The FAA Aviation Safety Programs - Do
they really work?
by Jim Trusty
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News
research for this article, I had the great pleasure of going back in
aviation history with pilots, instructors, and FAA personnel'past and
present, living and dead. I learned a lot about these individuals and
their dedication to an objective that had never been tried before. For
someone as addicted to aviation as I am, it was a great pleasure to be
involved in this tale of living history.
As you read this
story you will realize the devotion of those involved and learn that
sometimes things just have to be done without compensation or
supervision or a true plan of action, and somehow they work out. Thank
goodness this particular endeavor did! The benefits are enormous and
they involve the saving of lives. I thank each and every person
involved. What they accomplished way back when probably saved aviation
as a profession and showed the world that education mixed with a dash
or two of enforcement works wonders. This is even more valid today.
While working on
a presentation for an upcoming FAA safety seminar, I wandered off in
thoughts of who, what, when, where, why, and how as they all applied
to the safety programs offered to the aviation enthusiasts of our
nation. Who came up with the idea for the Federal government to join
forces with the general public and actually make something work for
both sides? Most agree that it was a lot of ex-military pilots and
leftover instructors from WWII and Korea who became new hires for the
FAA and played a major role in getting it all started. The FAA hired
these guys as peacetime approached and general aviation was advancing
by leaps and bounds and it really got more than its money's worth.
A lot of names
came up when I began researching this article and by trying to use all
of them, I would surely miss a few. Apologizing in advance, I'm
afraid, would not get me off the hook because they really did
something great with this and no one or two people deserve all the
credit. At the beginning there were probably 50 different individuals
involved in almost every state. Many of them are now deceased. For my
research, I made contact by conversing with those who knew them well
when they were alive. Either by reading pertinent documents, by
e-mail, telephone interviews, or personal meetings, the following
individuals were all a great help. My thanks go out to: Al Milana,
Pete Campbell, Jerry Schmeltz, Randy Robinson, Tom Liederbach, and
Larry Williams. Without their input into the safety program, aviation
would not be what it is today.
WHEN did they
It appears the
beginning was slow, but sure, and took place around 1964. The actual
thought process began earlier, but it took a little coaxing to get the
ball rolling. It was kinda sorta haphazard until a lot of work was
done and the FAA started accepting it as a doable concept in 1968.
Once the first program started showing positive results, and that was
the Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics, the other programs followed
rather quickly. They all remain until this day as very successful
ventures. There were startups in different FAA regions from 1964 until
1971. When to start and what to offer was left up to the respective
offices and to those in charge.
The first program
was the Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics, which was followed by the
Poker Run, the 'WINGS' or Pilot Proficiency Award Program, the FAA
PACE Program, and several that are simply called town meetings, safety
gatherings, and something we do in my area almost weekly, the FAA
Safety Seminars. No matter the various names or designations, they are
offered by the FAA; helped by an active FAA Safety Program Manager;
some FAA Aviation Safety Counselors; donations of time, energy, and
money from the aviation public; and well attended by flying
enthusiasts from all walks of life. They are something we in this
ever-shrinking aviation community look forward to and, as a Safety
Counselor myself, we are constantly looking for ways to make them more
attractive to the flying public and to expand and grow new attendees
every time we meet. The numbers show we are succeeding. My hope and
desire is that we can add some new and exciting programs to our busy
schedule of events planned for this year just so we can keep
There are plans
in the works to try and incorporate some of the youth programs and see
if that would work. I think the kids would enjoy the upgrade and
information after we rework it slightly. If you have a chance, join us
for a meeting. They are informative and enjoyable, and many of your
friends will be there.
After the FAA
named Pete Campbell the National Accident Prevention Program
Coordinator, he gave all the regional managers free rein to implement
safety programs as they saw fit and a bunch began at about the same
time. Al Milana had one of the first in Lincoln, Nebraska. He
remembered it well when I spoke to him a short time ago. The first
program was an all day affair with two Accident Prevention Specialists
speaking and showing a slide show on takeoffs and landings and landing
with/without flaps. He also remembered that the first lapel pin was
made like a safety pin with a carving of the Spirit of St. Louis in
it. I have one of these made by Jostens and wear it proudly.
attended several clinics put on by Pete Campbell and his crew and they
were a true learning experience. Some of the alphabet (AOPA, GAMA,
PAMA, etc.) groups are still doing these meetings with great
attendance and success, and we hope they continue.
When this group
of new hires came on board, they quickly recognized that the accident
rate was out of hand and that the FAA way of expecting enforcement to
take care of every problem was not working. As former flight
instructors and pilots, they all agreed that the problem started at
the training level and that what had to be done was to educate the
flight instructors first and very soon thereafter the licensed pilots
and then the flying public. By the mid-1970s, less than 10 years after
this group started working, training accidents were down over 60%, and
we have managed to maintain that downward spiral through today.
It has been
almost forty years since this brainstorm about how education working
in conjunction with necessary enforcement would reduce aviation
accidents and it is working better each year. Aviation still accounts
for less than 2% of all the transportation fatalities each year, and
last year was no different.
over 650,000,000 passengers and had 695 deaths. That calculates to
your chances of losing your life while on board an airplane as one in
a million. No other industry in the world can match these numbers. By
way of comparison, vehicle fatalities in the U.S. alone kill 820
people a week.
As pilots and
flight instructors, we are all keenly aware that the root cause for
most accidents is pilot error and that the best and most complete cure
for this is education. Actually, we don't even mind that the FAA is
always around for enforcement if all else fails. It really keeps us on
I look forward to
newer and better offerings by all involved and would welcome the FAA
back into the fold as presenters of this valuable information.
Education has to be continuous for it to really work. How could anyone
say no to being safer and smarter in this ever-changing world of
aviation. When you total up the time spent staying current as a
pilot'getting a medical, a flight review, instrument proficiency
check, and then add an hour of instruction and an hour of flight'it
figures out to less than a day, and it doesn't all have to be done in
the same 24 hour period.
It's really not a
big contribution of time to be current and fit to fly.
This article was
written totally out of appreciation for a great bunch from the FAA who
took on a task that offered them very little benefit. It is a program
that over 4,000 FAA Aviation Safety Counselors work on daily for one
project or another to make it possible for over 1,000,000 aviation
enthusiasts to attend a Safety Program of their choice, free of
charge, somewhere in America almost every week. I wanted you to know
of this output of energy by everyone involved and to invite you to
join us. We need your participation. Meeting places, sound equipment,
door prizes, food and beverages, speakers, and everything else we use
must be donated.
local Flight Standards District Office and tell them you would like to
help. Ask them to do a program in your area, get on the mailing list
so that you and your friends can attend, and then visit a meeting and
watch us work. See if you agree with the majority of the flying
community that education really works and the only thing we need is
more of it. I personally am still amazed that you can attract a room
full of professionals who have the skill to fly an airplane by simply
offering some information and free food. Only one person out of every
400 in the United States can fly an airplane and that means 99.8% of
our population cannot!
If after reading
this article, you still have questions or reservations, check out
contact the FAA (they have over 100 people in Safety Program
managerial positions at the district, regional and national levels),
or feel free to get in touch with me and I'll tell you what we have
accomplished in my area since I started as an Accident Prevention
Counselor over 15 years ago. As you can tell, I love to talk about
this safety stuff.
Accidents are caused and therefore preventable!
Jim Trusty was
the FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year
(1997) and the first-ever Southern Region Aviation Safety Counselor of
the Year (1995). He still works full-time as a corporate pilot/ flight
& ground instructor/ FAA Aviation Safety Counselor/ National Aviation
Magazine Writer at MQY in Tennessee. .