The aviation industry is not as safe as it likes to believe, according to former NTSB board member John Goglia. “Everyone these days tells you [our aviation system] is much safer than before, but that’s driving a lot of complacency, which is the exact opposite of what we need today,” he told AIN. “We should be stepping up the pace of our safety efforts and be even more vigilant.”
Safety advocate (and AIN columnist) Goglia spent most of his career as an aircraft maintenance technician at USAir and United Airlines, as well as at a number of non-scheduled carriers before serving at the NTSB from 1995 to 2004.
He explained why he believes the industry is being complacent. “Being safer means some people need to work beyond their regular job description, which means moving people into a new groove as a safety baseline,” Goglia said. He acknowledges such change is hard. “Until [people achieve that new groove], I think we get what we pay for [in pilots and mechanics]. Just look at what the Colgan accident showed us,” said Goglia, citing the maxim of former Flight Safety Foundation director Jerome Lederer: “The absence of an accident doesn’t mean your operation is safe.”
While Goglia said he’s pleased that crew resource management has begun looking at the human side of accidents, he thinks maintenance CRM hasn’t kept pace the way it should. “When accident investigators see a maintenance problem, they don’t dig into the issues much,” he said. “Fatigue is almost never mentioned. I’m hanging my hat on SMS and hope it will get people more focused, but even that’s not a silver bullet unless operators take action with the data they uncover. SMS is a process and if you carry it to its logical conclusion you’d learn [people are a part of the problem]. But we always stop short in implementation because of cost.”