Over the past decade, we've made multiple efforts to jump start the Virtual Safety Office concept. I'm not calling our efforts a failure, but they are not even close to being as successful as this intitiative has the potential for.

What is a Virtual Safety Office?

Many aviation service providers have neither the time nor energy (not to mention inclination) to manage safety effectively. We all know they are out there. These operators want to fly or simply conduct business and not have to worry about aviation SMS documentation requirements they:

  • have no control over; and
  • had no voice in creating.

There are also those operators who like to cut corners. They look for the cheapest alternative possible.

Often the cheapest alternative includes outsourcing SMS mentorship and SMS documentation support. There are also more drastic, risky approaches of:

  • ignoring SMS mandates altogether; or
  • cobbling together make-shift, sham SMS in hopeless frustration, thereby adding zero societal benefit.

A virtual safety office is essentially SMS mentorship.

The SMS mentor is not a company manager, but an independent safety professional reporting directly to their small business' accountable executive. SMS mentors may serve as a "virtual safety manager," but for legal purposes, it is best to leave the "manager" verbiage out of this system.

Virtual Safety Office Not New Idea

SMS Mentorship is not a new concept. As I previously mentioned, we've been trying to make this work for over a decade. Our efforts span multiple operator-type scenarios, including

  • small, remote airports,
  • FBOs and
  • small corporate charter.

Furthermore, we sampled multiple regions across the world using the VSO concept, including

  • Australia,
  • Canada,
  • European Union and
  • the U.S.

New VSO Platform Based On One Client-One Portal Model

TASSC created a new VSO platform that will no longer be managed by NWDS, the creators and IP owner of the aviation SMS database software, SMS Pro.

Each new, online VSO portal will be based on the Affordable, Basic Compliance (ABC) SMS database software. Each VSO client will receive their own compliant, SMS data management portal for employees to:

  • Login;
  • Review safety communications;
  • Report safety concerns;
  • Conduct safety investigations and identify trends; and
  • Participate in online-managed SMS training.

This new VSO platform assures each client retains access to their SMS data should some ancient, retired safety manager decide to take a permanent vacation on an Australian beach.

In our eyes:

  • VSO data remains each operators' property;
  • SMS mentors are stewards with fiduciary responsibilities to their clients' SMS and data;
  • SMS mentors should have liberty to aggregate data to increase decision-making value to the process;
  • VSOs business relationship regarding client pricing remains beyond TASSC purview; and
  • TASSC will not intervene in VSO client relationships unless complaints are brought to our attention.

Aggregating Multiple VSO Portals

TASSC designed a new approach to manage VSO data in fourth quarter 2020.

The old VSO model provided one portal with multiple divisions. Each VSO portal required consistently heightened, conscious, security practices to safeguard client data.

Each division was potentially a separate company. A careless SMS mentor could potentially share other client data. We were not comfortable with this setup.

Data and user access permissions were confusing to new VSO Administrators in the legacy VSO data management platform. Challenges surfaced repeatedly for VSO administrators attempting to explain, much less manage, clients' SMS data security.

The undeniable advantage of this legacy approach allowed each independent VSO to have multiple, similar-type clients. For example, one VSO portal possessed many small, remote airports managed by an SMS consulting company's group of trained SMS mentors . They could instantly, in real-time, aggregate all client data and detect trends across this group of similar operation types.

Common VSO, value-added goals are to provide clients with gleaned insights from shared safety data across multiple similar operation types.

TASSC's modern VSO design ensures that complex, data security levels remain beyond the hands of inexperienced SMS mentors. This secure design continues to allow VSOs to securely aggregate client data in real time.

In addition to the newly designed VSO data security model, each client receives their own SMS data management portal. Each client will have access to all SMS tools that one would expect for affordable, basic compliance. Should the relationship between the VSO and client sour, the client can easily recover and continue managing their SMS portal without VSO contracted services.

SMS Mentors access their individual client portals using the same credentials. Therefore, each SMS mentor may be managing eight to twelve clients, with each client having access to their online ABC SMS database.

Data aggregation for trending reports in the new VSO model will be through the redesigned Management Portal that has been used since 2011 with our enterprise-level clients.

How to Start VSO Process?

To be involved in the TASSC VSO program, you will be either an:

  • Existing VSO Administrator;
  • Safety manager wanting to provide clients with a service; or
  • Consulting company wanting to manage a large region of similar operation types, such as small airports, FBOs or charter operators.

For "existing VSO Administrators," the process will change for your new clients.

Each VSO "client operator" will have their own ABC SMS database.

Not All VSO Clients Require Same Service Offering

VSO's SMS mentors may offer a wide array of services regarding operators' SMS implementation. There may be operators who don't want you to manage their SMS database, but want you to provide other related services.

While one VSO may manage all SMS documentation requirements for a particular client, they may offer different services to another client, such as SMS training, SMS manuals or comparison trend analysis across similar operation types.

Multiple Income Opportunities

TASSC's affordable VSO program can be capitalized upon in many ways. SMS consultants may consider a variety of customer services, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • SMS database configuration and end-user training;
  • SMS manual writing;
  • Audits and inspections;
  • Risk analysis and recommendations to upper management;
  • Safety culture evaluation.