Aviation Safety Letter 4-2003

The ASL Interview: Brian Stewart, Coordinator/Chief Flight Instructor, Sault College

by Mike Treskin, System Safety Specialist, System Safety, Ontario Region

Brian Stewart

ASL:  Can you describe the school and its program? For example, how long is the course; how many instructors are there, etc.

B. Stewart:  Sault College is a community college located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It offers a variety of programs in addition to Aviation Technology (Flight), such as nursing and forestry. The program is 3 years (7 semesters) in length; we have 14 instructors, some of whom also have classroom responsibilities. Students graduate with a commercial airplane license endorsed with both multi-engine and instrument privileges.

ASL:  What is your official title with the College? How many aircraft do you operate, and what type are they?

B. Stewart:  My title is Coordinator/Chief Flight Instructor (CFI). We operate nine Zlin 242 single-engine aircraft and two Piper Seminole multi-engine aircraft. In addition, we have two Mechtronix level 2 Flight Training Devices (FTDs) and two Elite level 2 FTDs.

ASL:  On average, how many students graduate each year?

B. Stewart:  The graduating class size has been about 35 for the last couple of years and I expect 36 students to graduate next year.

ASL:  How do you promote safety awareness within the Aviation program?

B. Stewart:  Students are briefed on the program — who the safety officer is, why safety is important to Sault College, an incident/occurrence non-punitive reporting system, safety bulletin board, a safety committee, an emergency response plan and an annual safety audit. Some of this information is in the Flight Training Operations Manual, the Training Manual and it will be in our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by September.

ASL:  Could you expand on the safety committee? Are students part of this committee?

B. Stewart:  The safety committee meets about every second month. It is made up of two students from each of the three years, the maintenance manager, the dean, the safety officer and the CFI.

ASL:  Does the aviation program have an official safety management course?

B. Stewart:  Yes, we have a course entitled aviation safety management by Transport Canada (TC). In addition we have two other courses dealing with human factors — "Basic Flight Physiology" and "Human Factors in Flight" — both courses strongly suggest the importance of safety in aviation.

ASL:  When are the students given the TC presentation on aviation safety management?

B. Stewart:  During semester 7 (the senior year).

ASL:  What are your views on the TC aviation safety management presentation? Does it help determine safety issues on the flight line?

B. Stewart:  I think the TC presentation is great. It helps tie together the three human factors courses, as well as another briefing that TC provides for us on pilot decision-making issues. It is also a perfect opportunity for TC System Safety to help the industry set the tone for future aviators who some day will be managers and operators in the aviation system.

ASL:  What is the student's role in the safety program?

B. Stewart:  Students are the line pilots in our safety program — they are expected to follow the program's operating rules, which include reporting any hazards, incidents, occurrences or accidents. Their participation is necessary to make the program work.

ASL:  Do you feel your current safety program at the college follows the recent Safety Management System (SMS) principles? Where do you stand in adapting such a program?

B. Stewart:  From what I have gathered from the safety management presentation, and what I have been reading in the proposed SMS Regulations, we may only be missing a few items, and some items may need some minor changes. Our plan is to incorporate all items from the proposed SMS Regulations into our own safety management program by the fall of 2003.

ASL:  Who manages the safety program?

B. Stewart:  The safety officer — Earl Turner.

ASL:  Are you satisfied with the level of safety awareness achieved after graduation, or do you feel that the college has only scratched the surface of safety once the student is ready for the market place?

B. Stewart:  I think the level of awareness is pretty good; however, we have some inconsistencies in our communication throughout the students' stay. Our internal safety newsletter is not produced regularly and our handling of incidents and occurrences is not well communicated. I would also like to expand on some areas of human factors, such as situational awareness, and what we refer to as "Threat and Error Management".

ASL:  On the Actual flight line, what kinds of reporting system do you have?

B. Stewart:  We have an anonymous, non-punitive occurrence/incident reporting system. A drop-off box is out of the general view so respondents can remain anonymous if they wish.

ASL:  How do you give feedback to anonymous reporters?

B. Stewart:  Feedback would be given in the form of minutes of the safety meetings, policies that might be changed, or through the safety newsletter. The safety committee deals with the reports. The results and recommendations are recorded in the minutes of the meeting and posted on the safety bulletin board.

ASL:  How does the non-punitive reporting work? How often is it used?

B. Stewart:  It is a challenge, as many students believe they will be targeted if they come forward. Our biggest obstacle is to change that perception. We are lucky to receive a handful of incidents/hazards/occurrences per year.

ASL:  Are you happy with that reporting system?

B. Stewart:  I'm happy that we have a reporting system; however, I'm not happy that many students believe punitive action will result from them coming forward to report safety concerns or incidents. The perception is that the person reporting a safety concern might be blacklisted. Our biggest challenge is to change that perception.

ASL:  How do you see the future vis-à-vis safety management and the aviation technology program at Sault College?

B. Stewart:  In an industry where errors and omissions are so costly, I don't think you can have one without the other.

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