Bruce Landsberg is leaving AOPA as its President of the Foundation and Executive Director of the Air Safety Institute. Those are such large shoes to fill that two people will occupy his two prior positions. His real role is even larger than the obvious boundaries of his old job descriptions. Here’s why.
General Aviation safety is a major challenge. It is an environment in which the overall flying business seeks new participants; so it is encumbered by the fewest exacting standards. It is also populated by a large community of pilots with fewer support resources, lesser certification standards. Its aircraft are equipped with a lower level of systems designed to support the cockpit.
In contrast, an airline pilot has an extensive organization composed of a Chief Safety Officer, a management team, check airmen, a large cadre of expert trainers, an SMS review team, a union and an extensive maintenance organization. Her/his safety performance is the product of a well-designed system which consciously seeks to improve his/her work in the cockpit.
Under Part 91, the airmen (apologies to female pilots; it is a term found in the antiquated statute) walks to the plane with none of the institutional safety net which characterizes the Part 121/135 professional, except for AOPA. That’s where Bruce Landsberg and now Jim Minow and George Perry come into play.
They raise the money to do the safety research. These leaders create courses designed to improve the piloting skills. AOPA’s various publications produce great content about weather, navigation, lessons from past GA accidents and the like. Unlike the time in a simulator mandated by the airlines, these safety initiatives must be attractive enough to draw pilots to use them and of a price point which these aviators can afford.