David Anderson, based in Melbourne, Australia, has been the BARS program managing director since 2015.
AeroSafety World: How did you get involved in aviation, where have you worked and what types of positions have you held?
David Anderson: Growing up in a rural town, there were not a lot of opportunities, so I left school early to join the Royal Australian Air Force as an apprentice powerplant mechanic. The engineering side of flying was always a keen interest to me. As an apprentice, I was involved in line maintenance, intermediate and depot-level maintenance on the Lockheed Martin P-3.
From there, I became a flight engineer on the P-3, and this was where I sat for over 10 years. I held check and training, standards and instructor roles in the Maritime Patrol Wing and traveled extensively throughout Asia, the Pacific and North America.
I joined Japan Airlines in 1998 as a Boeing 747 flight engineer in passenger and cargo operations and stayed there for 11 years. When JAL retired its747 fleet, I moved to quality and safety and worked in the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program performing audits and quality control for the audit production process. IOSA taught me how to view safety through a systems lens and that the quality of the audit outcomes is also a systems mindset. During my time there, I gained my multi-engine commercial pilot licence and then went on to complete an MBA. I joined the BARS Program initially as an audit manager in 2011, and in 2015 was offered the managing director role.
You have both military and international airline experience. How have those aspects of your career shaped your aviation “world view” generally, and your approach to safety specifically?
Working and living in a foreign country is a great experience and enables you to open up your own world by challenging what is the norm about varying cultures and the practices with which you have grown up. Working in both military operations and the airlines required a high degree of technological skill and education to keep up with increasingly complex systems. Safety, however, should not be complex in an organization. From my experience, setting up a robust system and structure for the safety of personnel crosses any international differences. It should be clear and concise and, whatever the language or culture of practice, it should always have the same clear aim: We practice safety to bring people home safely.
How did you first get involved with Flight Safety Foundation and what about the Foundation and BARS attracted you?
I attended one of the early BARS Auditor Accreditation courses in 2010 as a lead auditor and saw the potential for BARS to make a difference in the contracted aviation sector. Systematic and program-driven assurance models are far more effective than the alternatives. Being able to bring my experience in flight operations, maintenance, quality and auditing to the Foundation was a great privilege. The independence and not-for-profit position of the Foundation to deliver solutions to industry made me want to be a part of the organization.
You have been BARS managing director since 2015; what are the biggest challenges the program has faced to date and how has BARS handled those challenges?
There have been many challenges, and most would fall under the heading of good-problems-to have! Over the years, we have generated vast amounts of de-identified data, and working out how and what to analyse was a big task. It is an exciting journey, as I feel we are only just scratching the surface of what we can achieve with this data analysis. The other challenge is getting organizations to understand the power of collaboration. We can achieve more by working collectively and learn more from each other. The BARS Program is a great example of true collaboration across contracting companies, the operators and the audit companies to address aviation risk and do so in a cost-effective manner.
What are some of the unique aspects of working with the mining and mineral resources industry?
I really enjoy working with this community and seeing the way they approach safety. The use of bow-tie diagrams for risk management is a great example, and the BAR Standard is a testament to this – it’s easy to see the system of controls and defences in place to manage the threats. The resource sector have some very interesting and unusual sorts of flight operations, not too dissimilar in some ways to military flying – low level, sling loads, night vision goggles and air dropping to name a few. And don’t forget the passenger-carrying operations for the sector. I like the way they have approached critical controls – a methodology the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has some quality material on.
The BARS Program is now 10 years old and the original standard is in its 8th version. How do you quantify the program’s impact on safety performance?
We have lots of metrics. A key element of the program’s design was gathering and analysing the results. We know that 99.8 percent of the findings raised are addressed in the nominated time frame, which is a huge increase in the close-out rate (CoR) from the 60 percent when we first started. The quarterly accident summary report we publish for the BARS Member Organizations (BMOs) shows that the number of accidents for the onshore resource sector has dropped dramatically. There are definite areas needing attention and they are highlighted in the Finding Data Analysis (FDA) reports, which look at the high finding rates and then feed the information back to the members.
Over the years, BARS has expanded into offshore helicopter operations, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and aerial mustering; are you actively looking to expand into other market sectors? Have you considered expanding RPAS into what is now being called advanced air mobility (formerly urban air mobility)?
Yes, we are now working with the energy sector in the United States and other countries to develop solutions for the way they develop and deliver minimum standards for the (mainly) helicopter work associated with power lines. This covers line stringing, inspection and maintenance. We are also intently working on how the aerial firefighting sector can benefit from using BARS to provide a consistent, worldwide standard for the way the aviation element is delivered. This is a growing area for concern as the fire season grows more catastrophic and wider spread each year and the need increases for aerial fire crews to travel from country to country during the fire season each year. Any sector that uses aviation services under contract can benefit from the way the BARS Program functions with the four elements of the standard(s), the global audit program, data analysis and training.
The RPAS community is another sector the program is becoming more involved with, primarily through the work in support of the resource sector. The RPAS vehicles utilized are growing in their size and complexity as well as in the vast range of tasks they are being used for. The threats they are facing are very similar to those seen in conventional aviation like loss of control, fuel exhaustion, etc. As RPAS technology continues to develop, the way in which the accident causal factors manifest themselves may be different from conventional aviation, and mitigation controls may also vary from conventional aviation. The BARS Program can have a role in bringing those involved in the RPAS community together ─ that is, the contracting companies, the auditors and the operators ─ and designing the minimum controls and assurance framework for operations under contract. As the program has the ability to continually adapt around industry needs, I anticipate the learnings we gain from the increased involvement in the RPAS community will translate well with the movement on advanced air mobility. This is something that will unfold as developments progress.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated aviation. How have the BARS program goals changed?
Yes, it has been a tough year for everyone. For our industry in particular, operators as well as the businesses that work around them like maintenance, suppliers, fuel and ground handling, and the manufacturers, there is almost no end to the list of those who have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Even aviation advisers and auditors have been negatively impacted.
At the BARS Program, we have navigated the new reality of working together remotely and continued to make improvements. The goals have remained the same: to reduce accidents and increase the understanding of managing risk in aviation. However, the way we do this has changed. In response to the restrictions we are all faced with, the Remote Monitoring Audit was produced to allow the program to remain functioning and keep the Registry of Operators ready for flight for the benefit of the BARS Member Organizations. The Foundation even contributed to the cost of the audit to help; we call that No-Operator-Left-Behind.
Within the business structure, we have moved to online meetings for the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which has created a positive impact with a more focused intentional discussion. The TAC is a great forum for safety matters and finding solutions, and it has created a seeding ground for many of the new initiatives within the BARS Program.
How has the TAC helped BARS to keep pace with changes in the industry?
The TAC is critical to the BARS community and it is a great body for exchanging ideas and experiences, identifying needs and developing solutions. Over the 23 meetings held every six months, we have seen over 200 action items raised, prioritized and addressed. In my mind, that is a committee that gets-things done!
It is the TAC that comes to the table and says “we need X,” and then as a community, we figure out how to deliver. The TAC is the purveyor of support in funding the projects to get them off the ground. The TAC has been driving the direction of the RPAS Standard and the types of RPAS operations in which they need to see a risk strategy. TAC members have been the catalyst to inclusions such as the underground/confined spaces appendix in the RPAS Standard. There is also the beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and maritime section. We are always proud to say the program is by industry and for industry.
We need a special mention here for the leadership of the TAC and the collaborative and constructive way they contribute. Cameron Ross of BHP was instrumental as TAC chair in the early days for the positive culture and collaborative model, and this has been continued with Morgan Lamb of Freeport McMoran and Kevan Reeve of Rio Tinto as the current co-chairs of the TAC.
What’s next for the BARS program?
While we all wait for international and domestic border restrictions to unlock and allow auditor travel to become unrestricted, we are working on what we call the Future Audit Model, which is designing how we deliver the audit program for the next two years. The Remote Monitoring Audit was a short-term solution for 2020; the Future Audit Model is a medium-term solution, and hopefully we can ultimately move to a sustainable way of doing third-party audits on site again. We are also looking at how we can use machine learning/artificial intelligence for data analysis and extract more results from the deidentified data and on trends to be able to deliver back to the program stakeholders in a more defined and timely manner.
One part of the safety system is the assurance model, which requires a diligent and effective cadre of skilled auditors, both at the operator level and also at the independent audit level. BARS has achieved this along with our colleagues in the IOSA program. I would like to see how we can take this rigor and spread it into the areas that need it most. The data from the BARS Program can inform us about where and how to do this.
Finally, the program data gathered through auditing provides answers on the good aspects of safety systems rather than solely looking at the non-conformities (poor outcomes or control failures). This is what makes a good safety organization. Drawing from the work of Erik Hollnagel, I believe from the data, we can learn so much more from the positives of these organizations.