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GHSS: Forum for Open, Frank Discussions on Industry Safety

NATA launched the Ground Handling Safety Symposium (GHSS) in 2016 with the goal of establishing an annual gathering of business and general aviation ground handling safety professionals. Due to the surging safety risks of COVID19, NATA hosted the 2020 event online, then built upon last year’s success with another edition on the virtual
platform in September of 2021. Whether in-person or online, the GHSS provides an ideal opportunity for our members to discuss and help solve industry safety issues. This year, over 100 FBO, aircraft operator, and other ground handling organization locations logged into the virtual GHSS to hear from experts, ask questions, engage in discussions, and network with professionals from around the industry. 

The 2021 GHSS kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Emerging from the Year that Wasn’t – The Impacts on Aviation Businesses,” led by Lou Sorrentino (Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions, Intl.). The panel included Larry Jorash (Ross Aviation), Kevin Donnelly (Jet Aviation), and Jessica Rowden (Cutter Aviation), who explored ground handling challenges in 2021 as well as creative solutions to workforce and human factors issues found throughout our sector. Of particular interest was the concern over workforce shortages that have left many ground handlers understaffed as traffic volumes grow. As a result, managers and other leaders have oftentimes covered front-line ground handling roles to meet customer needs. The panel identified the dual safety threat that can arise from having individuals thrust into new safety sensitive roles and the loss of operational safety awareness that can occur when managers are placed into front-line roles. 

Following the panel discussion, the GHSS continued with Jason Starke (Baldwin Safety & Compliance), who provided an in-depth look into the factors that can “Make or Break Your Safety Program.” With the FAA positioned to expand SMS requirements to certificated airports, air charter operators, and maintenance facilities, this timely review
was of particular importance to ground handlers. Later, in response to the issues identified with the use of super absorbent polymers (SAP) in filter monitors, the Parker Velcon team explored their new, SAP free, CDF-X and ACO-X filters featuring water barrier filtration technology. Keith Clark (Phillips 66) and Steve Berry (NATA) took on the topic of misfueling prevention and post accident investigation with a detailed presentation vital for any operation that handles aviation fuel. The symposium concluded with a discussion between Dr. Benjamin Goodheart (Magpie Human Safety Systems) and Michael France (NATA) on the role of “Radical Candor” (Kim Scott, 2019) in building and maintaining an effective safety program. 

In addition to the panel discussions and presentations, the 2021 GHSS featured a recurring symposium favorite: case studies in which industry participants provide detailed insight into an accident or incident. The case studies speak to the GHSS core – fostering a platform for open, frank discussions on safety performance and the future of safety management. You can learn more at or email

A highlight of this year’s GHSS was NATA’s formation of the Ground Safety Alliance (GSA), an organization dedicated to developing a ground handling safety data collection and analysis program. The GSA is an industry-led organization that seeks to leverage expertise and resources from across our industry to reduce ground handling damage, injury, and loss. NATA’s Michael France provided an overview of the program and announced the initial GSA Governing Board members: Todd Smith (Atlantic Aviation), Bob Schick (TAC Air), Jennifer Bartenstein (Signature Flight Support), Kate Fraser (NetJets), Robert Cavetti (Sheltair Aviation Services), Angela Thurmond (American Aero FTW), Kevin Donnelly (Jet Aviation), Sean White (First Wing Jet Center), and Jessica Rowden (Cutter Aviation).


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