Safety is an Attitude

Posted on 01 August 2015 by Charlie Marais

There are many slogans or clich├ęs, but when one goes around flippantly with such a serious issue as safety, the cost can seldom be imagined.

When I coined the phrase "safety is an attitude" a few years ago, it was actually a cry of desperation. The desperation came from accident after accident where a lack of knowledge or skills and experience had little to do with its cause.

For the past 20 years I have been preaching the basics of safety as being sufficient knowledge, skills proving capability and a disciplined attitude. This has been ignored by many and quite a few never had a chance to confess that the biggest killer of all was their attitude.

How I wish I could say; I told you so". But when you are no longer, I am deprived of that privilege. Better yet, I would prefer never to have had to use that so familiar phrase. But let us put this in perspective.

The aircrafts attitude is defined as the aircrafts longitudinal (pitch) or lateral (bank) axis in reference to the horizon. Only when you have a horizon, artificial or real, can you determine if your attitude is correct for the intended flight profile. Take the reference away and you are lost to luck and chance. If you make it without the horizon as a reference you are nothing but lucky and skills have no honour to claim.

So it is with the attitude of man. We live our lives according to rules and regulations of true and good practise. These guidelines are there to show us the way of least exposure, with the best possible chance of success. I find it strange that we religiously follow rules in certain spheres of our lives, but when it comes to aviation, as well as motoring, we think to get away one has proven either that you are superior or that the rest of us are stupid, scared, incompetent fools.

The laws of science and of good behaviour are cast in stone. Yes, you cannot bargain with the formula of Lift or for that matter the proven reasoning for safe sex. To play the game according to the proven rules will not guarantee success, but will give all of us a better chance at success. Wrong behaviour has no guarantee either way. Oh yes, a goose bump, normally followed by sheer terror.

Yes, I repeat, the incorrect attitude has consequence. We talk about cause and effect. To change the recipe will not guarantee, or even suggest, the same chocolate flavoured cake. When we as aviators are taught the truth, we are trained to be disciplined, which means that we will always follow the rules and golden keys given to us by those who had to die to prove its worth.

To not follow the rules are plain and simple poor discipline and deserved of the outcome of chance. So yes, a sucky attitude tends to lead to a sucky result whereas a disciplined attitude tends towards a predetermined outcome of success and a chance to redo it.

Safety is indeed an attitude because throughout your training we have guide you well and kept you safe, even if that was when you were at your most tender and vulnerable. After we let you go, you all of a sudden had a change of heart. Now you are cool and believe you can. Read the writing on the walls of aviators who paid the price. Or bluntly put, they wrote the rules in their blood. They underlined the rules in blood. There are no more blood needed, so please keep it inside your body through sensible reasoning. Attitude is the key to life, but also to death.

A good attitude will render you a wonderful career in aviation, poor attitude will shorten the pleasure of flight. A guy once said to me we that are all standing in the line as no one will leave this life alive. But your poor attitude is like jumping the queue. In the end it is just your decision - safety is indeed an attitude.