August 12, 2019

"Target" Series Target: Pilot

Albert Baetens

Albert Baetens
Manager Safety and Quality/Universal Helicopters Group

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Complacency and the art of Situational Cynicism

Aviation, specifically Helicopter VFR Utility Operations, are certainly unique. Highly trained professionals operating in the field almost autonomously for weeks creates some challenges. The skepticism that policy protects only the company and not themselves is one, yet everyone is the company.

Sometimes we forget that regulations, policy, and guidelines are born or refined from mistakes and sacrifices including serious injury and death for our colleagues and friends. Their lessons deserve to be respected.

Next time you are about to provide a passenger safety briefing, and several people are staring at their feet or cell phones, try saying this:

"You're working at a factory with red lines painted on the floor to protect you from hot pipes on the back of some machinery and the lunch whistle blows. On the way to lunch, your supervisor informs you that an eight-hundred-degree flame emitting exhaust strapped to a big bag of explosive fuel with huge decapitating blades spinning in different directions will be lowered over your head. Once you get good at that, we'll start whipping twigs and sand in your face, then add a slippery surface with tripping hazards. Make it and you get lunch."

Get stuffed, right? Yet this is our utility helicopter passengers every day, day after day. I say complacency, you may think repetitive tasks with loss of situational awareness, but what about Industry Complacency?

Two pilots take off and both lands safely. One prepared for the best predictable outcome while anticipating the worst possible circumstances, the other did not. One is a professional, the other is a gambler. Our European friends probably have a six-syllable word encompasses gambling with other's lives, risking equipment that isn't theirs, and thinking nothing will happen to them. Deadbaffoonriskvagon.

Ask yourself every time you climb into the cockpit if you are stacking everything in your aircraft's favor and leaving chance behind. Professionalism is easy to say, it should be more work, and it isn't intermittent.

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