Paolo Pettinaroli, a member of Flight Safety Foundation’s Board of Governors, turned the pain of a deep, personal tragedy into more than a decade of working tirelessly for aviation safety and in support of the many families who suffered alongside him following the 2001 crash of Scandinavian Airlines System Flight SK686. Paolo’s death in April following a lengthy illness will be felt keenly by those who knew him.
Paolo’s 28-year-old son, Lorenzo, was among the 118 people killed, including four on the ground, when a McDonnell Douglas MD-87 taking off from Milan’s Linate Airport collided on the runway with a Cessna Citation CJ2 on the morning of Oct. 8, 2001. Following the accident, Paolo resigned from his job in the fashion industry and founded the survivors’ group named the Comitato 8 Ottobre (October 8 Committee) and later the Fondazione 8 Ottobre 2001 (October 8 2001 Foundation), which committed itself to the prevention of future aviation tragedies. Paolo was elected to the FSF Board of Governors at its fall 2010 meeting.
“It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to this remarkable man and pass our condolences on to his family, friends and coworkers,” said Kenneth J. Hylander, chairman of the Board of Governors. “The aviation safety community has lost a true advocate and friend.”
I didn’t know Paolo as well as others here at the Foundation, but when I first met him, I was struck by his infectious enthusiasm and his zest for life, which makes the loss of his son more than 13 years ago seem even more tragic.
Bill Voss, a former president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, wrote of Paolo: “He taught me the meaning of grace, selflessness, wisdom and love. At the same time, he made me laugh [and] changed the way I thought about aviation safety forever. Safety professionals like me tend to rationalize that we have to stay away from the emotions of the family members so that we can be objective and do our jobs. My friendship and partnership with Paolo taught me that the opposite was closer to the truth.”
In the words of Susan Lausch, FSF senior director of membership and business development, “Paolo had an amazingly positive effect on everyone that he came into contact with, including me, and was able to use his charismatic personality to make friends around the world while still getting them to listen to, and act on, the message of safety.”
As FSF President and CEO Jon Beatty said on learning of Paolo’s passing, “He made tremendous contributions to aviation safety.”