Published on November 14th, 2016 | by Jim Lee


How safety is being managed in the Air Corps – a lot done more to do

irish-air-corps-crestArising from one of the recommendations made in the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s report into the crash involving the Air Corps’ Pilatus PC-9M, ‘265’, at Cornamona, Co. Galway, on 12th October 2009, just over seven years ago, the Air Corps reviewed the operation of its Safety Management System and accepted the suggestion made that it include an external source in the auditing process. Accordingly, Mr Jacques Michaud was commissioned by the Air Corps in August 2013 to carry out a review of the Air Corps’ Safety Management System. The report entitled ‘Irish Air Corps Safety Management Review’ was completed in November 2013 at a cost of €20,000.


Air Corps Agusta maintenance

Almost three later, on 11th October, the Taoiseach in his capacity as Minister for Defence, in reply to a written question from Deputy Lisa Chambers (Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Defence) gave details on the progress of the recommendations of this review. The following table indicates those recommendations which have been completed or are in the progress of being completed.

Recommendations Status
The GOC sets-up an annual Risk Assessment Review Board to re-examine all records of risk acceptance to assess the validity of the risk assessment and mitigating measures. The Risk Assessment Review Board shall be chaired by the GOC or a suitable delegate. Completed
The GOC revises policies related to risk acceptance within the Irish Air Corps so proper risk mitigation be documented as appropriate and residual risk accepted at an equivalent level. Completed
The GOC indicates in Operations Orders the risk index assigned to the operation/exercise. If the risk is assessed as being above Acceptable Level of Safety Performance then the Operations Orders shall indicate the mitigating measures in force and stipulate by name, rank and position the officer who is accepting the risk during the exercise/operation. Completed
The GOC ensures safety specialists receive appropriate training in SMS related to safety programs, standards and safety expectations. Completed
The GOC with the Internal Safety Management System Officer (ISMSO) develops and endorses an organisational policy outlining in simple terms the duty of employees to report mandatory and near-miss events through the guiding principles of ‘Just Culture’. The policy should articulate what are reportable safety occurrences, the obligation to report and the implications of not reporting. Completed
The GOC stresses and develops policies outlining the obligation of personnel towards safety reporting, stressing the personal obligation to report near misses and the liabilities associated with failing to do so. Completed
The GOC mandates the Internal Safety Management System Officer to organize one major Emergency Response Plan exercise per year, alternating between a command post exercise and a realistic simulation testing the full capabilities of the Emergency Response Plan. Completed
The GOC promulgates the Irish Air Corps Emergency Response Plan and ensures the plan is reviewed periodically. Completed
The GOC liaises with Department of Defence to put in place common procedures for the documentation of hazards and management of risks. Completed
The GOC revises the Sortie Risk Assessment Form (SRAF) to ensure appropriate hazard identification and risk quantification before each sortie and that sortie risk be accepted by an appropriate command authority if risk is above Acceptable Level of Safety Performance. Completed
The GOC reviews SRAFs for suitability and puts in place processes for the proper transfer of accountability Completed
The ISMSO, or in his/her absence, the Air Corps Flight Safety Officer should conduct a random review of High Risk Sortie Risk Assessment Forms to ensure standardisation between units and enhancement of processes. Completed
The GOC consolidates Quality Assurance audits to minimise impact on units and centralise the follow-up on corrective measures. Completed
The GOC or appointed senior officer acting on his behalf oversees an IAC safety committee responsible to review safety policies, safety actions, safety concerns and standards within the Corps. The committee should also monitor other activities having an impact on safety like risk assessments, intelligence, and future flight data following, and Flight Data Monitoring programs etc. Completed
The GOC conducts a thorough risk assessment of strategic threats and implements suitable mitigating measures. Completed
The GOC takes steps to qualify a cadre of personnel in risk assessment and put together a program to familiarize personnel with risk assessments. The training shall be widespread in the Corps to include Unit Flight Safety Officers, authorisers, unit commanders and key members of the Senior Management Team. In Progress
The GOC puts in place a communication strategy to create a positive safety climate and inform personnel on strategic plans to counter threats to the Irish Air Corps. In Progress
The GOC designates on an interim basis suitable facilities that will be used as Corps HQ for the control of a complex emergency situation and considers the creation of a suitable permanent facility In Progress

Air Corps fire training

The report also contained additional recommendations which are being considered in the context of a wider project to set out options for an Air Safety System within the Defence Organisation. A joint civil/military working group has been tasked with responsibility for this and a project plan has been developed and is currently being progressed. Those recommendations are as follows.

  • The GOC in consultation with the Air Corps Flight Safety Officer instigates a program of safety communications to enhance organisational safety knowledge, understanding and feedback using ‘Just Culture’ as primary building block
  • The GOC develops processes for the conduct of independent safety investigations involving key personnel within a unit/wing/Corps for events where the reputation of the Irish Air Corps Safety Program could be affected if the investigation was conducted internally
  • The GOC puts in place processes to audit the Corps Headquarters functions.
  • The GOC seeks legal expertise to assess regulatory obligations of implementing an Irish Air Corps Safety Management System.
  • The GOC formally puts in place an Irish Air Corps Safety Management System by appointing an Internal Safety Management System Officer who would facilitate on his behalf a common and standardized Safety Management System Program. This Internal Safety Management System Officer should not hold other positions or responsibilities that may conflict or impair his/her independent role as Safety Manager.
  • The GOC reviews the control processes related to executive decisions made on safety recommendations, tracking to completion and analysis of their effectiveness of preventive measures.
  • The GOC articulates clearly the responsibilities of the different safety programs and the associated safety officers.
  • The GOC engages in a process with the Department of Defence and Military Police for the production and enforcement of a Military Aviation Protocol for dealing with safety occurrences involving human error. The guiding principles of ‘Just Culture’ shall offer protection against prosecution for self-reporters whilst also enabling prosecution of personnel where wilful acts are committed.
  • The GOC considers the creation of a liaison cell in the Department of Defence Headquarters to ensure proper alignment of policies, doctrine, operations, personnel and safety. The cell to be effective shall be manned by a promising senior officer of the Irish Air Corps with an equivalent staff capable of representing the views of the GOC and the Irish Air Corps to the Higher Headquarters.

In addition, the Air Corps’ Flight Safety Section has carried out a number of internal reviews/audits and these are listed below.

Year Title
2013- 2014 Irish Air Corps Pilots’ Fatigue Risk Management System Safety Review
2012 Air Corps Crash Rescue Service Safety Audit
  Emergency Aeromedical Service Safety Audits x 3
  505 Squadron Safety Audit
  106 Squadron Safety Audit
  102 Squadron Safety Audit
2011 No 3 Operations Wing Safety Audit
  Flight Training School Safety Audit
2009 No 1 Operations Wing Safety Audit
  No 3 Operations Wing Safety Audit

Flight Training School Safety Audit

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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