Do It Right The First Time!

by Ben Coleman on December 21, 2010

in Aviation Safety

I have heard people in many aviation environments talk about “the mission.” Maybe it is my perspective from an oversea post where I am in harm’s way, but lately I have had the following thoughts which, I believe, can apply to any aviation endeavor or simply driving the family car—or taking other unnecessary risks.

You focus on “the mission,” and you think it is so important that it is worth risking innocent passengers. Why? As the world moves toward implementing Safety Management Systems, there is confusion and lack of clarity about what is truly involved. There is a term used in most risk management models called by acronym “ALARP,” or “as low as reasonably practicable.”

ATTENTION ALL READERS!….this term scares me, and should cause concern in anyone. I subscribe to the philosophy of ‘DIRTFT’, or ‘do it right the first time’. Two completely different thought processes…one is much easier and will save more lives….

I have been working in an engaging area of the world doing things that I can’t disclose. In the process, I have learned more about our fellow man (and woman) than I did even in the FAA and at the NTSB, and in the private work force. We humans are subject to many motivators— money, pride, self preservation, etc.. One powerful motivation, in this environment, is “what’s in it for me?” or WIIFM!

But I argue that in all things we must be sincere, compassionate, professional adults, and it all should come down to “doing the right thing”. But I realize this is easier for some than others. For some, it is in their basic nature. For others, it is whatever is expedient.

All of us are products of our environment. I sincerely believe that some of us have been ‘programmed’ to follow a strict doctrine of rules to form our foundation. The programming may NOT be in the best interests of saving money, equipment or even lives! It is an assumption that we historically like to make about our fellowman that ‘they would never have had such a thought or taken such an action…’

There are people who had knowledge about the affects of temperature extremes of the rocket booster O-ring seals that lead to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. There are people who had knowledge about the internal distress on the Trent 900 engines that powered the Qantas A-380 that recently experienced an uncontained engine failure requiring an emergency landing at Singapore. As smart as we are as a society, we really haven’t learned enough about the courage to put our finger in the dike and to speak up when we know, or have strong concerns, about safety.

I have concerns about our current safety culture and the general mindset that society has accepted on a global basis. I also have a plan to help us survive some of the madness. In most cases, it is NOT all about the mission. It is about DIRTFT, or “doing it right the first time” and finding the right answer against all the other competing concerns.

Mr. Coleman is a former NTSB investigator, FAA A/W Inspector and safety expert. He has a specialized background in management, accident investigations, aircraft operations, maintenance and manufacturing. He is a current commercial instrument rated pilot with over 2,200 hours of flight experience. He is also an A&P mechanic with Inspection Authorization and senior parachute rigger. With 35 years of aviation experience, he has investigated over 400 aviation accidents, 184 as federal Investigator-In-Charge in many countries. He is the founder of Aerospace Management Systems and is a founding member of member of Air & Space Television

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

James T. Crouse December 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Our friend Ben Coleman has the unique perspective he brings from years at the FAA, NTSB and in the private world teaching people about safety, creating safety programs, and as a consultant. Recently he accepted a contract position with the State where he has developed and monitored aviation safety programs.

His post points out what we all have experienced—get the job done, sometime putting safety at risk. That’s not good in any endeavor, but it aircraft operations and maintenance, it comes with a potentially great cost. I am hard-pressed to think of any flight that cannot be delayed; yes, even medical evacuations. When I first flew medical evacuation missions, an instructor gave me great advice: “You only make matters worse if one down there becomes five down there. Fight the urge to be a hero.”


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