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10 October 2018

Less is More - The story behind improved ground operation audits

There are more than 120,000 flights worldwide every day, and this number rises every year. Each flight involves a complex interplay of operations on the ground – a ballet of people, vehicles, and services. And in such an environment, accidents can happen. In 2007 it was estimated that an incident or injury occurred for every 1000 departures, and that ground damage (usually referred to as “tarmac rash”) was costing the industry $4 billion a year. In response, the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) was launched, enabling ground handlers worldwide to consistently apply common standards.
Safety is aviation’s number one priority, and the industry never rests on its laurels. Therefore, after a decade of experience, ISAGO is being revamped. The key change is to move from a team of voluntary auditors performing multiple audits, to what IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac refers to as “a core of dedicated professionally-trained auditors.” The result, says de Juniac, will be, “much-needed capacity building, and even greater auditing consistency and depth, resulting in more reliable audit results.”
Fewer audits, performed by highly-qualified auditors to a worldwide recognized standard, enables stakeholders to benefit from global experience, constantly improving results in a way that no single stakeholder can match. In addition a unique reporting system, the Ground Damage Database (GDDB), measures operational impact on safety. Together with continuous improvement in documentation, training and oversight, this creates the best possible environment to foster safe operations.
The next step is to ensure stakeholders can implement and benefit from the new ISAGO. “It is important to have effective communications at the country and regional level for ground operations safety,” says Giancarlo Buono, IATA’s Director of Safety and Flight Operations for Europe. “IATA’s local offices are best positioned to interface with local stakeholders to ensure the many benefits of the IATA safety programs are known and adopted.”
For this reason, in September regulators, airline operators and ground operations providers were invited to a workshop at our Nordic & Baltic office in Stockholm, where we shared the successful story behind the existing IATA Audit pools, as well as the benefits of the new ISAGO program.
The workshop enabled the picture to become clearer on such issues as:

  • Open findings from audits 
  • Responsibility for oversight control 
  • Stronger competency process in every area of the audit 
  • Audit costs falling on the Ground Service Provider

The discussions have raised expectations for the success of the improved ISAGO program. As the representative from the Finnish Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Ilkka Kaakinen, affirmed, “The IATA audit pools for fuel and de-icing plus the new setup of the ISAGO program, are the only standard for ground operations that can achieve global penetration, and will be the only way forward.”

ISAGO workshop STO September 2018.png

ISAGO workshop participants outside the entrance of the IATA Nordic & Baltic local office in Stockholm 

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