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Time to do some building

While handing down Mark Tayfel’s sentence in Manitoba’s Court of Queen's Bench last week, Justice Holly Beard made some very pointed remarks. Justice Beard told the court, “The culture within small air commuter operations is that safety often takes a back seat to making money.”


March 28, 2008
By Drew McCarthy

While handing down Mark Tayfel’s sentence in Manitoba’s Court of Queen's Bench last week, Justice Holly Beard made some very pointed remarks. Justice Beard told the court, “The culture within small air commuter operations is that safety often takes a back seat to making money.”

Referring to Tayfel’s sentence, she went on to say, “One can only hope this will deter pilots from cutting corners. Failure to change the culture is likely to be met with more serious consequences in the future.''

Clearly a black eye for at least one segment of the industry, there is now a pressing need for that part of the aviation community to balance the perception. As the old expression goes, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a second to destroy it. It’s time to do some building.

The question is how do we go about it? First off, we need to distinguish between perception and reality. After a century of flying and learning, we are safer now than ever before, but part of the public perception is still that flying is a risky business. Vocal leadership in all parts of the industry is required to allay some of those fears.  It's in many ways a marketing project. But it will all be for naught, if we cannot also, in reality, continue to improve our industry's safety performance.

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In some quarters, people believe that SMS is going to help the situation, but there are others who will tell you that it's actually going to make things worse. In the end, SMS is about changing cultures, and has most importantly as its goal, the alignment of perception and reality. Getting safer requires leadership, by itself, getting safer will change perception. Getting safer is the ultimate marketing message.