From a regulatory standpoint, the notion of operational safety has been strengthened by the publication of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Annex 19 on Operational Safety Management and the third edition of ICAO Doc 9859, the Safety Management Manual. Basically, this is an added effort the ICAO is making to reinforce all aspects related to operational safety, which were spread out over several of its annexes, in order to give it greater relevance. This strategy is in line with the development of the APEX (Airport Excellence in Safety) concept which the ACI (Airports Council International) has been promoting for some time in the field of operational safety. The recent publication of European Commission Regulation (EU) 139/2014, which entered into force on 6 March 2014 and lays down requirements for the competent authorities involved in the certification and supervision of airports, aerodrome operators and providers of platform management services, must be added to all this.
Operational safety is associated to the airport’s entire life cycle
Aerodrome certification is aimed at ensuring that the facilities, procedures and personnel comply with prevailing regulations and that appropriate protocols are followed to minimise the risks associated to aircraft operations at the airfield. This is a complex process which requires a considerable amount of dedication over time. It is highly advisable to make a significant investment to reach the objective of certifying an aerodrome, which can hardly be carried out by the airport’s personnel due to the daily work load it entails. It is therefore necessary to rely on technical consultants specialising in the matter, who will require collaboration from the airport’s own personnel to successfully complete this process. Furthermore, it is also essential to be able to rely on the different stakeholders involved in aircraft activities at the airfield – such as airline pilots, airport managers, handling personnel, air traffic controllers, consultants, etc. – in order to materialise effective operational safety measures in the management of the operational safety risks which necessarily arise from such consulting. The advantages of obtaining an aerodrome certification are manifold, ranging from economic advantages to operating efficiency advantages. However, the main advantage lies in the satisfaction of offering airlines and passengers the possibility of using an increasingly safe airport thanks to the Operational Safety Management System’s maintenance.
The combination of well-trained staff, the updating and review of both operating procedures and the operational safety management system, the use of new technologies at the airfield and the ability to have a proactive approach on operational safety is the key to success.
The best future outlook for operational safety consists of combining best practices that integrate new technologies (A-SMGCS, LED technology, ILCMS solutions, follow-the-green procedures, etc.) with safe, efficient designs that necessarily conform to aircraft taxiing procedures, which truly take into account the previous experience of other airports across the globe. This combination should be complemented with the continuous improvement provided by the ongoing training and efficient practice of stakeholders working at the airport on a daily basis. Operational safety is associated to the airport’s entire life cycle (consulting, design, building works, operation, use of effective technology tools and efficient management) and requires us all to get fully and enthusiastically involved to foster its continuous improvement.