Why education is vital in the fight for air safety
GCS Safety Solutions MD, Michael Grüninger, believes education is important in providing safe air transport, and that supporting AfBAA is a positive step in the right direction.
Michael Grüninger is passionate when it comes to aircraft safety, and he has the credentials to know what he’s talking about.
He is a professional pilot and former Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) safety inspector. He still serves as a CAA-accepted compliance monitoring and safety manager in an air operators’ certificate (AOC) holding company in Europe.
Grüninger is a well-known face at safety conferences around the world and has delivered speeches to highlight the importance of safety culture within aviation.
“Safety depends on mature relationships between diverse and unique individuals,” he said. “The challenge is to grow together in such a way as to live up to the ambitions of a continually growing safety culture. I cannot understand why many of us let ourselves get distracted by the burden of bureaucratic issues, instead of focusing on the real-life issues that face aviation.”
It was back in 2005 when the aviation community began to look at safety culture as an important topic that should be approached in a systematic way and, since day one of its corporate existence, GCS Safety Solutions (GCS) has focused on just that.
“At GCS we are keenly aware of the importance of the so-called non-technical or soft factors. A positive culture, successful human interaction patterns and the pleasure of working together, form the foundations on which solid technical skills flourish,” said Grüninger.
“When it comes to safety aspects of operating aircraft, there shall not be any trade-off. We act as facilitator and bridge any know-how gaps or time constraints in this critical area within the aviation industry.”
Safety solutions come in many forms for GCS, with Grüninger pointing out that the company’s customers call t when they have run out of options and, at times, in desperate need of help.
“GCS responds to such calls and provides the necessary know-how, knowledge, and resources to bring the customer to a successful certification, or to strengthen the organisation to be able to be fully operational again,” said Grüninger. “For example, a start-up company wants to achieve an AOC certification, so GCS provides the project management and expert personnel to facilitate such an ambitious plan.”
Grüninger offered other examples, including an aircraft operator failing to pass an audit, so GCS would hurry to provide the missing parts until the audit was closed with success.
“We are often confronted with last-minute requests by more or less desperate customers,” said Grüninger. “GCS takes the ball from there. Our experts work on the problem and solve it for our customer. At GCS, we are absolutely result- and customer-oriented.”
The company comprises both commercial and non-commercial civil aviation and aviation authorities.
It works with customers all over the world but, as Grüninger pointed out, Africa is a continent that particularly poses a specific set of issues that can benefit from the expert input that GCS provides.
He said: “When it comes to Africa, the difficulty of communications in some areas, and air operations in remote areas, are part of the challenge. Unfortunately, in many places, qualified personnel are hard to recruit. GCS has, thus, been invited by a number of African operators in various countries to provide operational solutions and personnel development initiatives.
“We supported Angolan company, Bestfly, in achieving its international standard for business aircraft operations (ISBAO) stage 1 certification; we have trained an air operator in Gabon to tackle management issues it was facing; we have also consulted with major NGOs operating in various African areas with their own unique set of problems, including in South Sudan and the DRC, offering flight safety and operations management advice.”
Grüninger is keen to point out that he feels Africa is not a continent that cares less about flight safety than any other.
“Nobody wants to see air accidents happen,” he said. “However, I do not see any strong initiative taking place in Africa to educate new generations to take their own pro-active part in providing safe air transport. It is certainly a good move to support the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) in creating common ground on aviation safety and progress across the 54 diverse African states.”
He added: “Without the risk of being seen to have a too simplistic view of the real issues, I strongly believe that, by patiently creating ties of mutual respect, we can learn to accept good advice and experience from each other. Based on this view, we are prepared to share our experience and knowledge to accompany our partners on their way to excellence. I’m aware of the many difficulties the continent is facing, but also of the great human potential it bears.”
GCS is currently working on a new project with a major service provider to explore ways for it to share the company’s knowledge with local partners.
“We have worked with a number of smaller companies but this will give us access to a wider market and introduce us to a wider aviation network that we can work with,” said Grüninger. “GCS is very open for new customers, particularly in Africa.”
One message Grüninger likes to get across when he is offered a platform to speak about safety solutions is very simple: “Look at the core of the issues and work towards setting priorities right. Being humble is important, it helps in accepting the facts.”