Who Can You Trust in Business Aviation?

images (18)Trust is sorely lacking in our society. Every day we hear of a government leader or sports figure who has betrayed us. Trust is on the decline in the field of aviation as well.

“falsified training records”

“had prior certificate revocation”

“routinely failed to comply with procedures and regulations”

These are all phrases that the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has used to describe factors contributing to an accident. Perhaps one of the reasons that trust is so lacking is because it has been misplaced.

Can you trust the regulators to keep you safe?

There are plenty of regulations to keep us safe. Lots of money and time is spent on research that tells us what is required in order to keep us from replicating others’ mistakes and to keep us professional. Boundaries are set through the use of rules, systems, requirements, and disciplinary actions, all of which are are mandated in order to keep a minimum standard in place. But is it enough to place our trust in the regulatory agencies and call it good?

Can you trust your SMS to keep you safe?

Obviously, some people have felt that more safety measures are needed. So flight departments are encouraged to be proactive by implementing a SMS (Safety Management System). This structure is put in place to help identify threats and hazards in the flight department. This has yielded a higher level of trust for departments who have taken the time to personally develop and work the SMS into their daily operations. Others have implemented a SMS in name only which often yields a greater level of distrust through the burden of added paperwork with little benefit.

Can you trust your colleagues to keep you safe?

A wise friend once explained to us that there are basically four types of flight departments.

  1. The department where management trusts the pilots and the pilots trust the management.
  2. The department where the management trusts the pilots but the pilots don’t trust management.
  3. The department where the pilots trust management but management doesn’t trust the pilots.
  4. The department where nobody trusts anybody.

It’s good to examine where we fall into this picture. Without teamwork, it is nearly impossible to have trust. Every man for himself doesn’t bode well in aviation.

Can you trust yourself?

Like a lobster in the chef’s pot of water, we often become so acclimated to our surroundings we don’t realize that someone is turning up the heat. All around, people are telling us “study this data”, “take that course”, “prove this skill”, and ” take this check.” We have become so used to doing and studying and training on what everyone else demands, that our ability to self-evaluate has weakened from lack of use. When was the last time we took a good long look at ourselves and thought about our own professional limitations and ability to get along with our colleagues? If we don’t wake up, we may find ourselves cooked!

Steven Covey equates lack of trust as a sort of “tax” on an organization.  “Every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up.” When there is a lack of trust in our departments, it affects our working relationships, efficiency, and even our bottom line and job security.

Conversely, when there is a high level of trust in the workplace, Mr. Covey equates it to a dividend – “a performance multiplier, enabling them to succeed in their communications, interactions, and decisions, and to move with incredible speed. ” When there is a high level of trust, people can operate quickly in a professional matter. Something that comes in pretty handy when there is an in-air incident or emergency.

We believe that trust is just as important to a flight operation as Fatigue Management, SMS, and regulatory compliance. So why is no one talking about it much?

Trust is built when leaders take the time to evaluate and strengthen the relationship between management and the working group. It is multiplied when leaders take the time to talk to those who rely on them, listen to their feedback, and act upon the ideas they receive.

Trust is also built when those not in leadership roles decide to think for themselves and contribute their skills and knowledge to the department without reserve. It is multiplied when people take an active interest in safety and support management with input and collaboration.

Business aviation needs leaders who will earn trust in their departments by taking the responsibility upon themselves and catching the vision for the dividends that it can yield. What are some key factors that play into building trust in the aviation community from your perspective?

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