Bond Aviation has formally recognized Engineering Manager John Crowther and HUMS Engineer Sean Newlands for receiving the U.S. Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) Moral Courage award in March. The Bond technicians shared the first-time award with the U.S. Coast Guard out of Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, who faced the tough decision of abandoning a rescue mission due to high risk.
Luke Farajallah, managing director of Bond Offshore Helicopters, recognized Crowther and Newlands during a ceremony on April 18 in Aberdeen, Scotland. TSI created the award to highlight the efforts of those helicopter operators that put safety first when faced with tough decisions. For Crowther and Newlands, this meant taking a helicopter out of service even though it had been cleared to fly. TSI found out about their decision from reading an article in Rotor & Wing, “Every Day Safety Plan,” November 2012.
The two Bond technicians noted a small deviation in a heath and usage monitoring system (HUMS) indication, and convinced management to take the cautious approach and pull the helicopter out of service. The incident resulted in a delay of “a couple hours,” but Farajallah noted that he’s “pleased that our team spoke up. We want to be in a place where if anyone’s uncomfortable, then we don’t go.”
During an exclusive interview with Rotor & Wing in March, James Drummond, CEO of Bond parent company Avincis Group, said that the Moral Courage award represents a “very significant step and important recognition.” He added that CEO Richard Mintern and Simon Stuart, safety director, have done a great job implementing a ‘Mission Safe’ culture at Bond. The effort is part of a centralized focus on safety within Avincis, parent company of Bond, Inaer in Spain, Australian Helicopters and Norsk Helikopter Service (NHS). Employing more than 3,000 people, Avincis—formerly known as World Helicopter Group—topped 108,500 flight hours during 2012, with a fleet of 350 aircraft covering various countries in Europe as well as Australia, Chile and Peru.
“The vision for the company is we want to be seen as the best mission-critical aviation service requirement in the world,” Drummond said, “and seen not by ourselves, but by our customers, regulators, our workforce and our competitors. That’s a fairly lofty goal, but I think it’s realistic and it’s achievable.” That safety goal “is not motherhood and apple pie, it’s a real objective and it requires real investment over a sustained period of time. That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Drummond elaborated on a concept the company calls the raised hand. “We want anybody and everybody in the company to feel both the freedom and the responsibility if they see something they don’t like, they think it’s a bit risky, they think it’s unsafe or they are uncomfortable about an operation or any aspect of what we’re doing, we want them to put a hand up and be able to say, ‘I’m not pleased, take a look at this,’” he said. “Since there are just over 3,000 people in the business now, then I’m going to have 3,000 people looking after safety every single day. And that’s the fundamental cultural and behavioral change that we’re driving. We see real examples of this all around, one of which is the Moral Courage award.”
The aim is to create an atmosphere where “people no longer feel worried that if they report an incident, they will be viewed negatively, they realize that they will be positively viewed and encouraged by it,” Drummond continued. “Secondly, they see that management is not only listening but doing something about it, so that again is a positive reinforcement—if I say something, it’s actually going to happen.” He noted that the company has also established an anonymous whistle-blower tip line for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with speaking openly.
“We’ve moved beyond thinking of safety first or safety’s the most important thing,” Drummond added, “and we’ve come to the conclusion that safety’s got to be inherent in absolutely everything we do, and absolutely everything everybody does in the company.”