Dr Guy Smith
Assessing and Accrediting a Safety Culture in Collegiate Aviation Programs
Safety is not a top priority for students entering college. For college freshmen, with dreams about their futures in the aviation industry; the priority is “FUN”. Collegiate aviation doesn’t dispel ideas of fun but nurtures a mindset that aviation is only fun in a safety environment. Safety education strives to infuse safety into the fiber of students’ beings. Creating a safety culture among fanciful teenagers doesn’t happen instantaneously; it’s a molding process, shaping young ambitious minds into safety-conscious minds. A safety culture blossoms when safety is internalized and valued by each student as highly as her/his own skin.
The Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) accredits collegiate aviation programs throughout the world. One area of supreme importance to accreditation is the safety culture of the program. A safety culture isn’t a manifesto of a program; it is an animate and growing presence within an organization and within every person. A safety culture is not a static float on a calm lake; it’s a vigorous and continuous swim against a strong current. When we stop making progress, we are carried away downstream. Safety culture will succeed if there is an aggressive safety assessment process that includes goals, evidence, analysis of the evidence, and plans for continuous improvement.
A viable safety program integrates the four components of a Safety Management System (SMS) and generates a safety culture through a continuous assessment process that continuously improves the program. Collegiate aviation, through their safety culture and program, turns high school graduates into aviation professionals.