet the requirements established in the code share rules. So, what is the issue in the on-demand charter market? Are there too few operators able to reach this world-class level? Will we have to settle for some lower standard so more can get on the registry? Or, will the industry pull itself out of the old paradigm of mutable un-disclosed standards?
Charter operators are now faced with a dilemma: Do I pick an easy unpublished standard, or do I put my head down, push my organization across the finish line, and join the rest of the world-class operators that are measured by one industry standard that is published for the world to see?
The ACSF created one world-class standard that did not compete with anyone in the business but was designed by leading charter operators and audit companies to promote and enhance safety throughout the entire industry. It is time we establish and agree to one standard and make it stick.