Established in 1982, Petroleum Air Services (PAS) offers a wide range of air transportation services inside and outside Egypt, using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Specialized in services to the oil and gas industry and beyond, the company’s principal objective is to provide the safest and most efficient aviation service to its clients.
As the company expanded its services outside its traditional sector of oil and gas, the PAS Corporate Safety team needed in-depth risk and safety management understanding to tackle any activity. IATA diplomas gave them insight they can apply, and a renewed drive to excel.
Traditionally, our company of nearly 1,500 people has served the oil and gas industry throughout Egypt, which makes risk and safety management doubly important to us. Transporting personnel to oil-drilling sites is an activity that requires even more safety control and assurance than aviation already demands and, as a company, we have always been at the top of our game. The recent expansion of our business to other specialized areas, such as the equally safety-critical power-washing of electric towers, environmental clean-up, aerial photography or geological exploration in the desert, even local tourism, requires us to ensure our knowledge and practices can be applied easily and smoothly to these other areas.
Change is constant, and we need to keep up with it. As a company, we’re always looking to expand, into new activities, and outside the borders of Egypt. It’s therefore essential for me, as Corporate Safety Manager, that my team-members expand their horizons beyond their own field of specialization, and are fully familiar with risk management principles and safety management systems, so they can apply that knowledge to unfamiliar situations. It was clear to me that advanced Safety Management System (SMS) and risk management training would help build the team of future-managers I envision. Additionally, it would give us ideas to update our internal basic safety management training, which my team provides to every new recruit to PAS, and keep it at the level of excellence our new employees, and even some of our oil and gas customers, appreciate. For me, IATA was the only option. Their “mini-academic courses” add to your thinking, and the instructors clearly have lots of experience and real-world information that they’re not only willing but delighted to share. Their passion shines through, even in virtual training, which contrasts with the lack of engagement and mechanical delivery we have experienced from other providers in the past.
The 10 members of the safety team were enrolled in both the IATA Integrated Risk Management Diploma and the IATA Safety Management Systems for Airlines Diploma. Among them are our SMS and risk-management instructors. Each of the diplomas is composed of two required courses, with Safety Management Systems for Airlines common to both, and two elective courses. In addition to SMS for Airlines, we took Risk Management Implementation, Root Cause Analysis, SMS Implementation and Control, and Safety Performance Indicators to complete both diplomas.
We really appreciated how well structured the courses were, and the professionalism and level of knowledge of the instructors. The course content was well tailored to our industry, even though we’re not your usual type of client, and the instructors were clearly selected to be as beneficial to us as possible. One instructor was quite knowledgeable of oil and gas, which enabled a greater exchange of experience, but they all shared what they’ve seen with other operators, very confidentially, and it enriched our learning. Having the freedom to stop the instructor, to ask questions and discuss was a very nice flexibility for the team. Knowing our confidentiality would be respected, they also felt they could tell the instructor anything, and get insight to improve our processes. We also enjoyed listening to the IATA way of thinking.
We’ve completed many, many trainings on safety management, and we’ve often been left wanting more. The courses are mostly the same, and you know what’s coming next, which does not help to keep your attention. The IATA courses, on the other hand, enabled us to gain something new, and the instructors are generally good at grabbing attention and sustaining motivation. With one instructor, we were so interested, we didn’t even ask for a break! I also encouraged my team to ask questions and think of the training as a discussion rather than a lecture. Our experience has shown we can only get that from IATA; in the past, we’ve had other training where responses to our questions didn’t correspond, and that doesn’t make you want to carry on with the course.
I’m a great believer in learning. People get a huge boost to their confidence when they become more knowledgeable. It makes them want to take things on in a different way. It’s not just about a certificate, but about what they can get out of it, and how they can bring it back into the system. These IATA diplomas are certainly helping to meet my goals, and I can see the difference in my team. They’ve deepened their understanding with this training. The way they talk is different. They challenge our existing processes and are able to look at them differently. They’re thinking outside the box, more intuitively, and they’ve become passionate about it.
They’re looking for different routes to reach the same goals, thinking about how to improve operations and processes, continually updating our documentation, improving our safety culture. Our internal training instructors have been inspired to improve on our already better-than-average basic training. Even the less-experienced team members are questioning the way we’ve always done things, because the courses have motivated them to learn more, and because what they have learned, they can apply immediately. For example, one of the instructors in risk management shared a methodology used by a certain big oil company, and this gave one group the idea to review one of our processes and adapt it, so it now makes more sense. I’m proud of what they’re doing; and they’ve also gained a different perspective, thanks to IATA’s international viewpoint and experience, that puts them on a better footing with potential customers outside of Egypt. The value of IATA safety and risk management qualifications is clear to me, and I would always hire people who have them, because they won’t just have theoretical knowledge, but real understanding and the motivation to excel.
The feedback from everyone who attended the courses has been very positive, appreciating the delivery team and the structure, and we have already started planning for anyone managing or assisting safety performance and assurance, or risk management, to take the courses next year. Since the courses are delivered to our company privately, we also intend to invite our pilots, engineers, and ground handlers to attend, all of whom play a key role in safety. In the future, we will certainly do more courses from IATA – this was my third course in risk management, personally – because the curriculums change and ideas are updated, so we always get something new.
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