The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations, or IS-BAO, is a code of best practices that serves as the gold standard for business aviation around the world. It was developed by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) in 2002 and has been endorsed by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). At the time of writing, more than 700 operators worldwide are IS-BAO registered.

IS-BAO has evolved with the aviation industry, and the IBAC constantly seeks input from a number of aviation organizations, such as the NBAA, to ensure that it continues to promote best industry practices.

In order to become IS-BAO certified and to maintain that certification, an operator must undergo regular audits, typically every two to three years.

During the audit process, a lengthy list of aviation operations is subject to deep scrutiny. These include:

  • Safety Management Systems (SMS)
  • Organization and Personnel
  • Training and Proficiency
  • Flight Operations
  • Operations in International and other specialized Airspace
  • Equipment Requirements
  • Maintenance Requirements
  • Company Operations Manual
  • Emergency Response Plan
  • Environmental Management
  • Occupational Health & Safety
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods
  • Security

Rick Malczynski is an independent IS-BAO auditor. He conducts two to four audits each month. “The audit process takes several days,” he says. “But IS-BAO registration goes above and beyond standard required regulations, so I know when I go to an audit that the company is already deeply committed to safety.”

There are three levels to the IS-BAO process, with progressive stages signifying a greater level of maturity within the business. A company will begin at Stage 1 and has the goal of eventually maturing to Stage 3.

  • Stage 1 of IS-BAO indicates that an appropriate Safety Management System (SMS) has been established.
  • Stage 2 may be achieved several years later and ensures that safety risks are being effectively managed.
  • Stage 3, the most advanced level, is awarded only when safety management has become a fully engrained part of the company’s culture, and a positive culture of safety management has been sustained over time.

Malczynski explains what the IS-BAO means for aviation customers: “IS-BAO audits are not required but are an extra step and expense. Operators that take this extra step are showing their commitment to excellence.”

IS-BAO certification may be obtained alongside or separately from one of the other two primary certification systems: ARGUS or Wyvern Wingman. The ARGUS system rates private jet or charter operator based on their past safety history. Their CHEQ (Charter Evaluation and Qualification) system keeps records of all operators and pilots that have been audited. The flight histories of both pilot and operator are examined and then compared with industry averages to see how they compare. If they pass, they qualify for an ARGUS Gold Rating. Those that then complete and pass an onsite safety audit can achieve a Gold Plus Rating. If an operator is IS-BAO certified, they also qualify for the Gold Plus Rating, an indication of how the two ratings can work together. IS-BAO certification guidelines are also a benchmark for Wyvern Wingman certification, which is very similar to the ARGUS program in that it audits an operator’s safety history and maintenance practices.

While ARGUS and Wyvern both audit according to FAA standards, IS-BAO is based on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines, meaning it is a worldwide rather than a national or regional standard. It is considered much more stringent than its competitors.

However, remember that if your operator does not fly internationally, it may not make sense for them to obtain IS-BAO certification. Cost is also a factor for many smaller operators; ARGUS and IB-BAO are more expensive than Wyvern and so may not be within practical financial reach for a relatively new company.

Malczynski advises clients to never be afraid to ask their operator if they have been audited by an IS-BAO or other certification professional. “If you are going to invest in charter, plane ownership or a fraction, it is perfectly reasonable to ask what certifications and safety standards they meet.” Ask what, if any, certifications they do have. Check that they are up to date. And whether they are registered with ARGUS, Wyvern, IS-BAO, or all three, you can feel reassured that they are committed to your safety.