Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another Blow to Safety

Here is another story that will fail to attract the attention it should.

American Airlines safety program ends amid bickering with pilots

I don’t have any inside information so, like most, I’ll just have to rely on the Press for information. I was struck by this bit of information in the article though.

Pilots who wish to report safety incidents can still do so confidentially to the airline’s safety department, American officials said. Pilots can also report safety cases under a system operated by NASA.

I believe everyone is aware of my long-standing support of NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System. The problem is, this Administration hasn’t been supporting it with an adequate budget.

Website Upgrade; Budget Downgrade

As an appalling illustration of the impact of budget cuts, of some 35,000 ASRS incident reports received annually, only about 30 percent wind up in the data base. The staff cannot handle them all, so must decide which of the reports are the most worthy of keeping. Consider the dilemma: is it better to keep a well-written report and discard a poorly-written submission? ASRS staff have been placed in the role of judges, looking for trends. But any system forced to discard two-thirds of its reports may in fact wind up missing trends, under the notion that the sum of the seemingly trivial could point to a widespread hazard.

I hope it strikes you, as it does me, how important trust is. I’ve mentioned it before but I think it bears repeating. My job as an air traffic control boiled down to one thing: Trust. Plain and simple trust in your fellow human being. When I said “turn left”, the pilot trusted me and turned left. It is the only way the system works.

As incredibly complex as our world can be, so many issues boil down to incredibly simple things like trust. The economic problems we now face boil down to trust. The presidential election will come down to trust. It is a precious thing.

I hope American Airlines and their pilots can find a way to trust each other. I hope the American people can too.

Don Brown
October 16, 2008

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