Oct. 9, 2020

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt headlined the final day of NBAA’s 2020 Virtual Safety Week promoting excellence in aviation safety, as day two of the association’s National Safety Forum further examined the physical, mental and environmental factors influencing the health and wellbeing of industry professionals.

Drawing on his own experiences undergoing an emergency heart catheterization, Sumwalt acknowledged the difficulty many face in admitting health concerns. “I’ll be willing to bet that most of us are just a teeny bit Type-A, right?” he added. “That’s a trait that can help us but it’s a trait that can also work against us. There are resources out there, we just need to ask.”

In the day’s first session, Aviation Medicine Advisory Service President Dr. Quay Snyder examined how a range of factors – including proper nutrition, regular physical and mental exercise, and awareness of the detrimental effects from alcohol, drug use and both prescription and over-the-counter medications – can help pilots and other aviation professionals take a more proactive approach to their health.

“My mom didn’t have the degrees I do, but she was very wise woman and all the lessons she taught me are relevant,” he said. “Don’t fly when you’re sick. Don’t take medications that make you stupid. Minimize your alcohol and don’t use drugs. Make sure you get adequate sleep, seven-eight hours minimum each day.” Snyder also emphasized use of a personal checklist to determine your fitness for duty ahead of flying.

The forum’s concluding session brought together several industry medical experts to discuss how flight departments can promote health and wellness in their operations, including flight department assistance programs, airman medical certification services and fatigue modeling.

“I encourage you to have a plan,” said moderator Greg Farley, captain and aviation safety manager for John Deere Global Aviation. “Having something unfold at your door [without] a plan is a very bad time to be trying to figure out what to do.”

NBAA President Ed Bolen termed the virtual National Safety Forum “perhaps the most important [one] we’ve ever had, because it comes at a time when our industry is under stress,” he said. “The people in it are operating in something other than VMC right now, and our way to get through that is by talking with each other, by sharing experiences and by sharing expertise.”

Jeff Wofford, the new chairman of the NBAA Safety Committee, closed by thanking all Virtual Safety Week presenters and participants, as well as outgoing committee chairman Tom Huff, whose two-year term expired this week. “We look forward to meeting again for the Single-Pilot Safety Standdown and National Safety Forum next fall, hopefully face-to-face,” Wofford added.

All NBAA Virtual Safety Week presentations will be archived online and available after Oct. 12.