ACSF Safety Symposium Puts Focus on Leadership

 - March 3, 2020, 10:54 AM
Jim Spigener, chief client officer with Dekra, presented a session on how leadership can lead to "world-class safety" at the Air Charter Safety Foundation's 2020 Air Charter Safety Symposium. (Photo: Kerry Lynch/AIN)

The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) kicked off its 2020 Air Charter Safety Symposium this morning with more than 130 registrants and a theme of “Promoting the Highest Levels of Aviation Safety.” Being held at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia, the event came a day after the Safety Board held a panel discussion with industry leaders about improving Part 135 safety, which is on the agency’s list of “Most Wanted” safety improvements. NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt will follow that meeting with a discussion tomorrow during the safety symposium with why Part 135 safety is on the list and what it will take to get it removed.

The forum will also review safety leadership, lessons learned, and flight-data monitoring, among other topics. Joshua Herbert, ACSF chairman and founder and CEO of Magellan Jets, welcomed attendees and encouraged them to participate in the ACSF Aviation Safety Action Plan voluntary self-reporting program conducted in concert with the FAA, noting that 175 organizations are now on board. He also praised the efforts of the National Air Transportation Association in its efforts to combat illegal charter. NATA and FAA officials will delve into those efforts during tomorrow’s session.

Jim Spigener, chief client officer with Dekra, provided an overview of what constitutes “world-class safety,” stressing this comes from leadership that has a passion for people, a focus on exposure rather than outcome, the ability for resource systems alignment, and culture of embracing change.

In exposure, Spigener cited research that 21 percent of recordable incidents had the potential for resulting in serious injury or fatalities and challenged the attendees that if they reduce those, they reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic outcome.

As for embracing change, he cited his research with NASA, discovering that early on in the space shuttle program some 300 reports were filed expressing concerns about foam used in the space vehicle. Those reports ebbed over time for two reasons—nothing happened involving those concerns and a solution to those concerns wasn’t discovered. Essentially, he said, this represented a resistance to change. It took 26 years for those concerns to bear out with the disaster involving the space shuttle Columbia.

Industry veteran Bill Koch, former CEO of AMR Combs who now is an executive coach and leadership consultant, highlighted the need for emotional intelligence (EQ), saying it is a difference-maker in executive leadership, which is important in safety management. He listed good self-awareness, ability to self-regulate, motivational capabilities, empathy, and social skills as all critical in EQ. He defined EQ as the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and guide think and behavior accordingly—in other words: situational awareness.

Studies have shown that managers with higher EQ see as much as 40 percent better organizational performance than those with lower EQ. He cited qualities of inspiration and optimism on the higher side, and command and demand on the lower side. Likewise, he cited “we” versus “me” attitudes.

Koch, who formerly served on the NATA board and was a founding board member of the ACSF, said, “It’s great to see what ACSF has become” and how it has brought together like-minded organizations with a vision for safety.