National Safety Forum Examines the Human Factors Behind Aviation Accidents
Oct. 18, 2018
For more than 40 years, investigators have cited human error as the root cause of nearly 75 percent of all aviation accidents. They are further confronted by errors that are often repeated, and nearly always preventable. This disturbing reality, and the human elements behind those trends, were in focus at the fourth annual NBAA National Safety Forum held Oct. 18 at NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Orlando, FL.
The four-hour interactive forum offered the opportunity for business aviation operators to engage in candid discussions in a town hall format to drill down on how business aviation can be made safer. Sessions included a “back to basics” look at complacency and common operational errors; an examination of human factors issues from a physiological and psychological standpoint; and a comprehensive look at how leadership and professionalism can have a profound impact on safety.
NBAA Chairman Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, who flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam and later with the U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” aerial demonstration team, began the event by recounting an early conversation with a higher-ranking pilot about the most important thing about flying.
Newton had confidently responded “safety,” but the other pilot corrected him. “He said ‘professionalism,’ and of course that’s true,” Newton continued. “If you have professionalism, then you have safety. And, we have to feel it in our soul and live it every day.”
FAA Acting Executive Director of Accident Investigation and Prevention Steve Gottlieb further noted that complacency, which may also be traced back to a lack of professionalism, is often the common denominator behind the most frequent causal factors of business aviation accidents.
“Investigators will tell you it often come down to fatigue; lack of respect for weather; lack of performance planning; lack of cockpit resource management; and procedural non-compliance,” he explained. “These are the persistent behavioral attributes we see, and they’re each readily addressable.”
The event also recognized the 11 recipients of the 2018 Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award, honoring those working in business aviation who demonstrate professionalism and leadership in support of aviation safety. In a video presentation to attendees, Kern spoke of “normalization of excellence,” a term increasingly used by safety-conscious aviation professionals with the best of intentions but that may actually be misleading.
“There’s absolutely nothing normal about excellence; it means going above the standard,” he explained. “This idea that we’re already excellent is the greatest roadblock to achieve it; if you believe you’ve reached excellence, why would you strive to improve? What needs to be normalized is striving towards a natural state of excelling.”
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen joined Newton and Tom Huff, incoming chairman of the NBAA Safety Committee, in renewing the association’s commitment to safety through the signing of NBAA’s Safety Policy Letter.
“NBAA continually seeks to identify excellence, recognize it, distill it and pass it on,” Bolen said. “Since we first signed this policy in 2016, we have a new NBAA chairman and a new Safety Committee chairman. We want to make sure the message gets carried [through] and that we have a fresh and relevant document in front of us all.”
The National Safety Forum was livestreamed for those unable to attend NBAA-BACE, and the archived presentation will be available on the NBAA website.
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