A Pilgrim’s Encounter with Just Culture
This is a post for my friends and colleagues in the aviation and safety world.
On Tuesday morning I was standing in the drizzle on the Ladstuhl train platform. Ladstuhl is the closest village to Ramstein Air Force base (Germany). I was deposited at Ramstein via C17 from McChord AFB. If you care about why I was hitch hiking on an Air Force cargo flight you can check out my blog at www.walkthewaywithlj.wordpress.com
Anyway, there I was waiting for a local train which I hoped to use to for an eventual connection to Paris and points south.
As I tried to figure out how to snag a ticket out of the single automated dispenser, a fellow American with local knowledge took pity on me. He walked me through the ridiculously simple process and afterward we struck up a conversation.
He was a pilot. Not unusual; pilots are plentiful around Ramstein. But this pilot is a civilian and that was intriguing. He told me he was on his way to the Leipzig airport to pick up a cargo aircraft and fly a load of military material to the Mid-East area of operations. He works for a government contractor.
I didn’t have much time, so I cut to the chase and asked him if they had a FOQA system installed in the big jet.
That question opened an unanticipated floodgate. In a too short five minute conversation (with me mostly in the listening mode) I heard all the bad stuff FOQA meant to this pilot and apparently most of the other pilots in his company.
What could be wrong with gathering flight performance data and using that data to track trends?
“Nothing is wrong with that part of the program. But our company uses the reports to threaten or even discipline our pilots.”
“How can they?” I replied. “The data is supposed to be de-identified.”
“Right,” he said. Our company found a way.”
At that point my train arrived and I had to jump aboard. As I walked away I heard the pilot say to his buddy, “Fo-qua. What a load of …”
FOQA data can be linked to specific crews in unique situations where there appears to be repeated or willful violations of certain Standard Operating Procedures. And the data can be used to design improved training. In very rare cases it can be used to remove a dangerous pilot from the cockpit. That is an acceptable use of FOQA as part of a Just Culture.
But if a company regularly uses FOQA data to openly leverage flight or maintenance personnel it will destroy all potential gains in a short period of time.
What is more important is what that kind of approach says about a company’s overall culture. These pilots obviously distrusted the motives of their leaders. They had no problem voicing concern to a stranger.
A strong safety culture based on the concepts of a “Just” culture will almost always pay huge dividends. Employees (especially pilots and maintainers) will be more productive and committed. And that will most certainly improve the bottom line.
I’m interested in what you have encountered. Hit the comment button and become part of the conversation.
Keltner sends (from the road)
One response to “A Pilgrim’s Encounter with Just Culture”
- NBAA Virtual Safety Week
- FREE eLearning Course from Convergent Performance – Safe Return to Flight Operations
- Global Aerospace, Inc. Launches Online Safety Learning Management System
- Global Aerospace, Inc. Announces the 2020 SM4 Aviation Safety Program
- Baldwin Offers IS-BAO/IS-BAH Operators Safety Performance Monitoring Program
- September 2020
- January 2020
- October 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- August 2018
- April 2018
- February 2018
- December 2017
- October 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- May 2017
- December 2016
- October 2016
- July 2016
- March 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- May 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- October 2013
- August 2013
- May 2013
- March 2013
- September 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012