Professionalism in aviation is a big topic of discussion this week--the NTSB is holding a three-day forum on the topic to look at developing and ensuring pilot and air traffic controller excellence.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and I couldn’t agree more. We know it's a simple equation; professionalism on the flight deck and in the control tower leads to greater safety.
Randy has been talking about professionalism since day one at the FAA. As a pilot, he has seen firsthand the importance of taking personal responsibility to make sure safety is the top priority in the cockpit. That means taking pride in doing the job right and raising your hand when the rules aren’t being followed.
But we all remember the news, last October, that a Northwest flight crew overshot their destination--by 150 miles. The control tower transcripts show the captain and first officer returning to their responsibilities after nearly an hour of radio silence.
Northwest Airlines planes, left. Flight path of Northwest Flight 188 is shown, right. Courtesy of AP
The FAA made it clear that the flight crew's lack of professionalism was unacceptable. "You engaged in conduct that put your passengers and your crew in serious jeopardy," FAA regional counsel Eddie Thomas said in a letter to the pilot. And this April, the FAA called on air carrier operators to create and enforce policies that limit distractions in the cockpit and keep pilots focused on transporting passengers safely.
After the tragic crash of Colgan Air 3407 near Buffalo in February, 2009, Randy and I initiated a Call to Action to look at safety issues including pilot training and professionalism. We challenged the unions and the airlines to insert professionalism in their training and development programs. Many have answered this call and have worked on their own to publicize professionalism and work it into their codes of conduct.
Randy often says that we can’t regulate professionalism, and that's true. But, everyday we can talk about and encourage professionalism and high standards from every transportation worker responsible for keeping travelers safe. And that's what this DOT has been doing.
Whether you’re a pilot, a mechanic, an air traffic controller, a bus driver or a train operator, it doesn’t matter. Following the rules, staying focused, and taking pride in your work will help avoid mistakes and keep our entire transportation system as safe as possible.
It’s something we all have to do.