NBAA2009 News Bureau Articles

Bookmark and Share

Developing a Proper Culture Is First Step to Safe Operation

October 22, 2009, Orlando, FL – Robert L. Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) since 2006 and a former airline pilot and flight department manager, told Attendees at the NBAA2009 Safety Town Hall Meeting that "getting the right attitude" is the first step in developing the proper safety culture.

Sumwalt reviewed a series of recent accidents that revealed either the absence of company standard operating procedures, failure to follow established SOPs or simple regulatory noncompliance. He suggested that the decisions and actions of flight department managers are key to developing a safety culture, which requires:

  • Management communication
  • Standardization and discipline
  • Training
  • Data collection and quality assurance

Sumwalt emphasized that flight departments need to tell their training vendors what topics they should cover and focus on. He also said risk management should be data-driven, and safety audits should be conducted to reveal deficiencies in a flight operation.

He also told managers that, to truly determine the safety status of their organizations, they need to establish a culture in which personnel are encouraged to report safety deficiencies. Employees need to know that such reports will be acted upon. Also, those who file reports should be able to do so confidentially, without fear of reprisal or ridicule. A non-reprisal policy signed by the CEO is recommended. "Open reporting is key to a just safety culture," said Sumwalt.

The NBAA Safety Committee has finished its work on runway landing distance calculations and developed a five-year strategic plan for safety initiatives.

The top safety concerns of the committee are:

  • Development of safety cultures and adoption of safety management systems
  • Regulatory interpretation and compliance issues
  • Fatigue management
  • Inadequacy of current training programs
  • Decision-making in a data-poor environment
  • Automation management and pilot proficiency
  • Ground operations safety
  • Runway excursions
  • Emergency preparedness and business continuity

The committee also is working on several other projects, including:

  • Helping NBAA develop comments on the FAA rulemaking regarding safety management systems
  • Examining the effects that the economic downturn may be having on safety
  • Increasing industry awareness of existing tools to enhance safety

Any person who attends an NBAA convention, conference, seminar or other program grants permission to NBAA, its employees and agents (collectively "NBAA") to record his or her visual/audio images, including, but not limited to, photographs, digital images, voices, sound or video recordings, audio clips, or accompanying written descriptions, and, without notifying such person, to use his or her name and such images for any purpose of NBAA, including advertisements for NBAA and its programs.