During recent testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said, “Legislators, regulators and industry have made aviation the safest mode of transportation. But a great threat to that success is complacency. It takes constant improvement to be the best. It takes constant improvement to remain the best.” Locally organized safety days have emerged as one of business aviation’s first lines of defense against potential safety hazards. Organizing an engaging safety event, however, is no small challenge.
“What makes for a good safety day are inclusive activities,” said Nick Lietzow, a director for the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association (PNBAA). “We include a wide range of people from different aspects of business aviation.”
“What makes for a good safety day are inclusive activities.”
Nick Lietzow Director, Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association
PNBAA is planning its 2023 Safety Day around the theme of complacency and how to avoid it. “It’s a trap that people can easily fall into,” Lietzow said. “Our keynote speaker will have a big presentation on this in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, she will be interacting with attendees to see what they’ve learned and discuss actionable takeaways they’ve learned to return to their flight departments with.”
In the Dallas-Fort Worth region, Case May, co-chair of the North Texas Business Aviation Association (NTBAA) Board of Directors said they created a different title for their Safety Day to add a bit of local flavor. “We call it a Safety Showdown, rather than a Safety Standdown,” May said. “We have a lot of great flight departments and resources to draw on from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and we call upon them.”
Post-COVID, he said, local members were “extremely anxious to get back to our safety day. We also use this and other events to generate revenue for our scholarship program to help pilots, mechanics and flight attendants.” The group expects about 200 to 220 attendees at this year ’s Safety Showdown in September, which will be held at Dallas Love Field’s (DAL) Frontiers of Flight Museum.
Van Allen Group CEO Jeff Agur helped launch the Georgia Business Aviation Association’s (GBAA) Safety Day in 2005, continuing to host it for the next 10 years. “At its height, we were attracting 250-plus attendees,” Agur said. Because of the foundation Agur built at GBAA, that group continues to host highly successful Safety Days.
“With the kind of attendance we enjoyed, it made it much easier to attract sponsors,” Agur said. That helped increase revenues, which allowed GBAA to host at a quality venue, which in turn helped drive attendance. “But we never paid our speakers. We believed putting them in front of our audience offered them plenty of marketing opportunities,” Agur said. “We began planning the next event 9-12 months out and always kept them to one day to make them efficient.”
UBAA’s Safety Day Planning Starts With Research
The Utah Business Aviation Association (UBAA) is planning its first Safety Day since March 2020, when the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the Salt Lake City event at the last minute. This year, UBAA President Jeff Hansen and his Safety Day Committee are taking the challenge of organizing the event somewhat in stride. They’ve begun creating content the good old-fashioned way, starting with simple street-level research.
“Our committee has been talking to flight departments and associated people around the state, asking about the issues they’re facing,” Hansen said. Those include local ATC topics, new de-icing procedures and how to make the not-yet-required expanded SMS rule a part of their operations.
“Straw polls, as well as a tie-in with NBAA, help us create the agenda. We also try to add a little entertainment angle when we can,” Hansen said, referring to previous Safety Days that featured astronauts, NTSB inspectors and former military pilots.
“We found that ending around 3:30 in the afternoon struck a good balance for everyone, especially those who might need to drive two or three hours to attend,” said Hansen. The event is scheduled for September.