Monday, October 19, 2020

SMS Works

 SMS Works

By Catalina9

COVID19 affected air travel and airport operations to a degree never seen before. Major airports went down to 10% of normal movements and the airlines parked thousands of airplanes at these same airports. COVID19 was a disaster for the aviation industry with little or no hope to recover back to 2019 levels for several years. 

An effective Safety Management System (SMS) could not have prevented this disastrous outcome and would not have made one difference for safety in operations. However, what any airport or airline would have in place with an effective SMS, is a recovery tool unlike any other tool. 

A positive attitude is a prerequisite for recovery in aviation.
When a hazard is discovered for the very first time, or a special cause incident occurs for the very first time, three corrective action plan (CAP) options are available. Option one is the extreme to cease operations, or the other extreme to do nothing. The CAP solution when arriving at the fork-in-the-road and holding on to a previously unidentified hazard, is not to develop a CAP to attack the hazard, but it is of vital importance to turn in the direction of least residual risk (leftover hazards) and the least substitute risks (new hazards). When a new hazard is introduced into the SMS system and this is a hazard without prior known CAPs it is impossible to design a CAP that will resolve the risks. The risk has become an inherent risk that needs to be mitigated. 

A couple of examples of a the introduction of a new hazard is the Hudson River landing, where the probability of an all-engine failure was considered a likelihood to be inconceivable and times between intervals to be imaginary, theoretical, virtual, or fictional. Another accident example is MH370 incident where it also was inconceivable that an airliner could just vanish into thin air. When COVID19 hit airports and airlines with an SMS contingency plan for recovery executed their plan and became the leaders of recovery at airport and airlines. A recovery does not imply getting back to 2019 levels, but to recover from a prior unknown hazard. No one could ever imagine that a virus could prevent 3-4 billion passengers to travel. In 2019 the global airline industry reached over 4.54 billion people. Not long-ago IATA published an article that 1.2 billion people had travelled the first nine months of the year, or about 25% of 2019 levels. 

Airlines and airport took it upon themselves at an early stage of the hazard identification to apply the principle of SMS and ensure that customer service became their number one priority. Airlines and airports leaders understood that the public expected them to make changes and that they needed changes that the travelling public would accept as their hazard protection. 

Their first step was to design and implement a Safety Policy. In general, this policy stated that only COVID19-free passengers could board an aircraft for travel. Not only did they distribute their policy to all personnel, but they also expected the policy to be adhered to by the travelling public, airport operators, check-in agents and flight crew. Airports installed sanitizing gates and airlines sanitized each aircraft prior to boarding new passengers. In addition, check-in agents checked all traveller’s health condition prior to boarding. The first SMS step was completed, which was a short-term corrective action to separate data into two categories. 

The second step was to implement a non-punitive reporting policy. Anyone who observed a hazard, i.e. that a person might be affected by the COVID19 virus was encouraged to report it without fear of repercussion, or for fear of being kicked-off the flight. The non-punitive reporting policy became the second level of safety to separate data into the correct category. The beauty of the non-punitive reporting policy is that there is no requirement for the person reporting to have all the facts or to provide a solution, but to report what in their mind is a hazard. It’s for the experts, SMS Manger or Director of Safety in an organization to establish the validity of the claim. 

The third step was to establish definite guidelines and roles and responsibility for all personnel. This includes what actions to take and the reporting hierarchy. The crucial test for the airline industry had become to ensure that the same approach was applied on all seven continents: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. Applying the CAP with regional differences was expected to cause an unstable recovery. 

The fourth step was to communicate to the travelling public and to both internal and external organizations. The communication process needed to be simple and accessible, and social media became the main preference for communication source. Airlines and airports conducted surveys to learn how the travelling public felt about departure, or arrival delays. 

I am the Confidential Advisor to the AE.
The fifth step was safety planning for travelers to maintain a confidence level that air travel is protecting them from the hazard. Goals and objectives were established and included spacing passengers seating and design seat separators. Face masks were also required during the flight to contain any large droplets within a personal space. Airlines were already equipped with a comprehensive air filtering system as an additional layer to ensure customer satisfaction. 

comprehensive air filtering system as an additional layer to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Step six was performance measurements. Just as passenger’s heath conditions data were documented upon boarding, data was also collected upon deplaning. This data was entered into a hazard registry, analyzed, and compared to pre-boarding screening. 

Step seven was to review all data for effectiveness. IATA article published that 1.2 billion people had travelled by air the first 9 months of 2020. Out of the 1.2 billion travelers 44 cases were contributed inflight COVID-19 transmission, which is five COVID19 transmission per month. Let’s say that an average airliner seats 150 passengers. For 150 passengers to reach 1.2 billion travelers, they would be required to travel 8,000,000 trips. Out of these 8 million trips, 44 passengers would be infected. One person would have to travel 181,818 trips in 9 months to reach a high probability level to be one of these 44 receiving an in-flight transmission of COVID19. 

It is impossible to see what the future holds. It is impossible to state that without applying CAPs, mitigations, and SMS principles more than 44 cases would have occurred during air travel. However, when comparing to the general population of 7.8 billion people worldwide and 40,369,270 cases; this is about 1 of every 200 being infected by COVID19. If applying the same 1:200 ratio to the air-travelling public, 6,217,616 would have been infected. 

Based on this data form the World Health Organization and the International Air Transport Association, a Safety Management System is the profit generator, the effective business tool, and the superior tool in customer satisfaction. 

Recovery in aviation and recovery at airports is to dedicate your Amazing Airport or Airline to continuous improvements. Train your SMS to increase your revenue one-tenth of one percent daily. This amounts to one half of one percent more productive each week, or two percent each month and 26% increased revenue each year. 


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