Two examples of how focus on FAA regulatory reality may not be enough- PERSPICACIOUS

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Regulatory Regime defines a Reality

Reality found outside those parameters

Perspicacious perspective needed to merge those two visions

For those whose work find lines of demarcation in the pages of 14 CFR Part 1 et seq., FSIMS, Orders, Notices, Handbooks, ACs, ADs, Ops Specs and the full panoply of other documents, that paper (now electronic) defined a regulatory universe. So much so that assemblage of requirements became a bit of reality.

The below two recent situations may cause one to wonder if reality may not be congruent with those regulatory strictures. If nothing else, they provide a useful reminder, that constant vigilance to both the details of your brand of 14 CFR and more importantly to the SAFETY IMPERATIVE, is difficult.


American Airlines pilot charged in 2015 triple homicide

“A pilot for an American Airlines subsidiary was arrested at a Kentucky airport on Sunday in connection with a 2015 triple homicide.

It was announced Saturday by Kentucky attorney general Andy Beshear that Christian Richard Martin, a pilot for PSA Airlines, which is owned by American Airlines, was indicted Friday over the deaths of Calvin Phillips, 59; his wife, Pamela, 58; and their neighbor Edward Dansereau, 63.

American Airlines confirmed to WBRC that Martin was the pilot on American Airlines flight 5523 from Louisville to Charlotte. He was arrested by the Louisville metro police department, along with the help from the United States Marshals Service, at the Louisville International Airport.

According to attorney general Beshear, Calvin Phillips was found shot to death in his home in Pembroke, Kentucky. Just a few miles away, his wife Pamela’s smoldering car was left in a cornfield. Inside of the car, the body of Pamela and their neighbor, Edward Dansereau, were found.

A crime for which he had not been charged would not show up in a background search, but…

NBC affiliate WSMV reported Martin had served in the military and was court-martialed in 2015 in a case involving physical and sexual abuse, and mishandling classified information.

Calvin Phillips was listed a potential witness in that case, according to the station.

In fact, Phillips’ son, Matt, told CNN on Sunday that his father had been planning to testify in military court when he was killed.

“I will say that Martin was dishonorably discharged,” Phillips’ son told CNN. “He’s in my view not a military veteran. He was shamefully kicked out of the military. My father had a lot to do with that. And I think we should all be thankful for that, frankly.”

Martin was found guilty of court-martial in May 2016 of two counts of mishandling classified information and of assault on a child under the age of 16, said Army Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortizcruz, a service spokesman. Martin was dismissed from the service, reprimanded, and sentenced to 90 days of confinement, Ortizcruz said.

American Airlines said in a statement it was “deeply saddened” to learn about the allegations against Martin, who has been a pilot for PSA Airlines since January 2018. The airline said he underwent a background check and “recurrent vetting” but that there was no “criminal history that would disqualify him from being a commercial pilot.”

After the indictment, American Airlines said Martin has been placed on administrative suspension pending the outcome.


Martin first joined the military in the Army Reserve in April 1986, shifting between service in the Army National Guard and on active duty through August 2016 as a cavalry scout.



PRIA Background

During the period between 1987 and 1994, the US air carrier industry suffered at least 7 fatal commercial airline accidents that were attributed, in part, to errors made by pilots who had been hired without background safety checks being completed. Later reviews of these pilots’ records revealed prior safety violations or training problems which followed them to subsequent air carrier employment without the new air carrier being aware of these violations or problems.

In all cases, the new air carrier(s) had lacked access to, or had failed to obtain, the pilots’ flight qualifications and other safety related records from the FAA and/or previous employers before completing the hiring process, thereby creating the potential for substandard pilot performance to continue. As a result, on October 3, 1996, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 (the Act).

The President approved the Act six days later on October 9, 1996. This Act, which had an effective date 120 days after enactment, is commonly referred to as the “Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996” (PRIA). PRIA now authorizes the mandatory gathering and sharing of this specific information, which enables a hiring air carrier to make an informed decision before extending a firm offer of employment to a pilot applicant.

Criminal Background Check Required

  • Aircraft piracy
  • Aircraft piracy outside the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States
  • Armed robbery
  • Assault with intent to murder
  • Carrying a weapon or explosive aboard an aircraft
  • Commission of certain crimes aboard aircraft in flight
  • Conveying false information and threats
  • Destruction of an aircraft or aircraft facility
  • Distribution of, or intent to distribute, a controlled substance
  • Espionage
  • Extortion
  • Felony arson
  • Forgery of certificates, false making of aircraft, and other aircraft registration violations
  • Improper transportation of a hazardous material
  • Interference with aircraft navigation
  • Interference with flight crew members or flight attendants
  • Kidnapping or hostage taking
  • Lighting violations involving transporting controlled substances
  • Murder
  • Rape or aggravated sexual abuse
  • Sedition
  • Treason
  • Unlawful entry into an aircraft or airport area that serves air carriers or foreign air carriers contrary to established security requirements
  • Unlawful possession, use, sale, distribution, or manufacture of an explosive or weapon
  • Conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the aforementioned criminal acts


Additional Background Checks & Verifications

  • County, State and Federal level background checks
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing History Verification
  • Citizenship and worker status verification
  • Motor Vehicle Records Check
  • Education and professional certification verification
  • Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) License verification
  • Ten-year employment history per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

That’s a long list. The crimes that are to be reported include physical and sexual abuse, but does not cite mishandling classified information.

For some strange reason, a court martial might be exempt from discovery?


Advisory Circular 121-68F

3-6. PILOTS SEEKING EMPLOYMENT AFTER COMPLETING MILITARY DUTY. PRIA does not require the hiring employer to request or provide prior employment records for a pilot who has been an active member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the National Guard, or a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces for all or part of the previous 5-year period. You must still, however, query the FAA and NDR, and former employers other than the military.


Southwest Airlines Flies to the Top of the 2019 Workforce 100

Per aspera ad astra is a Latin phrase that translates, “through hardships to the stars.”

The phrase serves as a reminder that progress is not always a straight-ahead path. Often there are forks in the road and winding turns that can hinder the journey. How one navigates those obstacles is the essence of one’s character. The same applies for companies as they strive for HR excellence. For many companies, the journey comes with a fair share of challenges, successes and lessons learned.

This year, Southwest ranks No. 1.

The Employee Experience

Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer at Southwest Airlines, has approached human resources with an employee-first outlook. Weber serves more than 58,000 employees, ensuring that they have a fulfilling experience during their employment with Southwest.

“We’ve really put our employees first since the beginning with our founder, Herb Kelleher,” Weber said of the airline’s late iconic leader. “Our belief is that happy employees make for happy customers, which make for happy shareholders.”

Southwest also promotes a fun, engaging work environment for employees, including companywide Halloween parties. Employees are encouraged to wear their best costumes to work and to bring family members along for trick-or-treating around the office. Company leaders also host meals with employees going through leadership development programs.

“Though we have a highly engaged workforce now, it is ours to lose if we don’t maintain a focus on evolving the employee experience,” Weber said.

Southwest’s HR team led the airline to the top of the 2019 Workforce 100 list. From left are Kim Hull, senior director; Gregg Thorsen, senior director; Julie Weber, vice president and chief people officer; Danny Collins, managing director.

“We started with investing in tools that help us with talent acquisition and now we are really looking at the entire employee experience,” Weber said. Her goal with this process is to enhance Southwest’s ability to attract and connect with newer generations of candidates.

This transformation will also involve updating the company’s HR operating model so that employees will be able to access a one-stop shop. Weber wants to ensure that employees can easily access the HR services available to them, even from their phones.

“It’s a big undertaking. It will include investing in new technologies with a whole focus on improving the employee experience.”

While this transformation has been overall positive for the company, with change comes challenges. Part of Southwest’s journey toward transforming its HR operating model has been to keep their leaders and employee population enthused. Weber’s solution has been to maintain strong communication of the company’s vision and initiatives. Company alignment and visible leadership has ensured that these changes go beyond just the people department.

“We want to make sure that we are bringing people along with the journey and involving our HR professionals [and stakeholders] with these decisions. That way, we all own this transformation.


First, there is something out of alignment when the regulations provide for substantive, preventative employee identification of safety risks with ASRS, FOQA, VDRP and SMS, but the workers chose instead to issue “whistleblower” reports outside of the system. The information submitted is de-identified; so, is the “distrust’ allegedly involved includes the FAA? The below newspaper stories do not include the level of information which is actionable by either the carrier or the regulator.

Should You Believe Charges That Southwest And American Are Ignoring Mechanical Problems?

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines maintenance cultures are focus of new videos

I-Team: Whistleblowers Say Southwest Pressures Mechanics to Ignore Airplane Problems

Distrust Between Southwest Airlines Mechanics, Managers Could Put Passengers at Risk: FAA









A Southwest mechanic was questioned
rather than praised after he discovered
corrosion on a critical part that balanced
the airplane rudder – a problem that was
ultimately found on several Southwest
Airlines planes.
Photo credit: FAA/Whistleblower

FAA Investigates Southwest Airlines After Whistleblower Comes Forward

Clearly, there is some breakdown between the “reality” exhibited in these statements and the regulatory processes designed to capture such safety-relevant information.

Second, there is a clash between the Rating of Southwest as the #1 Employer and these expressions of discontent.

The airline employs about 57,000 people of which 2,700 are members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. Perhaps this dissatisfaction is confined to these AMTs. In any event, the HR function should be aware of this pocket of people unaligned with their goal and should be more proactive, or as AMFA would argue, more protective in dealing with their complaints. Whether real or not, these complaints may contribute to lower productivity, diminished safety or festering among other work groups.

Both of these examples show that the realities of regulatory environment may not reflect the realities of the real safety culture. It is likely that both PSA and Southwest have already or have been addressing this gap. They serve as good examples of why focusing solely on our regulatory view is not enough and being aware of outside indicators. Being PERSPICACIOUS IS IMPORTANT.







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