Part 135 Operators can stay on top of, or ahead of the curve
When I made the move from airline pilot to Part 135 Charter, I knew I was in for a steep learning curve. I don’t need to tell you that my life as a professional pilot changed drastically overnight, and I don’t mean in a good way. Now, I must file my flight plans and figure out my fuel instead of confirming it. No one was there anymore to hand me a packet with all the weather I needed, complete with NOTAMS. And I didn’t even know what an ARGUS was.
I quickly learned that an ARGUS safety rating was a worldwide standard of excellence for flight crews and the companies they fly for. Everyone wanted to be ARGUS qualified. Most charter companies required it. It’s been a while, and I don’t remember what qualified me to be ARGUS ready, but I know they required a background check and a minimum number of flight hours. My company would only hire ARGUS pilots because our passengers demanded it. It’s a big deal.
Now, ARGUS is an even bigger deal. ARGUS International has added another safety rating for Part 135 operators, which is pretty impressive. The new rating is called Platinum Elite, and it comes with some high standards.
The existing Gold and Gold Plus safety ratings for a charter company are traditionally achieved by the successful outcome of a two-year safety audit, including an in-depth historical safety analysis. The new Platinum Elite requires a real-time safety operational performance monitoring program. Quite a difference. It is the way the world is heading with the soon-to-be-mandated Safety Management Systems (SMS) for all charter operators – it seems like ARGUS is rewarding the companies making the transition early.
Platinum Elite status connects SMS conformance to real-time operational safety performance. When you think about it, that’s what matters. Are these flight departments following their SMS procedures, and does it show in their safety performance? If yes, they’re in (with a handful of other standards). I do have to admit, if I was a passenger, that’s the company I would want to fly with.
It has taken ARGUS 6 years to develop this new rating system, and they did it with the help of Nebraska-based charter operator Jet Linx. The effort that went into this can only be good for the industry – giving passengers the option of choosing the safety level that they are comfortable with will no doubt play a role in the overall safety of the charter business. Also, with the operational control issues and “fake” charter companies in the news lately, a little transparency for the flying public will hopefully weed out the bad from the good.
The Platinum Elite Part 135 operator will benefit in many ways, too – I’m sure business will pick up as word gets out about their elite safety ranking. Still, they will also save time and effort by eliminating the lengthy audit necessary to remain an ARGUS-rated company. The continual monitoring of their safety practices will be enough to maintain their platinum elite. Sounds like a win/win to me.