A spotlight on Safety Management: Ensuring a safe return to operations

Guest Author by Guest Author | Feb 24, 2021

Written by Huw Ross, Senior Aviation Consultant and Managing Director, To70 UK

The COVID-19 pandemic sent a shock wave through the aviation industry and it rippled across the international community as strict societal lock-down measures were introduced and placed on air travel. The nature of a demand-side shock meant that the resilience of our services was put under pressure. The challenge we faced was balancing the need to keep the service providers solvent with delivering what is effectively a global critical infrastructure. Service providers had to stay open to deliver the critical aviation services that we needed to help manage the crisis; for example, repatriation of travellers to their home countries, distribution of urgent medical supplies, and other emergency service flights. The combined industry effort in this early stage must be applauded.

As each day unfolded it was clear the challenge was mounting. The long-term outlook for our industry was bleak. Re-building the industry became a focus and the entire aviation community, including consultancies, started the process of reinvention. The team at To70 responded by actively contributing to several ACI workstreams of the Off the Ground Task Force – including safety and airside operations, scheduling and capacity, climate change and local communities. We were delighted to receive recognition from ACI Europe on behalf of the airport community. In spurred us on. Our response was to look for further opportunities to give back to the community we love and To70 chose to put a spotlight on the value of organizational safety management.

Guiding a safe return of operations

Airport Operators play a critical role, alongside the community of airport organizations, in the safe and seamless delivery of aircraft within the aerodrome environment. The importance of this role is perhaps more significant in times of change. Whether that is the change to traffic levels, the different schedule / traffic patterns, or changes to organizational resources available to carry out operational duties.

Those airport operators with a positive safety culture and a mature safety management system were able to retain a focus on safe operations by balancing safety considerations with service delivery and organizational decisions. Indeed, the benefit of investment in safety management and safety leadership is overtly realized in times of crisis and change. There is opportunity here to share safety experiences and expertise to ensure the entire airport community can learn and improve.

Free and easily accessible SMS guidance

To70 chose to explore safety sharing and in December 2020 released a free SMS guidance library, Aviation SMS for the aviation community. The goal is to help those who are seeking to improve the safety culture and implementation of safety practices within their organization. If you are starting the implementation of your SMS or looking to strengthen your existing practices then To70 has brought together global good practices and practical examples to help with the following:

  1. Safety policy and just culture policy and supporting handbooks
  2. Safety Objectives to drive SMS implementation
  3. Safety accountability designation, accountability statements and safety leadership material
  4. Process descriptions including process flow diagrams
  5. Roles and responsibilities for staff with safety duties and a basis for a competence scheme
  6. Terms of reference for Executive Safety Committees and Safety Action Groups
  7. Templates and examples of key deliverables
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The value of SMS in the return of stable operations

Returning to a stable and predictable operation provides different safety challenges. The introduction of new staff, possibly without previous experience, or staff into new management and frontline roles will result in changes. For example,  how work is carried out,  how information flows between teams, and what information is reported. Robust safety management practices will continue to play a key role in ensuring that as we re-build our industry our reputation for high-levels of safety is maintained.


Huw Ross is a Senior Aviation Consultant and Managing Director of To70 UK. Huw is a recognized safety leader who actively contributes to the improvement of global aviation safety practices. He has practical experience in the implementation of SMS from both a service provider and consultant view point. He specializes in improving organizational safety arrangements including providing coaching and training to executives and front-line staff.

To70 is a leading aviation consultancy with a global team of experts across 15 offices, advises on how to optimize airport and airspace operations to assure safe, efficient and sustainable air travel.


The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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