Introductions of Panelist and Partnership
Philip Apap Bologna, BizAv Services
I come from a very small island, the island of Malta, which is an independent state part of the European Union. I started my aviation career young, at the age of 19. I’m 59 now so quite a few years have passed, operating mainly as a pilot in the African desert. I also spent about 25 years working as a captain and trainer with the national airline and played a major part in the introduction of documentation as we know today in Air Malta. We were one of the very first countries in Europe to introduce the JAA standard of manuals, the Part ABC that we have today.
Of course, that has been an experience that has stayed with me and part of the company BizAv, which I set up in 2008. I’m the managing director there. One of my main functions apart from supporting AOC projects is the development of documentation and manuals, the key instructions on how an airline needs to be run. It’s very important that the development of documentation and how these are presented to the various stages of the compliance flow are integrated into the airline operation.
Here we have had the great opportunity to partner with Web Manuals, some seven years ago in the introduction of Web Manuals to Malta. This has developed making the product more of an opportunity for airlines to increase their efficiency and be more effective in the way the documentation and the instructions are presented. Genuinely that has been quite an interesting experience. Both of the two main passions I have are procedures and writing.
Our main focus is the EASA region, as you may know, Malta has actually since our beginning as a company increased tremendously in the number of AOCs on the island, for a number of reasons. But we do also work with non-EASA countries, especially in Africa. We are working quite hard with a number of African operators in the ICAO standards and also with some companies in the Gulf. So yes, we do, we do see that growth.
At the end of the day, regulations are what they are. So you can put the regulation in one form or another. But ultimately, whatever regulation you have, it needs to be translated into text which is presented to the crew. My advantage, I feel for myself has been the great experience of actually being on both sides of the information transfer – both in the preparation of the manuals and the content of the procedures, but also, from the user point of view, as a pilot sitting in a cockpit at night, flying into some strange airports with weather conditions and you have to have access to your documents and procedures well presented in a very professional manner. And I see this is where web banners have actually hit the targets.
Julie Audouit, Time to Fly
I am the chief operating officer at Time to Fly, a consulting company based in Paris. We provide services for our variety of small private operators, specialised operators, business aviation airlines, maintenance organisation and airports. We are specialised in compliance, safety, writing of operational documentation and also in the setup of new AOCs or new maintenance organisation.
Ten years ago, I was seduced by the challenge to develop this small company, because it was only two person at the beginning plus me. And then I arrived to develop the operations department. Now, we are 20 the company so I’m quite happy about the development of our company.
We started to use Web Manuals in 2017, both for us and our customers. Then we became Web Manuals reseller and certified instructor last year. So we are very happy about this and about the project.
Mark Overeijnder, MarQonform
I started in the age of 19 in the aviation maintenance side of an operator, former Dutch AOC called Martin Air. In that age we had the old-fashioned movie readers where you need to get underneath to take a picture of your maintenance manual or the task visible and then print it out on a sensitive piece of paper – hopefully you get a picture out of it. So it’s amazing that in 30 years time a lot of things change, in a positive way. Now from 2018 started MarQonform as an independent auditor with an independent view on processes, to try to have this process more efficient by sharing the knowledge and experience I have with manuals, from being a user myself.
Q: How have you seen the market since the COVID crisis started?
Philip: What has driven evolution, both in terms of natural evolution but also the evolution of technologies and the evolution of how we do our work, is building resilience. So we need to change according to the times, sometimes you really need to keep ahead of the time.
We were lucky enough with reserve to actually move ahead of time and get a paperless concept into our organisation very, very early on. When COVID struck, actually, we were pretty well set up to take this advantage. And I don’t like to say it, but in our case, COVID has proven to be a game-changer in a positive way because we were ready for it. Not ready for COVID of course, but ready for a new way of communicating, of conducting training, of distributing instructions and information – so we were quite happy to embrace the change.
Of course, we are all resistant to change. It’s very difficult to convince not only your own organisation but also your customers that we should look forward, we should embrace the technology that there is. Today we’re discussing digital, tomorrow we’ll be discussing virtual, it’s going to continually change – it is not going to stop. It’s not like we’ve reached, you know, a digital age and that’s it. There is more to come and you need to keep ahead. And certainly, Web Manuals has kept us ahead.
Julie: It was in last March 2020, we had the lockdown in France and everything was tough. For two months, our activity was almost nothing. Our staff was on furlough schemes. So it was a bit difficult at this time. Then we started little by little during last summer. We made some remote audits, which we didn’t do before. Actually, we realised that it was possible and that it works. At the end of last year, we started to travel a bit again, mainly in France because it was still difficult to travel in Europe or worldwide.
And the beginning of this year seems quite promising. We see new companies, new AOCs because there are some aircraft available in the market at interesting prices. So we see companies growing and also adding new aircraft. So we are quite happy about the start of this year.
Marq: At the beginning of the COVID you saw everybody and everything standing still, being afraid that we have nothing to do. But now you see that everybody’s really busy! There’s a lot to do in trying to be more efficient and a lot to do about changing the way we work, change how we do audits. You need to adapt yourself and try to find a way to have a proper audit done. Normally you have the coffee machine talk, as I call it, speaking to your colleagues, speaking to people, trying to find out what the situation is and how the situation is within the company, and you missed that if everything is online.
So it’s a challenging thing, doing product audit on an aircraft, which is under maintenance on desk. It’s almost impossible to get the paperwork when you can’t feel, smell and know everything that’s going on, on the product itself at the aircraft or the people’s behavior. So I think that’s a challenge for everybody. Not specifically on the maintenance side, but also in a corporate point of view – in the aircraft, around the aircraft.
We lost, we lost the feeling with real life, so to say, by experiencing how people behave and how people are, what the attitude is and how they say it. And just a simple thing like shaking hands. You miss it.
Philip: This is the thing with change. When you change, you lose something, and you have to embrace something new. I mean, even if you look at the evolution, natural evolution, we lose something – we lost our tail some many years ago. So yeah, you lose and it’s always hard to lose something and move away from what you are used to, to adapt to something new. We don’t like it, we don’t like to change but we need to look ahead. Because it’s aviation and one thing that struck me very much about aviation is it’s a very competitive market, you can either make it big time, or you can lose big time. It’s success or failure.
Like for example, when manuals are going digital, we should embrace it and move away from what we love so much – the paperwork. I mean, I was brought up at a time when I didn’t have a PC at home. When I first flew we introduced Airbus into the fleet with a motor. At the time, we didn’t even have PCs at home, we didn’t know how our PC worked. So can you imagine we are being faced with a PC in a very modern high sophisticated aircraft, we have to forget about the old, old ways and move into the future.
Julie: We’ve seen some resilience to change, but I think with COVID, we see less and less resilience to change because people have no choice. For instance, we had some companies that was not digital, or not with an electronic flight bag (EFB) and it was very difficult for them. To date, for instance, distributing documentation to vital staff on the ground, was not easy and they ended up having problems with the documentation not being up to date. I think they started to realise that it’s time to time to change. In Europe, it’s not so difficult. The authorities have also changed and they are more – I won’t say flexible but maybe more pragmatic to go digital.
Q: Are organisations that were digitised before better off or was it possible to digitise quickly and adapt to the COVID situation? How much has the timing of digitisation made a difference?
Philip: I think it’s easier to start in a new building than to get an old building and try to modify it. I think the challenge is more for those who are very fixed in that, in the paper setup, than those who launch themselves into a digital world from the beginning. But of course, then, the success for those who transform from paper environments, from hardcopy to soft copy, will immediately see the advantages. I mean, I remember, times when we used to calculate performance data on an aircraft, using loads of tables, you make a mistake, because we are human. The technology helps you more accuracy, more specific, more defined results with less mistakes. So you have this advantage. There is an advantage, I think, to encourage the change.
Mark: Going digital, so to say, for companies, is not the goal. I think it’s a matter of being more efficient. Nowadays, with this COVID situation, a lot of people working from home, you need to, or you’re pushed in a way, to be more efficient. You can’t go with your paperwork to your colleague, which is next door or in the next room and say, ‘can you please sign this off?’ You’re forced to do it digitally. That’s the change we need to make, also in aviation also, in a very conservative way, not because of being digital but being more efficient.
Q: What are your best practices in transitioning to working from home and COVID? Is there something we need to make sure of in our processes or is there something we should’ve done differently?
Mark: I think what’s really important is that you have to have the correct tools. Like Phillip already mentioned, in the old days, you didn’t have a computer at home but now people do have a computer. And you need to have a computer, you need to have a proper Wi Fi connection – all these kind of secondary requirements need to be in place to have the full package of being more efficient.
You can have Web Manuals with all respect, but if you don’t have internet access, it can be useless and very frustrating for the user. So don’t forget the side effects or the secondary requirements you need to have to be as efficient as possible. That’s my tip. And it, of course, needs investment to have that structure in place.
Julie: Having a good tool is very important, but you also need to know how to use and make the best use of these tools. Because it’s very important to have good tools, like Web Manuals, for instance, but there are many ways of using it. To start using tools like Web Manuals, it’s very important to have a look at your documentation or how it is structured. Because it’s not sufficient to only implement your documentation in the system.
What is good is first to make an assessment of your documentation, check the compliance of your documentation and do a documentary audit – it takes longer now but will save time after. Also, use the tools that are available in Web Manuals. For instance, the linking between the documents and your content. I encourage you to use it the same at the beginning, it takes time to implement but then when the linking is done, you will save a good, good amount of time. Because when you will have an update of the documentation, your manuals will be updated very quickly.
Also, the way you are using the tool with your authority. Because some authorities accept to directly use Web Manuals. And it’s very convenient because they can directly access your manuals, review your manuals and comment directly in the system. So you save time with this. There are still some authorities that want to have the printed version of the manual, to other signs, acknowledgment of receipt and this kind of thing. But, I’m quite confident that will change.
Philip: First of all, I agree 100%, with what Mark said earlier, and Julie, made very good points. I was following the previous panel and it was an interesting, very interesting discussion. One of the points they made is that the authorities sometimes lag behind the industry. One case in point was, for example, the use of virtual meetings, whether it’s to conduct audits or to conduct training. As a result of COVID, EASA actually included some kind of protocols to be used in case of this digital communication.
I think what we need to try and promote is better, more forward-looking authority. Because it’s very useful exactly as Julia said, having the authority being able to follow in almost real-time on the changes you are proposing in a document through Web Manuals, it’s a fantastic tool. Now, some authorities accept, some are not yet on board.
The point I would like to make, which is very much fundamental of safety management – you learn from your experience, you improve on what you’ve done, right or wrong. We’re always going to make mistakes and we always learn from experience – negative experience as much as we learn from good experience. This is very true if we want to look forward and embrace the new digital technologies. We need to put into practice, in my view, certain principles which we preach in our documents, like safety management principles and continuous improvements. But also have other concepts which we use in aviation, making increased resource management, how we build resilience in pilots, we also need to build that resilience within our organisations.
We need to take onboard these very, very advanced philosophies, which are very helpful for safety and produce amazing efficiency increases in our organisation, especially from flying but also yo use it in our own organisation. This is the way I see the success of embracing these new technologies, some of which we still have to imagine or dream about. Maybe our next generation see.
Q: How would you advise your customers to convince their own CAA to move to digital technologies?
Mark: The features of Web Manuals having external parties logging into your system is great. But you must convince yourself that your system is good, and it’s robust. You make mistakes but just open up the door, make it transparent to the authorities and let them see, let them experience what you are doing. Try to convince them that this is the way to go ahead. Not not by printing out a document, give it and it really looks nice. No, let them open up the door, let them experience what you are doing, present themselves and do the audit on the results you have. Why not? The more transparent it is, I would say the safer it is. Don’t hide things behind the glossy paperwork, let it be transparent.
Philip: I totally agree with you mark, this open communication, this remove the idea that there is an adversary feeling between authorities and the operators or the providers of services that we provide. We are here to make aviation safe, efficient and feasible. This is what we are here for. That’s the only way we can survive.
I remember one occasion when I was still a young first officer and I, after landing in a very difficult situation did my off the landing switching, I made a mistake in the switch.I was flying with a very, very experienced, very professional training captain, he told me, you can make a mistake but don’t hide it. This is important, because this is a philosophy that helps us learn for ourselves and help others learn because we do this collectively. It’s very nice to see that Web Manuals brings together people with the same interest to do things better, to improve safety. This is fantastic. This is how we do open communication, like Mark said, and allowing these tools to be accessible.
Julie: I would say that if you do a good risk assessment and in-depth study of compliance, and include it with your file that you submit to the authority, it gives a better chance to go well. It’s very important to take advantage of the safety management system also to make the change easier.
Q: What are the main concerns for CAA regarding digitised or electronic systems?
Julie: For EFB, I think they are quite afraid about the the failure of the different systems. You have to prove that you have two or three iPads on board, that you made a study about the risk of failure of the application. The main concern is also that you know the data that you are using. For performance application, they are not certifying the application so you need to to do a compliance study and know the performance data on what you are using.
Mark: The CAA in the Netherlands is at home now for a year, mandatory stuck at home. So they also lose the feeling of what’s going on in these companies. They are anxious, so they very strict have to see what’s happening and you need to be able to prove and show what you are doing.
Q: What will be the irreversible change of the industry and our community post-pandemic?
Philip: I would say that the clock will not go back. It will never wait for anyone, nor will it go backwards. So we need to move. The disadvantage is that we have different generations. So just touching on the previous point regarding authorities – generally, authorities consist of an older generation, who are not as comfortable with technology. My son, for example, he comes here when I have a problem with my computer. He comes, fixes it and that’s it. The older generation struggle more, but it’s their future, not ours.
With regards to authorities, I think perhaps we rely on our authorities to hire experienced people, but it’s not really to have experience. Sometimes when you have experience in one area, you lack experience in another. And maybe this is where the authorities lag a little bit behind because they are you know, following the industry not leading the industry. But I’m sure that this is the type of conversation, we need to stop and think about. So that’s how I see it, I can’t see it reversing. Because today we’re talking about COVID, and tomorrow there will be some other disaster in the world.
There is climate change coming around the corner for us. This god knows what. And so we just have to be ready for these situations. We do our risk assessments, we say, Okay if this happens, I will work this way to get ahead.
Mark: What’s irreversible in this change is that the changes follow up very fast. It’s the digital age, we’re in – the technology, the electronics or the device we’re using, they are changing that, very fast, and irreversible. We can’t stop that changing. So I think that it’s a point of concern for our regulators to hear. Authorities should cope with these changes. Look to the to the whole industry of drones, unmanned vehicles, I mean, this technology is so so very fast. And it’s changing day by day, but it needs to be regulated, you can’t have a regulation effective for now six or seven years time and then the whole industry have changed already. So how can they cope with all these fast growing change? It’s a point of concern, I think, because still they are your authority. So they need to level off and be aware of all these kinds of new things.
Philip: We really need to see how to manage this change and identify those areas that are keeping us back. For example, I would mention one of them training, how to use a computer. I mean, I’ve never been taught how to use my browser – I find a way I manage but sometimes this is a disadvantage because it sets different standards by individuals. So standardisation, training, clear instructions on how to use.
If you want to use a certain application, how easily presented are these instructions? How easily understood? How easily can you play with a system to see whether it works. This needs to change in future, to keep us on track, to keep everyone in the same line. I think also to discourage as much as possible different would be lovely, really nice. If we had a universal system in the world where you have, there’s no EASA only, or FAA only in the United States – you have one system, we are sharing the same sky, we’re sharing the same equipment.
Standardisation could be one of the solutions for the future. But we still have a long way to go, because we haven’t really discussed this. And of course, as always, politics always gets in the way.
Julie: It is very important as well to adapt to what we learned from the COVID crisis. For instance, we would have never saw before that it was possible to talk from different places. And now I’m, for instance, talking with all the nominated people at different places in Europe – someone in Portugal, someone in France, someone in Germany at the same time and we realised that it’s possible if everything is digitised. The documentation, the flight package – everything. So we have no challenges, except for the legal battles of the AOC of course, but it works. And it’s nice to see that now there is almost no limit, we can talk from everywhere with different people.
Q: Did COVID change the risk avoidance mentality we have as humans? Do you think it will result in a positive trend of our community post-pandemic i.e. aviation being more ready to use new technology or practices?
Julie: I think it’s positive trend, but we have to be careful. We have to monitor the change. And as I said before, we have to conduct risk assessment for the this type of change because creating, for instance, a company with personnel everywhere, of course, it’s a risk and it has to be taken care of. We cannot we avoid it.
Mark: To add to that, going digital is of course very good, it can be very efficient. But I would like to warn everybody that it can also create digital chaos. Maybe it looks nice and you have your folder structure and a nice work manual system but it can be chaotic as well. And it’s a hidden risk, which is not that feasible or not that clear to everybody.
I think it’s very good to make a value stream mapping on your documentation system. What is that? What is waste? What do I not use? What is efficient? This requires them what they need to have to make up a value stream. What’s the most valuable items in my document system used the mentality of lean? Which has different tools, Five S, for example. It’s specifically for facilities but you can also find this in your documentation system. Try the tools and have a critical review in your documentation system, just to prevent this digital chaos.
Q: What is your main recommendation when you build your documentation structure?
Julie: You have to choose the right person to lead the project to go digital. Because it’s also very important to to structure the project and to have someone that of course, is comfortable with IT, but also who knows the process of the company and the regulation. It’s important to choose the right person for this.
Q: How do we best prepare for new changes and a community post-pandemic?
Philip: What we do in flying, what we try and teach our pilots is what we call threatened error management. So threatening management is seeing into the future, maybe a near future, what could happen? How could things change? How could the scenario change from good to bad weather, for example. Does anticipating what could change help us see the future? Not clearly. But we will have an idea of what the threats can be.
I give you an example. We all remember the SARS pandemic. As such, I think it wasn’t classified as a pandemic, but it was certainly a health risk in the world. And I remember flying at the time, I was always thinking to myself, why can’t passengers be given a refund if they are not healthy enough to fly? Now, look at today’s COVID situation? Have we learned anything from it? Will we learn from it? Because there will be another one. How are we going to prepare for that? So it’s not seeing the future, but anticipating what could happen. It could be anything else.
COVID has been a threat to the livelihood of many, certainly in the aviation sector, we’ve been the hardest hit. If we manage what could happen in the future, I think we will be better equipped to survive. Of course, we would all like to look into the future know exactly what’s going to happen, but we can’t anticipate. So there is an element of anticipation. I will either retire or I will fall ill. So you just have to think about it and be prepared for it. Like you prepare for retirement, you know, it’s the same thing.
It will help us I mean, certainly, we teach it to our pilots anticipate, recognise it happening, see it coming. And then you need to recover. You need to survive it. You need to have resilience. You need to build in your system away to manage that unfortunate situation, whatever it could be. If it’s a good thing, then it’s a good thing. And then you have to be prepared for good things as well. Because if good things come your way you need to make the best of it. So I think preparation and anticipation is a good way.
Mark: We treat paperwork differently than 30 years ago. I would say look at our children. Now, maybe our grandchildren, look at how they learn. They don’t learn from a book anymore. They don’t read a huge amount of text. They learn from watching YouTube, they open up an iPhone and they fix it themselves. They are self-learning by just reading or watching two movies or small tutorials. I think that will change regarding the way we handle documents, there won’t be any files of text anymore. Of course, you need to put it in wording and you need to prove that you’re compliying with that in relation to the requirements. But think about your internal work instructions, they will not read every line. They want a small tutorial or a small movie or in an interactive way of how you need to do it hands in the air, just picking things up.
Philip: I think Mark is a visionary. He’s seeing the future somewhere. Well, that’s it. That’s how you go forward? And I think yes, absolutely. What Mark is saying is the future will not be like we know it today. So beyond digital, virtual or whatever, I mean, it’s going to change. Just like mentioned earlier, the UAV, unmanned vehicles, aerial vehicles, drones – we are already seeing that possibility, the taxi will change, we will all be flying in taxis, sitting in an Uber flying with a couple of propellers around us and it will be all controlled somewhere in some remote location. So yeah, we need to understand that things will change. That’s it.
Q: Do you see more interactive pictures, videos, diagrams in the operational manuals moving forward?
Julie: I would say that we are not there yet. I don’t see really an improvement in this. It’s easier now to create diagrams especially with Web Manuals, there is a very good tool in the system to create diagrams. It will be an evolution but we are not yet there.
Philip: If you look at the displays on the most modern aircrafts, you shut off a fuel switch, you can see the fuel in the line on your little computer. So the technology is there, and I’m talking 1980s technology, referring to the Airbus, for example. It’s already there now. It would certainly be a nice revolution in presenting information to pilots who need to see a complex understanding, especially in studying – studying a system, start seeing how it works, see how a hydraulic flow works, what’s the effect of a pump failure? This is lovely dreaming. And I don’t think we are just dreaming. I think instead, it’s just around the corner.