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Safety is an abiding preoccupation for the aviation industry; the subject of much regulation, investment, and hand-wringing. But when it comes to shining a light on safety, are we looking in the right places?
That’s the theme of the 15th CHC Safety and Quality Summit, which will convene in Dallas, Texas, in early October. According to Duncan Trapp, CHC’s vice president of Safety and Quality, each year the summit’s organizers try to select a theme that “resonates with the current industry.” While Trapp did not cite specific examples, it’s easy to think of recent accidents — such as the Boeing 737 Max crashes — that suggest the answer to the question is, “Not always.”
“There are always still some areas where we could say, ‘We weren’t expecting that’ — whether it’s a wellness issue with pilot well-being; whether it’s a design issue,” Trapp told Vertical, which is a media sponsor of the summit. “Modern technology brings so many advances and so many benefits, but can occasionally bring an unexpected negative as well, which in some cases can have a massive impact on the industry.”
As difficult as it can be to anticipate those dark threats, that is what the summit will attempt to do over a three-day program featuring more than 50 speakers. The format of the summit will be similar to that of previous years, “because we know it, and we’ve gotten great feedback in the past that it works,” Trapp said.
The program will begin on the morning of Oct. 1 with a plenary session on the topic of safety management hosted by Neil Richardson, principal consultant for Baines Simmons Ltd. That will be followed by a session on how organizational procedures and protocols can create blind spots to safety, presented by Dr. Arnoud Franken, senior strategy and change consultant for InContext Consultancy Group.
“Both of those folks are very experienced in not only the aviation industry and safety world, but also broader industries,” Trapp said. “So they’re going to bring their own angle on what they see in other industries as well, because one of the main themes that will run through [the summit] is sharing lessons. How can we as an aviation organization, learn from other areas like marine, like construction, like the fixed-wing side of aviation if you’re into rotary?”
From there, the summit will split up into workshops until the summit closes with a plenary wrap-up session on the afternoon of Oct. 3. The workshops will include some long-running favorites, such as the always-popular human factors sessions presented by Doug Weigmann and Scott Shappell. However, Trapp noted that the program also features many new speakers and topics that haven’t appeared at the summit before.
“We have [speakers with] medical backgrounds talking about well-being and wellness, which I think is an increasing area of interest in the aviation world and elsewhere,” he said. “We’ve got people coming on to talk about safety leadership and touching on subjects like, how do you lead a business to commercial success whilst [making] sure that it’s a safety success as well?”
Because there are so many workshops to choose from, many sessions will be presented twice so that attendees are “pretty much guaranteed to see the [speakers] they want to see,” Trapp said.
The summit will also include a gala dinner featuring keynote speaker Robyn Benincasa, an award-winning motivational speaker, world champion endurance racer, and firefighter who is also the founder and CEO of the Project Athena Foundation, which helps women who have suffered medical setbacks “live an adventurous dream as part of their recovery.”
“We pride ourselves in getting some real interesting overachievers in life, to put it one way,” Trapp said. “Robyn has a tremendous story of what she has done, from her firefighting, through her adventures, through her sporting prowess and her team building expertise as well.”
CHC and its partners will also offer pre- and post-summit courses including Accident/Incident Investigation Analysis, A Practitioners’ Guide to Building a Safety Case, and Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) Training.
This year, the summit has moved from the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine to the Omni Dallas Hotel, and Trapp predicts the downtown location will prove popular with attendees who also want to explore the city. The summit routinely attracts key safety management personnel from large aviation operators around the globe, but Trapp said he would especially like to see more small operators and line pilots and maintenance personnel benefit from this world-class event.
“Historically, we have a large amount of leaders and managers, which is good because they all . . . have to play an active role in setting the [safety] culture. But anything we can do to promote smaller operators and people who actually deliver aviation to whatever part of the industry they’re in, would be good to get them in through the front door,” he said.
The summit’s organizers are also eager to reach the next generation of aviation personnel. Two students will be attending this year’s summit through the Peter Gardiner Grant and the Sikorsky Safety Scholarship. CHC is offering registration discounts to members of the Whirly-Girls organization, and next year will sponsor an attendee at the 2020 summit through the Whirly-Girls scholarship program.
New this year, CHC is also partnering with the University of North Texas to bring students in its aviation logistics program to the summit. “We’re looking to get some of those students actually participating in the summit by making it freely available to them,” Trapp said. “It’s the first year that we’ve worked with the university, and we’ve gotten really good engagement from the head of their aviation study. . . . It’s really exciting.”