NCAR earns high marks for flight safety standards

In December, EOL's Research Aviation Facility achieved the Gold Standard in Federal Aviation, a voluntary self-certification for agencies that make a commitment to aviation safety. Only nine out of 51 federally funded entities that are eligible have been awarded the honor.

"We've had a very good safety record over the years and the goal is to continually improve," says Steve Thompson, RAF's aviation safety officer. "We're hoping to set the standard for small aviation programs."

The Gold Standard requires federal agencies to meet comprehensive flight program guidelines in four main areas: safety, operations, maintenance, and training. The biggest challenge for RAF, according to Steve, was formalizing and documenting its safety program, since it already has a good safety record.

In addition to working to achieve the highest standards in each of the four areas, RAF is voluntarily adapting policies and procedures normally reserved for larger aircraft organizations. The facility has committed itself to annual safety audits and improved record keeping, and it has crafted an Aviation Emergency Response Plan with input from across UCAR/NCAR. All RAF staff are involved in the facility's safety management system. An all-staff safety day that was initiated last September 11 will now be an annual tradition.

"We stopped everything everyone was doing to go over safety issues for a full day," Steve says. "It really displays upper management's commitment to safety."