Sumwalt Looks at Safety Leadership
Business aviation’s strong accident record is no reason for operators to rest on their laurels, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt reminded attendees at the recent FSF business aviation safety summit (BASS). Sumwalt, former manager of aviation for Scana and a retired US Airways pilot, is a man obsessed with the pursuit of improving aviation safety. He reminded the audience that leadership is about influencing others. “Your job as leaders in business aviation is to make sure accidents don’t happen on your watch. You must also be constantly trying to improve. You need a leadership obsession.”
According to Sumwalt, a real danger to continued safe operations is that some people interpret the absence of an accident to mean everyone is doing everything right. “If you are on the right track, with a good safety record, pat yourself on the back, but don’t get too smug, too complacent,” he said.
He asked the audience: “Is safety the top priority at your company? Priorities come and go, but your [company’s] values are the heart of the organization. Those should not change. So do you want safety to be a priority or a value? That chronic unease [about all things safety] is what keeps us on our toes.”