Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
Talent, Training, Trust

May 8, 2012  By Paul Dixon

The 2012 CHC Safety & Quality Summit set another attendance record this year, drawing delegates from around the world to Vancouver, proving that this event is the real deal and not just the flavour of the month.

The 2012 CHC Safety & Quality Summit set another attendance record this year, drawing delegates from around the world to Vancouver, proving that this event is the real deal and not just the flavour of the month.

It was SRO in the Westin Bayshore’s Grand Ballroom as CHC’s president/CEO Bill Amelio welcomed more than 800 delegates to the proceedings. With the theme of “Improving Safety Culture through Talent, Training and Trust” it was a compelling three days.

Amelio added a few more T’s to the mix in his address – transformative thinking and technology – saying, “talent and training must be acquired and developed in a manner that instils trust. Trust, in turn, enables adoption of the tools, systems and processes our people need to further strengthen our industry and advance safety.” Trust is everything; it’s the hinge that holds the door in our worlds and allows it to swing – both ways, open or closed.

There must be trust in everything we do or, conversely, don’t do – everything, every day. We exist between two extremes, a sliding scale with blind trust at one end and complete distrust at the other. We play the trust game every time we step into an elevator, drive to work or simply decide where to go for lunch and what to have. Imagine how painful it would be to simply take a walk around the block with a complete lack of trust of anything or anybody.


Technology, transformative thinking and trust are the foundation of change in our industry. To wit, Amelio spoke of CHC’s adoption of the Electronic Flight Bag, a perfect example of the intersection of the “T” trifecta. This advancement, capturing the attention of many fixed-wing and rotary-wing organizations, takes a significant trust in technology. Transformative thinking across generations must also occur before these in the industry accept this technology, adopt it into an organization and grow with it. There were many people with iPads or other tablets at the Summit, and, of course, the potential for this new technology is virtually unlimited in business and aviation.

Tom Judge of the International Helicopter Safety Team created a lasting impression regarding helicopter emergency medical systems (HEMS) during his presentation “The Road to Just Culture: Case Studies in Peeling Onions.” Judge noted that although the ultimate numerical tally in saving a life is primarily about one person, the patient, it’s actually far greater than that – as many as 100 people in his estimation. That’s the number pulled into the chain of events when something happens and a helicopter sets out. The patient, the pilot, the flight nurse or paramedics, the doctors, nurses and countless staff at the hospital – they’re all involved in the final equation. It also includes first responders in the field, dispatchers, administrators, mechanics and support staff back at the base. Every time the phone rings or the bell goes off, there must be trust that everyone is on their game.

Captain Chelsey Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III has spent his life building trust. It can be argued the culmination of his career learning experience came down to a precious few minutes when he successful landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, New York City, on Jan. 15, 2009. In doing so, he saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew.

And while he gets the accolades for the incident, it wasn’t just him – it was a team effort. “If you do not build a team,” he said during the summit’s gala dinner, “then given enough time, you will fail spectacularly.” Teamwork is built on trust. It was trust that enabled Sullenberger and first officer Jeff Skiles to work as one on that fateful morning. Sullenberger also credits the air traffic controller who, realizing this was a serious situation, simply put out as much information as possible, enabling the pilot to make the best decisions possible. These people didn’t work together every day; they didn’t have weeks to rehearse though in reality, they had been preparing for this moment their entire professional lives. It’s this kind of professionalism so many aviation professionals practise every day of their lives.
A sobering thought was Sullenberger’s comment that when interviewed by the NTSB, only 18 passengers acknowledged they had listened to and participated in the pre-flight safety briefing. Ask yourself this: when you fly commercially, do you know where the exits are? Do you know how many seat backs there are between you and the exit ahead of you, as well as the exit behind? When you’re in a hotel, do you know where the fire exits are off the floor you’re on?

This is your personal SMS. Can you trust yourself on this?

Paul Dixon is freelance writer and photojournalist living in Vancouver.


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