NBAA2009 News Bureau Articles

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FAA Administrator Babbitt Touts SMS, Pilot Professionalism

Randy Babbitt and Arnold PalmerOctober 20, 2009, Orlando, FL – Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt told Attendees at the NBAA2009 Opening General Session this morning that widespread adoption of safety management systems (SMS) and an emphasis on pilot professionalism and mentoring will be the key to taking aviation safety to the next level.

Because aviation is "exceedingly safe" already, SMS is "the only option" to take aviation to the next level of safety," asserted Babbitt. "When it comes to safety, status quo is not enough," he said.

Babbitt also said pilot professionalism and mentoring will be key to applying safety lessons learned. He urged all aviators to go through the following checklist every day:

  • Do you always report for duty rested and prepared?
  • Are you continuously refreshing your knowledge?
  • Are you rigorously following checklists and proscribed procedures?
  • Do you discipline yourself to stay at least 10 minutes ahead of the aircraft?
  • Do you use quiet moments in the cockpit productively (i.e., to recheck the flight management system or flight plan)?
  • Do you thoroughly brief and communicate with everybody, including other crewmembers and air traffic control?
  • Do you fly with precision, even when you are by yourself?
  • Do you always push for a higher standard of professional flying?
  • What do you expect from other pilots? Do you not let a moment for teaching or mentoring pass? Do you solicit and give honest feedback?

"The fact is, we can’t regulate professionalism. We need strong professionals – the kind that NBAA is known for – to step forward and become mentors," said Babbitt.

"SMS will help us connect the dots with the data, and professionalism and mentoring will help us put it all to good use," he continued. "As safe as we are, we need to be safer still. We need to accept the responsibility for making it happen."

Babbitt also warned, "We must avoid the temptation to cut corners because the economy is tight." The economy should "never have a bearing on safety."

Indeed, the economy is on everyone’s minds these days, with many in the industry wondering when a recovery will begin. Joining Babbitt as a speaker during the Opening General Session was Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard, who flies a Cirrus for business purposes. Comparing the current recession to the one of 1973–1974, he suggested that the recovery from the current economic malaise could be similar to the recovery of the mid-1970s, which was characterized by inflation, stagflation and a jobless recovery.

However, Karlgaard said there could be good news: Recessions tend to weed out weak competitors, and the 1970s were notable for the emergence of entrepreneurial companies such as Microsoft, FedEx and Southwest Airlines. Plus, he thinks that the global growth that continues today in places such as China, Brazil and India is "not going to stop. There is plenty of reason to be hopeful," he concluded.

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