Tropic Air in Belize began operations in 1979 and at the Latin America and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA) annual general meeting (AGM) in November it was awarded an IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) certificate

IATA awards Tropic Air ISSA (L-R) Tony Tyler, Steven Schulte

The first such certificate to be awarded to an Americas-based airline, the process to obtain the ISSA began in 2013 when the airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Steven Schulte, agreed to the auditing process.

ISSA is a voluntary evaluation program extending the benefits of operational safety and efficiency from the IATA operational safety audit (IOSA) program to the operators of smaller aircraft that are not eligible for the IOSA program.

To be eligible an operator’s aircraft have to have a maximum take off weight of  less than 5,700 kg. Tropic Air operates single engine aircraft.

Schulte said: “If you have an IATA [safety management system], with all of the standards in place, you’re going to catch things very early on. If you think that $20-30,000 spent on safety is expensive look at your insurance bill after the first accident.  You only need one injury lawsuit to pay for a lot of safety.”

Given the award at the ALTA AGM in Puerto Rico, Schulte cited a problem with flat tires as an example of how ISSA and the safety management system it creates can solve problems. “Eighteen months ago we recorded a few flat tire incidents. We investigated this and found we had a problem with a supplier we had used for years and we had a large batch of these [faulty] tubes,” explained Schulte.

Founded in 1979 by John Greif III with a single aircraft and two employees, Tropic now employs more than 350 staff and has more than 200 daily scheduled flights carrying about 300,000 passengers a year. Over its 36 years, Tropic has lost up to five aircraft from incidents.

Today, Tropic operates 15 aircraft and also provides a cargo service. Schulte added: “The major benefit to me is I sleep well at night. I used to wonder what was going to happen next. I didn’t have a handle on what we were doing. Now I know we have a procedure for recording every incident and a training procedure to correct any problem in every part of the airline.”