In the past, not in South Africa, there have been incidents where display aircraft crashed into the public areas with serious loss of life as a consequence. For this reason safety has been intensified at all air events across the globe and South Africa is no different.
Among other safety measures barriers have to be erected to separate the public from the operational side of the air event and the display line has been moved further away from the crowd line. There are different distances for various display types and these need to be adhered to by all pilots. To monitor and assist air event organisers, in implementing all the safety measures, the Safety Officer has been created.
The Safety Officer or Air Boss as he may also be known has to be an aviator himself and have in depth knowledge of forces that are at play on an aircraft during the display. The Safety Officer has to be in communication with the display pilot/s at all times and has the power to alter display distances and altitudes to adapt to prevailing weather conditions and terrain.
On the day of the air show the Safety Officer is responsible for all aspects of air side activities be it in the air or on the ground. At larger air events he might have various other individuals to assist him like the Ramp Coordinator and Program Coordinator.
The Safety Officer (SO) has the same duties as an Air Boss at a Special Air Event (SAE). At smaller SAE's the SO will be the Air Boss. However at major events the Air Boss will appoint additional Safety Officers to assist him in doing the Pre Event audits.
Safety is of paramount importance and needs to be monitored with eagle eyes. If the event is too large for a single SO to pay attention to all the safety factors he will employ the services of additional SO's. The chief SO will then be the Air Boss and all his, safety, assistants will be known as Safety Officers.
The Safety Officer will assist in monitoring the display lines and inform the Air Boss of any infringements to this. The display line has been implemented to ensure that there is enough spacing between the display aircraft and the visiting public.