Ask The Experts


Question and Answers from Safety Standdown USA 2012


Safety Standdown USA 2012 was a banner year for interaction between attendees and the subject matter experts. This year introduced live question and answer sessions where real aviation concerns were shared and reviewed. Now, you can see these questions, and their answers, right here in “Ask the Experts”, or you can download a presentation right to your Safety Standdown Toolkit following the Q & A’s.


Q)  The school (ethics) data does not have relevance without framing against past? What were the results in 1990?

A) According to Michael Josephson, who runs the survey, the data has gotten significantly worse over the past six years.  All relevant data on the Ethics in American Youth survey can be found at

Q) NTSB has cited professionalism since at least 1988 with Delta 1141 crash at DFW, again with Colgan.  How can we fix this?

A)  Great question! Professionalism means different things to different people. To truly fix the challenge, we must first agree and train t a common definition and set of standards, then unapologetically hold people to it. This was the purpose behind my research on Level III professionalism, all of which is available in my most recent book “Going Pro: The Deliberate Practice of Professionalism” available at

Q) How can we teach the next generation about integrity?

A) Tough to do after we get them as adults, but I think we can make integrity a condition of employment if we (1) clearly lay out expectations (see answer above) and (2) practice what we teach and preach.  This means us “old dogs” have to lift our game a bit and be willing to mentor the next generation.  The real battle is one of parenthood, because as the old saying goes “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

Q) How does a department combat complacency in their operations?

A) Combating complacency must be a conscious effort in any true safety culture. It requires active and honest reporting, and a set of formal and informal leaders who are willing to put their own honest mistakes on the table. Once this occurs, others are likely to follow.  I’ve often said that if an honest mistake goes unreported “it doesn’t stay honest for long” and it will tend to repeat itself.

Q) Dr. Kern, a reoccurring theme of your presentation is how the future generation of pilots is not as disciplined as those of years’ past. Question: Are there any qualities about these future pilots that are in fact better than those of the previous years, and if so how can we build on those qualities?

A) Great question! The new generation brings a host of unique capabilities with them.  These included the ability to assimilate information from a variety of technologies and a comfort level with automation that their predecessors do not have.  They also bring the energy and enthusiasm of youth, and are not burdened with the frustrations many older generation aviation professionals feel over recent economic events that have required us to lower our expectations about our careers.


Q) During the interview process for pilots, what red flags should we look for in individuals who will not be able to handle the stress of aviation?

A) Look for failures to handle stress in their past without explicitly saying that this is what you’re looking for. For example, ask them why they’re leaving their current job, how they’ve handled major emergencies in the past, how they perform in the sim. If you have the luxury of putting them in a simulator, that’s an ideal opportunity. You’ll have the stress of the interview, the stress of having to perform in the sim, and you can always throw an emergency or two their way.

Additionally, make the interview itself somewhat stressful – don’t waterboard your candidates – but you can do subtle things to make them a little more stressed. Put the candidate in a chair that’s shorter than the others, have enough people sit in on the interview that someone is sitting behind the candidate. Interrupt them. Ask them pointed questions about their hours: “How much of this instrument time is real?”

You don’t want to conduct the entire interview this way, because no one will want to take the job if you do, but give them 15 minutes or so of discomfort (within whatever bounds the law and your HR department will allow). You can always tell them later (if the interview went well) what you were doing. If it didn’t go well, then you may have gotten the information you wanted.

Q) If you perform a repetitive stressful task often enough, it seems to become relaxing. Is this a warning sign of complacency?

A) Absolutely. You are in danger of losing respect for the riskiness of the task or environment. Think about painting a house: The first day you’re the OSHA poster child for ladder safety. By the end of the week, you’ve moved well above the label that says “Caution: Do not stand on or above this rung.” The task hasn’t gotten any less risky, you’ve just become accustomed to the danger.

Q) Tying this in to fatigue, how can I reduce stress at bed time so I can get a good nights sleep?

A) Great question! The first thing to do is make a list – what are you stressed about? Write your list down and then put the list in another room. You’ve just taken the first step by acknowledging your stressors. By making the list you’re also saying “I’ll deal with these tomorrow. My list won’t let me forget.”

Next try some progressive relaxation (tensing and releasing the tension in one muscle group at a time). This will slightly encourage the production of GABA as well as giving you a focal task for your mind (fully relaxing your arm, for instance). Yoga is great for this as long as you make it gentle and stretch-related. If you’re working so hard at holding the Warrior pose that your thighs are shaking, that’s counter-productive if your goal is going to sleep soon.

Visualize your “happy place” or focus on a candle flame or running water to help your mind transition to a sleep mode. Breathe deeply. Good night!


Q) Flash – just talked to the SAN FSDO manager and re reports FAA HQ has directed a stop on processing new 135 applications.

A) Flight Standards will continue taking applications and enter them into the Certification Service Oversight Process (CSOP) if the office has the ability to certificate and oversee the application with existing resources.

Q) Are there any reports as to why (or reasons given) those pilots were aborting above V1?

A) There is no formal documentation or data suggesting why aircrews are aborting above V1 other than the obvious of procrastination, miscalculating control and/or misinterpreting information.

Q) Can we download the simulations of incursions for training purposes?

A) Some animations are available for viewing on:

Q) Is there any data to support that RAAS has proven to be effective? 

A) The Runway Advisory and Awareness System (RAAS) is a software product that uses GPS data to track aircraft movements on the ground in reference to the taxiway and runway layout of specific airports.   The RAAS system increases flight safety by improving situational awareness by providing positional aural advisories and graphical alerts for the crew during all phases of surface operations.  The system is currently installed on several major airlines and is available for business aviation platforms.  Although the system appears to have great promise, at this time, there is insufficient statistical tracking data to accurately assess its effectiveness.

Q) What’s the link for graphical depictions of airport construction?

A) It’s important to understand that the construction graphics (notices) are currently in a test phase. Not every airport undergoing a construction project has a construction diagram – in fact, most do not. Of the airports that do have construction graphics available, they are well received. Construction graphics are currently available at the following FAA websites in addition to the link provided on the Runway Safety website: (browse aeronautical data by category for construction notices) (first link on the NOTAMs page if graphic exists for subject airport)  (will not show up on the NOTAM retrieval search results, but are listed under the drop down menu for Aeronautical Information)


Q) Can you explain the two terms liability and casualty and how they apply to coverage?

A) Liability and casualty are interchangeable but not to be confused with coverage. When used within insurance vernacular, both liability and casualty refer to an individual or entities legal obligation, in tort (meaning from a lawsuit), to pay sums that are due to a third party for damages to their property or bodily injury that is caused to individuals, both because of negligence. Coverage is simply a term used to state the policies applicability to such event. For example one would be “covered” for a “casualty” event or for one’s “legal liability” arising out of negligence. 

Q) How does the aviation insurance industry view safety management systems? Do you consider it a risk reduction and does it result in lower rates?

A) The industry very much views SMS as a risk reducer. Insurance companies will compete for accounts with risk reducers and as such it is in that way that SMS ultimately results in lower rates.

Q) What impact does the broker have on insurability?

A) The broker presents the risk to prospective insurers. They have very little to no impact on insurability per se other than perhaps making recommendations on risk reducers that a client of the broker may choose to follow. However to whom the broker presents the risk and more specifically the way they present the risk can very much impact insurability. Therefore, choosing a broker who understands and presents all of the positive attributes of your risk is extremely important.

Learn > Apply > Share from the Experts

Now you can download an approved presentation from selected experts, right to your Standdown Toolkit! Just insert your card logo side up, watch for the name “SSDTOOLKIT” to appear in your drive mapping, then download! *Please be aware that download time may take a few minutes, with max file sizes up to 6 MB *