Services, Training

TSI Introduces ‘Moral Courage’ Award

By By Keith Cianfrani | October 23, 2012
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The U.S. Department of Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) will be sponsoring a new award this year called the Moral Courage award. The recognition is the “brainchild” of D. Smith (Acting Aviation Division Chief of TSI). In the aviation community, there are multiple rotorcraft aviation safety awards presented each year to various individuals and organizations. However, none of the existing awards have a primary focus on cultivating a positive safety culture throughout the international helicopter industry. The new recognition will do exactly that by rewarding and reinforcing sound operational safety practices and recognizing the individuals and organizations responsible for them.

With the advent of safety management systems (SMS), there is much talk about organizational safety culture. Experts agree that a positive organizational safety culture significantly contributes to accident prevention. No current award fully supports that objective. The Moral Courage award intends to send a very loud and clear message—sound safety practice is not only desirable, but it is recognized and rewarded by industry leaders. The opportunity is at hand and the timing is right for such an award. The true account cited below is indicative of why we need such an award.

A helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) pilot related this account. He and the medical crew departed their base to pick up and transport a critical neo-natal patient. The weather forecast was good VFR for the entire route of flight and destination. Approximately five miles from the destination they encountered un-forecast and decreasing visibility. The pilot was very familiar with the area and the surrounding terrain. For a brief moment, he considered dropping to tree top level and continuing the flight. However, he knew the best and safest thing was to abort the flight and return safely to base. He did just that and his decision, although difficult, ensured the safety of the entire crew. He did the right thing and it took moral courage to make that decision. When we recognize a pilot and crew for doing the right thing it sends a message to the entire rotorcraft community. The message is simple—safe operational practices ensure operational success and sustained profitability. What’s more, if we recognize the organization for supporting the decision of the crew we will send a huge message to the industry that a positive safety culture is attainable, meaningful, and preferred. The Moral Courage award will recognize the crew and the organization with separate awards for fostering and supporting a positive safety culture.


TSI will present the award at HAI’s Heli-Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, Nev. TSI is responsible for coordinating the marketing, forming the selection panel, receiving the nominations, selecting the recipients, notifying the selectees, and sending a TSI representative to Heli-Expo to present the awards.

Both aircrew members and organizations from several categories of the helicopter community are eligible for nomination. The categories include but are not limited to; HEMS, electronic news gathering, military operations, general aviation, agriculture operations, law enforcement, offshore, tour operators, etc. Nominations for each category will be solicited via existing outlets to the rotorcraft community and other various forums. TSI will assign an individual to receive the nominations and coordinate a selection committee.

Sometimes choosing the safest course of action may not yield an immediate profit, and might not give the appearance of the most heroic. The fact is it takes moral courage to do the right thing.

The Moral Courage award will provide a huge opportunity to promote and foster a positive safety culture by recognizing crewmembers and organizations that demonstrate commitment to conducting safe operations.
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