Farewell Tribute to Aviation Legend – Dr. Jerome I. Berlin

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One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy

This year our aviation industry lost a legend of a man, Dr. Jerome (Jerry) I. Berlin, who not only tried but did indeed made a difference in the world of aviation safety. It was my privilege to have known him for over 35 years. He was my mentor, colleague, confidant, critic, and friend.

– Joe Del Balzo

Dr. Berlin was both a leading aviation consulting psychologist and an experienced pilot. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1961. He spent most of his career in general, commercial, and military aviation. He studied pilot learning, behavior, discipline, personality and thought processes for over 50 years.

Jerry spent the decade of the seventies in Israel where he taught at the Univ. of Haifa and served as a full time officer in the Israel Air Force. His last position was as Chief of Training Research and Development with the rank of Lt. Col.

From 1979 through 1982, he served as Director of the Aviation Research Center at Embry-Riddle University, and was the senior author of a three-volume study on pilot judgment training.

Immediately after the Air Traffic Controller strike in 1981 Jerry agreed to join FAA as an organization management consultant. Joined by his wife, Naomi, they set up an apartment in New York City and for several years he served as Director of the Human Resource Division in the FAA Eastern Region and senior advisor to the FAA Associate Administrator in Washington. Jerry was a major force behind a major cultural change and team building initiative throughout the entire FAA organization.

Following the TWA hijacking in 1985, Dr. Berlin was appointed as a member of a Federal Task Force on Counter-Terrorism, and, the following year, developed the first automated terrorist screening profile, the essentials of which are still in use.

After the terrorist attack on 9/11, he again served as a subject matter expert to both federal and private organizations engaged in developing new aviation security methods. Yes, he was a strong believer in terrorist profiling. A realist, he often said “OK, maybe not politically correct to advocate but the right thing to do to safeguard our country from the threat of terrorism.”

Between 1988 and 1998, before Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) became a buzz word, Dr. Berlin developed the initial CRM, Leadership and Communications training for four major U.S. air-carriers, and developed team development processes, pilot selection systems and safety training programs for the U.S. Air Guard, air carriers, and several corporate aviation departments.

This led to the development of new methods for improving the safety cultures of both flight and maintenance organizations. A strong proponent of an improved pilot selection process, he often said “We select business aviation pilots based on the number of hours they have or their ratings but we do not pay enough attention as to whether they have the right personality and judgmental abilities to make a quality pilot.” He told Fred George of Aviation Week in an interview “You have to have high authority, high security people in the cockpit.” “We’re looking for future captains who have high authority and who also will encourage participation. Just as importantly, new first officers who have assertiveness with respect.”

The relationship of aviation safety to the personal development of the professional pilot was one of Dr. Berlin’s major interests. He developed several courses and personal development workshops focused on improving the relationship between professional pilots and their families. This effort met with wide acceptance among several thousands of airline and military pilots and spouses.

Dr. Berlin had a passion for mentoring people both young and old, from entry level professional to senior government and industry executives. He made significant contributions in training the next generation of organizational psychologists. As a visiting professor, he lectured at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Dr. Berlin mentored a select group of graduate students from which will emerge the next generation of our nation’s aviation research psychologists.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy

Thank you, Dr. Jerome I. Berlin, you were one of kind that taught us how to be better aviators and individuals. In the midst of a time when aviation safety is focusing on human factors, your wise counsel will be sorely missed.

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4 Comments on "Farewell Tribute to Aviation Legend – Dr. Jerome I. Berlin"

  1. Jerry was also a close friend and mentor to me during my leadership career with the NH Air National Guard. He came to us as a volunteer to help us understand CRM and stayed for years as a leadership consultant. I credit him for my selection as the first Air Force officer to be selected to lead the entire NH National Guard.

  2. Robert Iverson | March 17, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Reply

    Jerry was a critical asset to me in the founding and operation of KIWI International Air Lines. He served as a voice of reason on the Board and was my closest and most trusted advisor while I served as Chairman and CEO. Jerry developed and taught a custom CRM program to help our ex-Eastern Air Lines Pilots transition into employee-owned, non-union cockpits. He never hesitated to gently, but persuasively, nudge me back onto the better path when I needed it. He was a valued friend.

  3. Chris Bennet | March 15, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Reply

    I had the good fortune to collaborate with Jerry on some of the post 9/11 ‘private’ projects mentioned above. We worked many long hours for several frenzied months. He made a lasting impression on me and I was sad to learn of his passing. Thank you for posting this great tribute.

  4. Berl Brechner | August 11, 2018 at 9:51 pm | Reply

    I worked with him on several occasions, and articles, when I was Exec Editor of Flying Magazine. Also, the Westchester Aviation Association had him as a very well-received guest speaker. He was way ahead of the power curve on all matters he dealt with, and was kind, thoughtful and responsive in all my dealings with him. A true gentleman that surely is missed.

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