June 3, 2021

NBAA board member and Vice President of Corporate Aviation for Pfizer Inc. JD Witzig and National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg were among those who talked up the need for robust safety measures at the Flight Safety Foundation’s Business Aviation Safety Summit (BASS2021) this week.

“The biggest thing for us in aviation who are really focused on safety is realizing that everyone is less proficient today than they were at the beginning of COVID,” said Witzig, vice president of corporate aviation for Pfizer Inc. “Whatever your normal pacing was, we’re just not used to working at that pacing anymore.”

Witzig said that flight departments need to factor in human error, adding that those errors might be more frequent now. “So, building in extra time to allow for that, reinforcing the processes that you have already in place with good checks and balances … is really key to helping corporate aviation teams get back into the swing,” he said.

The summit, organized by the Flight Safety Foundation in partnership with NBAA, is a forum for the business aviation industry to identify safety concerns, devise approaches to reduce risk and implement initiatives to improve safety.

Landsberg stressed the value of safety management systems (SMS) and flight data monitoring (FDM). He noted that after a crash, a company will often cite its perfect safety record to that point, but Landsberg cautioned, “Everything is perfect behind you. It’s the next flight that’s the most important, and the ‘no evil’ view approach here just doesn’t work when we’re talking about safety.”

Landsberg said that the SMS approach involves, “Let’s report it, let’s figure out what the problem is, let’s not repeat it. Now that all sounds good in theory; in practice, we don’t always see that.”

Landsberg stressed that an SMS need not be overly complicated.

“I think the FAA should be providing guidance and some examples of how they think this should work, and keep in mind, it needs to be simple, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and it doesn’t need to have a huge amount of paperwork,” he said.

He compared FDM systems to placing a police officer on the side of the road to slow down drivers.

“In short, if we’re measuring things, it allows us to modify our behavior for optimal outcomes,” Landsberg said. “That’s entirely what flight data monitoring is all about.”

Learn more about BASS2021.