A few months ago I left Flight Safety Foundation to return to a job in the U.S. federal government. I left with some regrets, but I had to give in to some practical considerations. After more than 1,000 days on the road and nearly 2 million miles in the air, I realized I needed to be home more often to get to know my family. In addition, I needed to spend just a few more years in the government so that when I retire, I receive the full value of a pension that I had paid into for 26 years. I will still be working in the safety business, but I will not be as visible for a little while.
I have written scores of AeroSafety World editorials and have been given credit for uncovering more than a few pearls of wisdom through these columns. As my parting insight, let me disclose the source of that “wisdom.” The greatest wisdom in this business has been, and will remain, the people who read this column. To appear wise, all I ever had to do was offer a colleague in one part of the world the solutions developed by someone I had met a few days before in another corner of the globe. For the last few years, I have been little more than a mirror that reflected the insights generated in one corner to another.
I have learned to appreciate the power, capability and resilience of the people who work in aviation safety. It was my job to spend every waking hour understanding what you were doing, what was working, and what was holding you back. Every day I woke up and found myself among selfless, dedicated and talented people who couldn’t wait to share their passions and insights. For me, that was an incredible honor, and when you receive that sort of honor, the jet lag and frustrations fade into the background.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that, above all else, the aviation safety system needs to function as a community. Our strength is in our ability to learn from each other. Our resilience is in our ability to support one another and overcome common threats. Aviation safety is not a business that generates easy-to-calculate financial returns, or makes heroes out of its leaders. Our business, on a good day, makes itself appear to be unnecessary. You can spend a career selflessly dedicating yourself to driving out risk and saving lives, only to have the world turn on you when something goes wrong. We all know that, but carry on anyway. No one acting alone can last long in such an environment. We need each other to survive, and we need each other to succeed.
That is the central purpose of this noble Foundation. It is our communication network, it is our support system, it is our community. I hope all of you support Kevin Hiatt as he leads the Foundation forward.
I thank all of you for an extraordinary six years. I have been overwhelmed by your kindness and hospitality. I have been humbled by your expertise and dedication.
Until we meet again …