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Revisiting professionalism in the helicopter industry

March 20, 2013  By Walter Heneghan Vice President Safety & Quality Canadian Helicopters

March 20, 2013, Vancouver - So, how professional is professional in the helicopter business? Dr. Tony Kern explored this question and much more during his Level 3 professionalism presentation during the second day of CHC's Safety & Quality Summit at the Westin Bayshore Hotel and Resort in Vancouver.

Kern presented a passionate argument about the need for a revisiting of Professionalism in our indudstry.  A trained educator and formal professor at the United States Air Force Academy, Kern re-dedicated his personal career path in the wake of a tragic B1 bomber accident at Van Horn, Texas in 1992.

The underlying theme of Kern's presentation addressed the "global war on error" in light of a changing demographic in the pilot/AME field with an eye on the future needs of the industry. A key message was very clear: routine can be deadly especially since we spend a great deal of our aviation lives in "the routine."

The B1 accident was essentially the result of a momentary loss of situational awareness on the part of the flight crew: 32 seconds from distraction to catastrophe and led Kern to contemplate how can such highly-trained professionals get caught?

Kern's presentation led the group along the path of  greater awareness and explored the question of "why do smart people make bad decisions?"


Kern, as a published author, discussed Red threats – the obvious engine fires and system failures, weather conditions and the like and Blue threats – the ones that are internally founded – from stress, personal attitude, and personal behaviours.

The challenge is simple:  to move the bar to identify threats (blue and red) much earlier so that we can have more time to address them.  "See trouble sooner,"  Kern said, "because 80 per cent of the accidents are caused by human error and the human [you] are right there!"

"Professionalism doesn't need to be regulated . . . it needs to be personal," he added. This is the message . . . and the challenge he puts forward is equally straight forward:

Follow the rules or change them. Be a slave to detail, diligence and personal discipline. Practice routine precision but picture perfection. Strive for continuous improvement and remember, that professionalism is always above the bar of compliance.

Amen to that!


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