The Bedrock of Aviation–Integrity
By Louis A. Sorrentino III
CEO & Managing Director, Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International
In this installment in the series on Assuring System Safety, I found inspiration in the January edition of Jetstream and Global Aerospace CEO and Group Chief Executive Nick Brown’s message on the challenges and continuing evolution within aviation. While the year in review revealed several setbacks, a fair portion of the events of 2019 and 2020 fall into the category of integrity, or the lack thereof. So, let’s focus on integrity and what it means within aviation.
Going beyond one simple definition I found, which describes integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” I like the Merriam-Webster version, which states that integrity is “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, honesty, honor and the active regard for the standards of one’s profession.”
The standards of one’s profession refer to our regulatory requirements for air operations, both occupational and environmental. Within the global aviation community, we have evolved from a “seat of the pants” environment to one of documented standards for the conduct of operations, relying on regulatory and voluntary standards. Technology has evolved to a highly interrelated group of systems all working together to ensure system functionality. What we need to ensure is that the decision-making function is equally sound. Has it evolved to a level where forward-looking risk assessments of conditions (Man, Machine, and Environment) are factored into all decision making?
Adhering to Your SMS Program
As an industry, we have embraced holistic, enterprise-wide programs such as safety management systems (SMS). The SMS, while not regulated within all segments of our industry, has produced significant benefits for those that have implemented such a program, including heightened awareness of hazards and loss reduction. But that’s only when you actually apply, honestly and with integrity, what you’ve documented within the SMS.
These benefits have been realized because leadership has employed an active regard for the standards of one’s profession. Safety and safety assurance is not something that comes about merely by the written word, rather only by decisive, engaged action spearheaded by leadership.
CEOs, managing directors, COOs, VPs and general managers who each make the commitment on paper, which can be in the form of a corporate safety Policy or mission and the standards of
operations, procedures and processes that follow, need to remember one very important point. Words matter but assurance matters MORE! This means assurance that your words are a call to action and assurance that what you state as policy, procedure and practice are, in fact, exactly what is performed in the cockpit, on the ramp apron and in the maintenance hangar.
A Mantra for Executives: Show Me.
I like to encourage the executives we work with to be professionally skeptical of what they read or hear when it comes to internal reporting on program performance. Like the motto of the great state of Missouri, and words that are proudly extolled by safety professionals the world over: “Show Me.”
Executive leadership needs to be actively engaged and perform the necessary due diligence, drilling into your SMS’s performance. They must ask for updates and additional executive training on the form and function of your safety, quality, and security management systems. They must also encourage team members to provide the details proving that the internal audit program is, in fact, effective at uncovering issues related to compliance with regulations or conformance to company policies and procedures.
Merely accepting the written word, or the usual excuses is not leadership. Custodial management is a thing of the past. Today’s executives must be engaged, demonstrating an active desire and willingness to understand everything related to the effectiveness of specific programs or systems.
Leading by Example
It is time we demonstrate our command of expectations and lead by example. Once the cabin door closes, it is our ultimate responsibility to ensure the integrity of our operations.
The fact that the aircraft is new, the uniforms are pressed, and the strawberries are huge, doesn’t ensure safety. Your commitment to the integrity of operations, attention to the details, and actions above and beyond mere regulatory requirements make all the difference. Lean back and look into the cabin. Your customers aren’t betting on it, they expect it.
AvMaSSI provides safety, security and operational integrity evaluations, consulting and auditing to airlines, airports, charter and corporate operators, OEMs, marine operators, seaports, governments, international agencies and financial institutions the world over. AvMaSSI provides IS-BAO preparation and audit services and supports Global Aerospace and its SM4 and Vista Elite Programs with focused safety/SMS, security, regulatory compliance and IS-BAO auditing services. AvMaSSI is a proud member of the Global Aerospace SM4 partnership program.
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