Business Aviation Safety: The Responsibility is Yours

Earlier this year, a major company’s Chairman welcomed a new Board Member who happened to be a survivor of a serious aircraft accident. The CEO commented he certainly was glad that his company’s aviation department was safe. The survivor responded, “Is it?”

AvBuyer  |  05th January 2013
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That exchange was amazingly frank, and on target: It is easily argued that the most valuable assets of any enterprise are its leaders.

They are its future. Maximizing those leaders’ impact via enhanced time-place mobility, extending their useful life through reduced stress associated with rigorous travel schedules, and assuring their travel safety and security are all benefits gained from the use of business aircraft services. One of the roles of the Board is to assure the future viability of the business. Yet, it is rare for a board to involve itself in the operational performance of its company's Business Aviation services.

On a macro-level, Business Aviation has the same safety record as the major flag carriers. On a micro-level, better leadership from the top is needed. What management says - “We want best practices or better when it comes to safety” - is undermined when those same leaders create risk-inducing exceptions to best practices. The following are a few of the most frequent examples.

The C-suite is often occupied by Type-As who are not used to being told “no.” Some of those Type-A leaders are also prolific stress donors. It is their nature. It is what has made them and their business units successful.

On the other hand, flight crews are service providers who are highly motivated to perform. The mix of the two styles can be a deadly combination. There have been several notable accidents whose contributing origins included passenger-induced stress on the crew to proceed into threatening conditions.

The Board must be very clear about how executives are to behave around crewmembers. These constraints, memorialized in writing, will prevent induced pressure to push the limits in crucial areas like crew fatigue, runway length limitations, or adverse weather. Establish a policy that holds the crew blameless for saying “No.” Add teeth to it by declaring any passenger who pressures a crew gets one warning. A second offense downgrades that passenger onto the airlines.

Passengers get tired of hearing the same old safety briefing flight after flight. Some passengers tell the crew to discontinue the briefings. Unfortunately, that happened with a major New York-based company. Subsequently, their aircraft was involved in an accident that resulted in the aircraft becoming submerged in cold, murky water.

The crew barely got out. One of the two passengers survived when rescuers quickly pulled him from the wreckage. He later told investigators he and his traveling companion, in the confusion of the accident, forgot how to execute an emergency escape from the cabin.

The Board should require pre-departure safety briefings for at least the first leg of each day for each passenger. In addition, passengers must be able to help themselves and their traveling companions in the event of an emergency. Therefore, cabin safety training should be conducted at least annually for all frequent passengers.

Many passengers do not like the loss of privacy or the perception of excessive service that results from having a flight attendant onboard a large-cabin aircraft. Yet, the back of these aircraft is isolated from the flight-deck crew. Additionally, the cockpit crew shouldn’t support the preparation and serving of meals.

The lack of a flight attendant leaves passengers to fend for themselves, which creates very real risks. As an example, the chairman of one Fortune 100 company started a fire in the galley of his intercontinental jet while trying to prepare a snack for himself. Furthermore, there are numerous examples of passengers having sudden medical problems while in-flight.

The Board should require a Cabin Safety Attendant (CSA) as a crewmember on any large-cabin aircraft. Every passenger-carrying leg (no matter how short or how few passengers) should include a fully trained and qualified CSA on any large-cabin aircraft.

Why should the Board be bothered with the level of detail outlined in the preceding paragraphs? Because the vast majority of companies violate, on a routine basis, one or more of these best safety practices. If the leadership of the company is permitting these risks to occur, it is up to the Board to make a difference.

The responsibility is yours!



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