I was skulking around on the web the other day and I came across this blog post* featuring a Q&A with Rehbein AOS's Ben Hargreaves. While the post isn't talking airport safety, it does go into the role of airports in the regional/remote environment and it does mention a couple of good management practices. I like the discussion on the role of the airport in a regional community. Ben says that:
"(f)rom what I’ve seen, the most successful operators are those that understand the need for a bit of ‘joined-up’ thinking about how the airport fits socio-economically into the region."
This is very much pointed at the money side of the equation but has a very real impact on the resourcing of the aerodrome. And by resourcing, I not only mean people and equipment but also training and expert assistance. If resources are allocated on a revenue basis - i.e. only what the airport's own income can support - then more often than not, its not enough. Even the smallest aerodrome requires a certain level of attention by suitably training personnel with an appropriate level of equipment. Now, I can't say what that minimum level is but I will say that at many aerodromes I've visited, it has not been at the required level. I agree with the implication that those operators who see their airport as part of the bigger social and economic picture, will set more realistic goals and develop more suitable plans.
Further along, Ben mentions stakeholder communication. This is a fundamental aspect of an airport's safety management system. Most documented safety management systems I've come across stipulate the convening of a safety committee. Yet, very few have used these forums to develop strong channels for funnelling safety related information. Again, while Ben is talking more about economics and development, the quote below is equally pertinent to safety.
"In terms of techniques, there isn’t necessarily any right or wrong way of going about this. It really depends on knowing who your stakeholders are and the message you want to communicated (and always remember communication goes in both directions) as to how best to achieve it."
Its no surprise to me to see good advice coming from non-safety discussion. After all, a safety management system is mostly about systemic management - it just happens to be directed at safety. Nothing in safety management is unique to the concept of safety. Organisations have long been using policy, accountability, risk management, assurance and training to achieve all manner of organisations goals such as quality, production, financial control and public relations.
Recently, I've been supportive of airport operators seeking to leverage existing management systems to meet their airport safety obligations - as long as they keep the focus on aviation safety.
* I most definitely realise that Ben's blog post is advertising for some speaking engagement of his. I'm not endorsing or advertising that engagement, I just wanted to share his words with a bit of commentary of my own.