After his 29 years with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Neo Aik Sia took his experience built with the RSAF to help civil organizations implement safety management systems and other key safety programs. The 2021 Helicopter Association International Salute to Excellence Safety Award recipient, Sia had become a champion of safety culture and had implemented SMS while with the RSAF.
The recognition, sponsored by BLR Aerospace, “honors an individual for outstanding contributions to the promotion of helicopter safety and safety awareness,” HAI said.
Sia’s interest in aviation began at an early age; he joined the Junior Flying Club in 1972 in Singapore before he learned to drive a car. He subsequently earned his pilot certificate after graduating from high school.
When he saw an opportunity to stay in aviation, he joined the RSAF as a pilot officer and there, HAI said, “found his calling in safety.” This included holding positions such as head of accident prevention, senior staff director and lecturer, director of operational development, senior pilot, and squadron commander. Eventually, he became responsible for all RSAF aircraft, maintenance, and ground safety and accident prevention programs, and implemented the service’s SMS in 2000. HAI said this has proven effective in reduced accidents and incidents.
After he retired, he moved to the U.S. in the early 2000s and obtained ATP and instructor certificates, and later joined Air Methods to fly air ambulance, search and rescue, and maintenance test-flight missions across the U.S.
He since held safety roles and helped create SMS and quality assurance system programs for Vision Technologies Aerospace subsidiary Aviation Academy of America, and most recently an SMS program and Aviation Safety Action Program for Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. He was also appointed as an FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) representative and mentors the industry on the need to understand accident causation, human factors, SMS, and the importance of safety excellence.
“Building a positive safety culture by changing mindset, attitude, and behavior is the biggest challenge of implementing a safety program,” Sia said. “Without a positive culture, the program is often implemented robotically with minimal effort…With total safety as a lifestyle, we all benefit—ourselves, our families, and our organizations.”