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.Share this article: