The aviation world revolves around safety, it is at the forefront of everything we do, design and operate. To ensure that we have everybody metaphorically singing from the same hymn sheet, we formalise the hymn sheets into documents. Depending where and which company you work for these documents take on different names; work orders, checklists, company procedures. They all have one thing in common; they are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). They exist because there is a need to control Safety, Quality, Cost & Delivery. It ensures that Bob who’s nearing retirement, on an early morning job in Scotland carries out a procedure the exact same way as Sarah, a new joiner to the company on a job in Southern England at the weekend. A process that is not controlled will inevitably produce variations in the end result that will be a contributing factor in quality problems, equipment failures and safety concerns. Standard Operating Procedures ensure that consistency is maintained and can also be developed as time goes by to incorporate improvements based on experience, accidents, near misses or innovations from other manufacturers or operators to suit the needs of a particular organisation.
For those pilots undertaking BNUC or RPQ certification and aspiring to get a permission to fly for aerial work (PFAW) there is a requirement to submit SOP’s in the form of an Operations Manual. The operations manual shouldn’t be thought of as just a tick box exercise or a hoop to jump through so you can get out there and start undertaking some paying sorties. It should be your go to guide especially when you are busy, under pressure and are required to deliver a service to your customer. It is easy to miss crucial steps and these can be as easily forgotten when you are relaxed as when you are feeling the pressure. Without a procedure to follow, the results of a missed step such as failing to check a battery charge before loading on the aircraft could have safety implications or it could be that you forget to press record on the GoPro which would have financial implications if you don’t get paid for the job. The operations manual will also serve as an instruction manual and guide should you employ more than one pilot, ensuring all pilots operate in the same, safe and efficient manner.
In the manned world, a study showed that 72% of incidents involved omission of a step or procedure as a causal factor in an incident and for those familiar with the Swiss Cheese Model it is clear that following a checklist would probably have prevented these incidents. The operations manual is a bit more than just a set of checklists though; it documents the company structure, the company ethos towards safety and the technical specifications of your aircraft. It also demonstrates you understand the responsibilities and accountabilities of the company and the Pilot-in-Command (PIC), the rules with which you must comply and the processes you will carry out in order to fulfil those goals.
Part 2: Responsibility and Accountability