Oct. 14, 2021

Under the theme “Leadership and Professionalism: The Keys to Improving Aviation Safety,” the 2021 NBAA National Safety Forum emphasized the importance of promoting professional attitudes across the industry, as well as recognizing the potential dangers in many of those same attitudes.

NTSB Air Safety Investigator Mike Folkerts noted the positive aspects exemplified by Gen. Charles Yeager’s first supersonic flight, which took place 74 years ago Oct 14. “It’s in the DNA of pilots to press the envelope,” he said. “These are all positive attributes when you think about it – [we’re] mission hackers and adventure seekers. We tend to be mavericks. So, there’s the positive side of these [but] there’s also the negative side.”

Fellow NTSB investigator Fabian Salazar then presented a summary of the board’s findings into the January 2019 helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA that claimed the lives of the pilot and eight passengers, including NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Among the probable factors was the pilot’s strong desire to complete the mission for a valued client – a positive attitude that drove a negative outcome.

Folkerts contrasted the application of that attitude against another noteworthy accident, the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” landing of US Airways Flight 1549. “I like to refer to it as, ‘Leadership on the Hudson,” he said. “When [Captain Chesley Sullenberger] needed to fly, he really flew. He communicated in a very concise way not just the ATC but internally within the cockpit. Good CRM. He obviously did an awesome job there.”

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen then recognized the 16 recipients in 2020 and 2021 of NBAA’s Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award, for demonstrating outstanding professionalism and leadership in support of business aviation safety.

“Anytime the business aviation community comes together, aviation safety is appropriately a front burner issue, because safety is our core value,” Bolen said. “When NBAA was formed 74 years ago … our founders understood that for business aviation to have the future had to be safe, and it had to be perceived to be safe.”

Kern noted most discussions of professionalism often start when something unprofessional occurs and emphasized the importance of “dopamine hits” when positive behaviors and contributions are acknowledged.

“You’re being recognized for doing something above and beyond,” he said of the award recipients. “And I don’t mean in promotions or dollars. We all sometimes lose track of the psychological salary of being in this business. Authentic self-esteem is a very rare and very powerful thing.”

The National Safety Forum also included presentation of NBAA’s John P. “Jack” Doswell Award to longtime industry safety advocate Don Baldwin, as well as presentation of NBAA’s 50, 60 and 75-year Flying Safety Awards.

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