In many facets of aviation, Safety Management Systems (SMS) have become much more than just a good idea. On January 8, 2015, the FAA Aviation Safety Organization issued a final rule requiring Part 121 operators to develop and implement an SMS. While this rule is specifically directed to air carriers, the FAA is also actively encouraging non-Part 121 operators such as air tour operators and corporate flight departments, MRO providers, and training organizations to implement an SMS system on a voluntary basis in anticipation of more regulatory requirements in the near future.

The aviation insurance industry has recognized the benefits of a well-implemented SMS—including reduced risk of accidents and incidents—for many years. Operators who implement and maintain an SMS typically enjoy lower insurance premiums and often receive better coverage. While many sets of SMS standards and programs exist, one standard recognized by the FAA and most insurance companies is the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). For example, in 2013, the United States Aviation Insurance Group (USAIG) announced that it would provide a 5 percent discount on insurance premiums for companies “achieving registration in the… ISBAO program.”

Developed by a team representing approximately 100 corporate flight departments and launched by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) in 2002, IS-BAO provides baseline requirements for structuring flight departments and conducting flight operations. These requirements are based on global standards established by ICAO and comprise “a code of best practices designed to assist flight departments to achieve a high level of safety and professionalism,” according to the IS-BAO website ( With the help of representatives from Helicopter Association International (HAI), the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and the European Helicopter Safety Team (EHEST), IBAC updated IS-BAO to include helicopter operations in 2012.

Conforming to the IS-BAO standards is voluntary, and the three stages of SMS audits determine the degree to which the operator is conforming to the standards. Stage One confirms all elements are in place and that the flight department understands the SMS process. Stage Two ensures that safety management activities are appropriately targeted and that safety risks are being effectively managed; this stage must be completed within two years. A Stage three audit verifies that safety management activities are fully integrated into the operator’s business and that a positive safety culture is being sustained. When a Stage 3 has been accomplished, the IS-BAO audit cycle is extended to three years.

Navigating through the 500-plus IS-BAO requirements—either when setting up an SMS or when auditing one—can be a daunting task. Fortunately, several tools are available to help operators, auditors and service providers streamline the audit process.

One of these tools, iIS-BAO Audit Protocol software (, was just released in April. In beta testing since July 2013, iIS-BAO Audit Protocol combines current IS-BAO 2015 standards with audit requirements, related regulations and advisory circulars, operator-supplied cross-references, and findings to provide a comprehensive SMS documentation, audit and training tool.

“Operators can use iIS-BAO to set up their SMS, train employees on the SMS, and provide cross-references to auditors, who then use the same application to conduct audits,” said Fountain and Associates founder Phillip J. Fountain. “The iIS-BAO software puts operators, operator service providers and auditors on the same page, really streamlining the process.”

Fountain has been on both sides of the auditing process as a corporate pilot and trainer for a large corporate flight department and as an independent IS-BAO auditor. “We’ve been working on the iIS-BAO software for more than three years, but it really reflects more than 30 years of corporate aviation experience and ten years of IS-BAO auditing experience.”

Fountain’s iIS-BAO Audit Protocol software provides modularized access to the current IS-BAO requirements and related reference and guidance documents through a series of search filters, including the ability to include or exclude helicopter-related requirements. A toggle enables the display of all relevant standards or only new/changed requirements since last IS-BAO protocol cycle. Operators can enter cross-references to their SMS documents in the iIS-BAO software, then export these cross-references for easy access by auditors. The software also features an optional in-flight inspection section, areas to enter comments on findings and analysis for each requirement, and automated PDF report generation.

The small “i” in iIS-BAO Audit Protocol is a reference to the ability to run the software on iPads, bringing a high level of mobility to the SMS audit process. Available for Windows 7 and above, Mac OS X and iOS (iPad) platforms, the iIS-BAO software saves each customer’s data on a secure cloud-based server, allowing access to the data from laptops, iPads and desktop computers. This means that chief pilots, directors of maintenance and other managers can use the iIS-BAO software planeside or in the hangar during the SMS development process or related audits, while other members of the safety team can access the same database from laptops or desktops in their offices.

Originally published in heliweb, Kim Rosenlof