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San Antonio Partnership a Model for Local Safety Training

March 11, 2013

Hear an NBAA Flight Plan about the Partnership for Corporate Aviation Training's annual Safety Smackdown where attendees get three days of comprehensive training.

Dozens of flight department personnel from around the country will be in San Antonio, TX later this week for one of the fastest-growing safety events in business aviation: the Safety Smackdown hosted by the Partnership for Corporate Aviation Training (PCAT).

PCAT was born of necessity, according to one of its board members.

“The smackdown started as sort of a cost-cutting measure by our company back in 2008,” explained Tripp Riedel, director of aviation at Valero Energy. His company, like many others, was struggling with budget issues at the height of the Great Recession. Riedel was ordered to cut expenses and found the only area he could think about doing so was in his training budget. The problem was, he hated the idea of sacrificing safety education. That is when Riedel and others at Valero realized they had a training opportunity at their fingertips.

“We looked back on an experience we’d had on a local lake with survival training,” Riedel said. “We realized from that event that we had subject-matter experts within our own company and local area. So we decided to have a training day and invited some of the other local flight departments in the neighborhood to attend.”

From that one-day event five years ago, the PCAT Safety Smackdown has grown into a six-day event that encompasses 26 topics as well as IS-BAO training for both flight department and auditor candidates. In addition to the Safety Smackdown, which takes place from March 18 to 20, organizers will host a casino night fundraiser on March 17. The IS-BAO workshops for flight departments and auditors take place on March 21 and 22, respectively.

Riedel said that recently, the focus of the Safety Smackdown has turned to smaller organizations that do not necessarily have the resources available to companies like Valero.

“Flight departments like Valero and H.E.B. and Zachary have more training resources than departments that have just one or two pilots. Those departments simply don’t have the time or energy or the financial resources to have a comprehensive training program. We’re just sharing some of the resources we have and some of the subject-matter experts we’re acquainted with to spread the training wealth around,” said Riedel.

If that kind of benevolence is not impressive, consider the price: $100 gets you in the door. Accommodations are extra, but the fee pays for three days of training, eight hours each day.

“Over the years, a number of flight departments and their managers have attended the PCAT Smackdown, and a lot of what they’ve done is to see how they might create a similar program in their own area,” observed NBAA Regional Representative Steve Hadley. “That actually has happened. The PCAT Safety Smackdown has actually become a very valuable model for other groups to emulate in their particular region of the country.”

The Safety Smackdown has become such a recognized model for safety self-help within the business aviation industry that NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen will attend this year’s event.

“That’s a testimony to the effort that these flight departments put into PCAT to bring this value to operators in the region,” said Hadley.

Learn more about this year's PCAT Safety Smackdown.