The Iceland Eyjafjallajokull volcano has caused quite a ruckus within the aviation industry over the past 10 days, but it’s not the volcano or flight safety in ash clouds that I’m writing about. While reading about the grounded flights, I came across a quote from one of the union leaders and a 737 pilot for one of the European airlines. They basically said the only way you are truly safe in aviation is to ground all your aircraft and never fly again. That along with some discussions with co-workers brings me to this blog’s topic, what do we mean by “safe” in aviation?
Every airline and aviation organization will emphasize that safety is their number one priority, which I interpret as the operator will do everything in its power to be as safe as possible. Well I have to agree with the union leader that the best way to be accident free and truly safe is to sell your airplanes, but that business model doesn’t work in commercial aviation. Flying is inherently risky. You’re taking a machine composed of millions of parts, operating and maintaining it with people, and flying it thousands of feet in the air at hundreds of miles per hour through varying meteorological conditions. This sounds perfectly safe, doesn’t it? So how do we explain being safe?
We need to revamp our perception of aviation safety. There is no doubt that every operator strives for a goal of zero accidents. However, we recognize that we operate in an immensely complicated system and sometimes things happen – people make errors or components and systems fail. Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous but it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.
Instead of stating safety is our number one priority, we should clarify the safety objective and state that we always seek to operate in a manner that we deem as an acceptable risk. Flying will always be risky, but if airlines can proactively manage that risk and ensure it is at an acceptable level, we’ll be close to practicing what we preach and being honest with the traveling public. How do you operate with an acceptable risk -with an active and comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS).Share this article: