The business aviation accident rate “will go up 400 percent over the next 10 years” without significant upgrades to pilot training, according to human-factors expert Dr. Tony Kern. A former B-1B bomber instructor pilot, Kern made his remarks in October at Bombardier’s 15th annual Safety Standdown in Wichita. He said a perfect safety storm looms for a variety of reasons, including the failure of human-factors training to keep pace with advances in aviation technology, a new generation of pilots coming on line with “differing values with regard to entitlement and compliance” and “poaching” of experienced business aviation pilots and maintenance technicians by the airlines. “We’ve been drinking from the same human-factors training pool for 30 years,” Kern said. While he praised the proliferation of safety management systems (SMS), he said their adaptation absent a correlating change in a flight department’s culture could do more harm than good. “Habits are better than rules,” Kern said.
This year’s Standdown attracted 468 attendees, down from a peak of 590 in 2008, who heard from a wide variety of experts, including three current members of the NTSB and high-ranking FAA officials. Fifty-two percent of the participants were attending their first Bombardier standdown. They included pilots, mechanics, schedulers and aviation executives from a broad range of private and public aircraft operators who fly a diverse collection of turbine aircraft from various OEMs–including Bombardier. This year, almost all the breakout sessions stressed the role of personal accountability in fostering correct decision-making as part of developing and maintaining an overall safety culture and further promoting professionalism. Accident case studies–mainly from the regional airlines–were presented and discussed as a means of illustrating the panelists’ points, as were studies and empirical data from the FAA, NTSB and NASA.
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