The U.S. Transportation Safety Institute (TSI), in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and HAI’s Safety Committee, presented the first ever “Moral Courage Award” to Bond Offshore Helicopters and the U.S. Coast Guard during a ceremony at Heli-Expo in early March.
TSI’s D Smith noted that “for the first time ever, we’re going to present an award to individuals and organizations who say: ‘We will not do it. We will not unknowingly accept risk when the risk outweighs the benefit, and we want to foster a culture within our organization that promotes that.’ So that’s what the award is really about.”
The Bond award was centered around two maintenance technicians—Sean Newlands and John Crowthers—who were not comfortable about releasing an aircraft, despite getting approval from the OEM, and how management backed them up and delayed the flight until the issue was resolved. Receiving the award was Bond Aviation CEO Richard Mintern, who brought along Simon Stewart, Bond’s group safety director.
TSI's D Smith presents the Moral Courage award to Bond CEO Richard Mintern. Photo by Keith Cianfrani
Smith explained what happened at Bond. “Two maintenance technicians found an issue with an aircraft. The OEM and other folks said the aircraft was OK to fly, and just to monitor it for 10 hours,” he noted. “The two maintenance technicians decided that they weren’t comfortable with that, so they took the aircraft out of service and delayed a departure by about three hours to go pick up some folks off an oil rig. They brought it in the hangar, performed the maintenance on it, brought it back out, put it in service and it took off three hours late. That might not seem remarkable, but I think it is, and they deserve to be recognized for that.” Smith continued that the technicians “stood up and said: ‘We’re not comfortable with it,’ and that decision takes great moral courage, especially when the rest of the world says it’s OK, let’s take off.”
What’s more, he added, is that Mintern “left his office, sought those maintenance technicians out, stood them up in public and said job well done, and oh by the way, this is the direction that I want our safety culture to migrate in. That’s remarkable. And for a CEO to do that, it takes great moral courage.”
Smith pointed out that the Bond award came about after TSI staff “read an article in Rotor & Wing magazine, and it highlighted the story I just told you.” [To read the story, see “Every Day Safety Plan,” November 2012 issue, page 4.]
TSI awarded USCG out of Air Station Kodiak, Alaska for a decision to abandon a rescue attempt with an MH-60T because of high risk, something the Coast Guard almost never does. On hand at Heli-Expo to receive the award was Lt. Adam Spencer.
HAI’s Safety Committee noted the importance of “the culture of encouraging people to do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do." They deemed that it didn't matter "whether it’s a mechanic who’s uncomfortable with a repair, or something on an aircraft and refuses to sign it off, or that pilot who turns down a mission because there’s too much risk associated with the weather." It was also important, they said, for those companies who back their employees and who make these tough decisions to be recognized.
Related: Safety & Training News