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Ramp Accidents: A $10 Billion-a-Year Problem

By John L. Enticknap and Ron R. Jackson, Principals, Aviation Business Strategies Group (ABSG)

Note: FBO Connection bloggers John Enticknap and Ron Jackson, from Aviation Business Strategies Group, will facilitate the next NATA FBO Certified CSR Workshop, Aug.22-23, Chicago.

By the time you finish reading this blog post, chances are an aircraft ramp accident will have taken place costing nearly $275,000, which is the average cost per insurance claim in the United States. 

As alarming as this figure sounds, the worldwide annual statistics reported by IATA are significant:

  • 27,000 ramp accidents are reported each year. This represents one in every 1000 aircraft departures.
  • About 243,000 people are injured each year in ramp accidents.
  • Ramp accidents cost $10 billion annually worldwide.

But it's not just the cost of the accident affecting the FBO's bottom line, the FBO's reputation takes a hit too. Customers lose confidence, and the brand suffers. Inevitably, this can cause a loss of business.

When you analyze the root cause of many ramp accidents, it usually comes down to one fundamental issue: Lack of adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are based on industry best practices. Examples include not using three wing walkers for aircraft movements in and out of hangars, not observing the proper “circle-of-safety” guidelines, lack of safety cones around parked aircraft, and not adhering to ramp speed limits for GSE equipment.

Creating an SOP that is based on industry best practices involves adopting a good safety training program, like NATA’s Safety 1st, which lays a strong operational safety foundation.

A lack of adherence to SOPs indicates the need to establish a true safety culture within the FBO enterprise. Unless safety is top-of-mind within the organization, a true safety culture does not exist. We know of no better way to create a good safety culture than to adopt a strong safety management system (SMS).

During the next several years, the FBO industry will undergo some fundamental changes with regards to adopting SMS as a safety standard. As we see it, the writing is on the wall:

  • SMS plans are now required by FAR Part 121 commercial airline operators. It is  a matter of time before the airlines vet FBOs that fuel airline equipment to see whether an SMS plan in place. 
  • Airports will also be required to have SMS plans in place. They, too, will be vetting their vendors, including FBOs, to make sure an SMS plan is in place and in use.
  • The European Union required FAR Part 135 charter operators to have a certified SMS plan in place as of October 2016.

In addition, professional FAR Part 91, Part 91K and Part 135 operators will require FBOs and business aviation handling agents (BAHAs) to meet ICAO standards,including having a safety management system in place.

As FBO operators ponder the process of instituting a safety management system, they also may want to consider becoming IS-BAH registered. The heart of the IS-BAH program is a strong SMS.

For more information, we recommend reading these two blog posts: “Establishing an FBO Safety Committee is a Savvy Cultural Shift” and “Is IS-BAH Right for Your FBO Operation?”

Please leave a comment on this subject below. If you have any questions, please give us a call or send us an email:, 404-867-5518;, 972-979-6566.


John Enticknap has more than 35 years of aviation fueling and FBO services industry experience and is an IS-BAH Accredited auditor. Ron Jackson is co-founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and president of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and customer service training. Visit the biography page or for more background.


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