Monday, April 19, 2010

An activist NTSB?

A press release from the NTSB announces a three-day forum on "professionalism in aviation," beginning Tuesday, May 18, 2010.

"NTSB's investigations into the midair collision over the Hudson River last August, the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 in February 2009, and the October 2009 Northwest pilots' overflight of their intended airport provided the impetus for this forum because all of them clearly demonstrated the hazards to aviation safety when pilots and air traffic controllers depart from standard operating procedures and established best practices," Hersman said. "During the forum, we will gather information on the screening, selection and training of pilots and controllers and methods to reinforce professionalism and excellence."

Do we really want a government agency -- especially one whose prime focus is safety at all costs -- suggesting to an an industry what is and is not professional?




Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm am, and forever will be, a liberal who believes that government, for the most part, does good. I cannot think of a single reason for the post 9/11 NTSB to exist other than making congress critters feel good about themselves come election time.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Government is the institution by which the community sets standards for organizations and individuals whose activities effect the lives of others.
Deregulation, while personally appealing, was a disaster in banking, as it would be for aviation safety. If mechanics did not have to be trained and to sign off their work, would safety improve?
Certainly pilots are the first to arrive at the scene of an incident, and have a personal stake in the quality of their work,
but that does not keep the organizations they work for from putting a bean counter in charge and in the name of the almighty "bottom line", cheapening the lives of the pilots, the work environment, the pay, and the respect they get for putting their lives on the line and taking personal responsibility for the safety of their passengers.
Government regulation is how we say "Safety First"

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think one of the fundamental flaws here is that no matter how well-intentioned NTSB may be (and after Scary Mary Schaivo's reign, that will forevermore be questioned), they're kind of preaching to the choir, aren't they? The pilots who would really spend time thinking about these accidents and willing to actually change their practices are probably already acting professionally. Those who aren't will in many cases not realize they aren't, OR simply won't care. No legislation or regulations or policies will fix all this... business will always find ways to maximize profits (not inherently a bad thing) but only when it's more profitable to do the most safe things than to cut corners will there be across-the-board changes. I don't know how you'd ever do that, it's so highly regulated as it is that I don't think you'll see any earth-shaking changes to how the system works. In my opinion, the most lasting changes will be very long-term and will come from improving the basic training mentality throughout the GA community where most of these pilots all get their start, such that at every single step of the way from no experience at all to ATP certificate level, pilots will have been taught, reinforced, and held to a standard of professionalism and risk-awareness that they would be too uncomfortable to even think of tolerating anything less on their aircraft, regardless of their seniority or place on the crew. All the NTSB hearings on earth can't do that.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Dave Higdon said...

The NTSB is going to address professionalism, it seems. Some wonder why...not me.

Sorry, but don't see a downside to hearing what they have to say.

In recent year this issue of "professionalism" in the cockpit has spread far beyond the realm of the flying-for-food set at the airlines. The issue comes up at Safety Standdown pretty much every year; Gene Cernan often delivers that message in unadulterated, unapologetic terms -- and he's correct.

In essence the message goes something like this:

Whether we fly strictly for grins and giggles or for work travel for ourselves, or for hire, professionalism in our attitude toward even the for-the-fun-of-it flying should be part of our flight bag, present for our pre-flight planning and walking with us in our pre-flight inspection.

Given institutional inertia that resists new ideas, different approaches and sometimes the mere concept of change itself, the culture of aviation needs sometimes to hear what it might rather not. We need to hear that as safe as we've made flying, as good as the system is, we humans still prevail as the main cause of accidents and incidents.

If the NTSB talking about professionalism can help a few of us reconsider how we approach flying, how we prepare and act, maybe it will help shave a few more fractions of a point off the accident stats.

We, as Pilots-in-Command, don't need an agency's actions to take our own steps to fly smarter, more professionally and, hopefully in the result, safer.

We should be smart enough to seek those steps for ourselves, to listen for signs of ourselves in the NTSB meetings and any conclusions.

Preparing and acting like a professional has nothing to do with a paycheck, Cernan likes to note. And it doesn't have to cut into the fun, beauty of utility of aviating.

In fact, if what we do works, acting and preparing more professionally should enhance the fun, beauty and utility of our flying.

And what's the downside of that?


1:23 PM  

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