Aviation Safety is the branch of Aviation (comprising aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, air traffic service providers, etc.) in which the personnel are entrusted the responsibility to prevent aircraft accidents and save lives through reactive, proactive, and predictive methods of safety risk management. Well, I interviewed an aviation safety manager Revanth Gattupalli to learn more about Aviation Safety and why one should make a career out of it.
Who is Revanth Gattupalli?
Revanth Gattupalli is a seasoned aviation safety professional with extensive work experience in airline safety programs and Safety Management System (SMS). He earned his MS in Aeronautics, specializing in Aviation Safety, from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. As a Manager of SMS for a regional operator in the USA, he was responsible for accident/incident investigations and SMS.
Currently, he is a Manager of Safety for a helicopter operator in India—he is responsible for accident/incident investigations, SMS, flight safety setup, and flight safety audits. He has trained hundreds of airline personnel on SMS and safety culture. He was trained at NTSB on aircraft accident on-scene investigation and transportation disaster recovery. He has also authored a research article in a peer-reviewed journal on the correlation between safety education and the safety behaviour of an individual.
What is Aviation Safety?
According to Revanth, Aviation Safety is all about ensuring that every aircraft that takes off, lands safely. To make this happen, at least in an airline business, many activities take place, including but not limited to:
- safety investigations
- internal, external, and in-flight Safety Audits to observe adherence by management to established aviation regulations and adherence by pilots and engineers to laid out SOPs, respectively
- monitoring and analysis of voice data and flight data recorded by CVR and FDR, respectively
- statistical analysis of safety data captured from various sources
These activities are crucial for any airline. According to Revanth, there is an industry statistic that there could be as many as 600 conditions behind every aircraft accident. Identifying and eliminating even a single condition among the 600 conditions, could prevent an aircraft accident as the chain of causation is broken by the elimination of that condition. The intent behind all the aforementioned activities is to identify and eliminate such conditions that could lead to an aircraft accident.
In fact, in one of the airlines Revanth worked for, an aircraft returned back because there was around a 30% difference in indicated airspeed displayed at the captain’s and co-pilot’s side. Revanth’s investigation revealed that the difference was caused because sand (less than 1gram) inside the pitot tube caused blockage leading to the 30% difference in indicated airspeed.
Field audits/inspections done by safety professionals usually help find if there doesn’t exist a practice of covering pitot tubes if the aircraft is going to be on ground for long hours. Further, training the ground personnel on what the investigation identified helps them understand the significance of covering pitot tubes and eliminates any such condition in the future that could cause/contribute to an aircraft accident or an undesired event.
The seemingly most trivial aspects often lead to an aircraft accident, and that is what the personnel in Aviation Safety are after—to identify and eliminate anything/everything that could potentially cause an aircraft accident.
Why Must One Consider a Career in Aviation Safety?
A career in Aviation Safety is not just a job; it is a way of life. An aviation safety professional is always thinking about what could cause an undesired event (be it weather, mechanical failure, miscommunication, human error, unsafe practices, etc.) and ways to prevent it and ensure passengers who lift off the ground, come back to it without any harm. They take on a great deal of responsibility and carry a high level of integrity. A cavalier attitude in this profession is unforgiving.
According to Revanth, if the concept of flight excites you, if you want to go home everyday fulfilled that you in your capacity have contributed towards advancing the cause of aviation safety, and if you want to work in an area where a high level of integrity and accountability is required and rewarded, then you must consider Aviation Safety. Also, who doesn’t want free flights to travel and visit places? This is a huge perk if you decide to work for an airline.
One thing is assured. You will never get to know how many accidents you prevented, but you know that you have prevented them.
Aviation Safety is also a field where people from various backgrounds can find a place. It is not just a pilot or an engineer that can find a career in Aviation Safety. The field has vastly expanded over the years, and it demands professionals from multiple backgrounds. A data analyst, statistician, paramedic, psychologist, user interface/web designer, graphic designer, application developer, backend & frontend developers, and many other backgrounds will find a place in the field of Aviation Safety.
In Revanth’s career so far, he has witnessed:
- A data analyst identifies a particular set of pneumatic seals that caused several rejected take-offs and flight diversions by compiling data generated from flight, aircraft maintenance, parts purchasing, and finance departments. The aircraft maintenance team later worked with an external agency to redesign those seals.
- A paramedic identify an inebriated pilot and a maintenance technician on two different occasions and prevented them from operating/maintaining the aircraft.
- A user interface designer design an audit and inspection application per the requirements of the safety auditors and inspectors and create a single repository for planning/scheduling/documenting/storing audits and inspections.
- A graphic designer design safety promotional materials like safety journals, safety blogs, safety bulletins, and safety directives.
- An application developer developed an Emergency Response application that would enable notification, interaction, storage, and dissemination of time-critical and confidential information among emergency responders.
- Backend and frontend developers joining hands to design a dark website that can be activated when a crisis or emergency happens. The intent is to present users only the hyperlinks to relevant information about the emergency by minimising immediate access to other visual content on day-to-day website, until an emergency response is deactivated.
The air transportation industry is always growing, and so is Aviation Safety. The above roles play a crucial part in a collective manner in advancing aviation safety. They would add significant value if they are also educated in Aviation Safety programs, Safety Management System, Hazard analysis techniques, etc.
Why Do I Acquire Education in Aviation Safety?
If you have graduated from high school and are about to join a University degree program, and the call of duty nature of the field of Aviation Safety excites you, you need to acquire education for a career in Aviation Safety.
If you have already completed an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree, or you are already a working professional in a different industry, have a deep appreciation for Aviation Safety, and see that your background can bring value to the field of Aviation Safety, then you need to focus on acquiring the education for a career in Aviation Safety so a smooth transition can be accomplished from your current career/industry.
Remember, the 600 conditions that could cause an undesired event/accident can come from different platforms. If the wide variety of professionals employed in Aviation Safety is also educated in Aviation Safety, then they significantly contribute in preventing those conditions to lead towards an undesired event.
According to Revanth, while few people find roles within Aviation Safety with almost no educational background and work experience in Aviation Safety, it is really crucial to acquire that education to be better equipped in the Aviation Safety industry for the long term. Safety has to be one’s core value, and he/she has to be driven by it to be able to lead and initiate programs and ideas to foster safety within an aviation organization.
A research conducted by Revanth among students in an Aeronautical University in the USA showed that the students in safety majors reported significantly higher safety behaviour and safety awareness compared to the students in non-safety majors. Students in safety major reportedly demonstrated a better ability to identify hazards and give prominence to safety in the activities they would take part in. Students in safety major had the eye to identify something that was unsafe and recognize an otherwise a trivial task/step in a process that has great potential to cause a disaster/tragedy. The research was published in Psychology and Behavioral Science International Journal.
How Do I Acquire Skills in Aviation Safety?
There are renowned universities like Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Cranfield University, and Florida Institute of Technology offering degree programs in Aviation Safety. These degree programs offer coursework in Hazard Analysis Techniques, System safety, Aircraft Accident Investigation, Aviation Statistical Analysis, and Aviation Safety Programs. IATA offers diplomas in Aviation Safety Management and certificated courses on various Aviation Safety topics.
If one is unable to pursue academic options, there is always an option to reach out to aviation entities in his/her country, seeking an internship opportunity in the field of Aviation Safety to get foundational knowledge. According to Revanth, academic programs provide a comprehensive foundation and prepare an individual for a career in Aviation Safety. Nevertheless, LinkedIn is a great source of networking opportunities to reach out to Safety Leadership in aviation entities and see if a short-term paid/unpaid internship is possible.
Revanth says that this is the right time to consider a career in Aviation Safety, for you will find enormous opportunities in the Safety departments of aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airports, aircraft maintenance organizations, and flight training schools.
There is a career in Aviation Safety for anyone, not just a pilot or an engineer, who likes to take a lot of responsibility, has a detective’s mind, has the drive to further the purpose of safe air travel, see the big picture in large sets of data, and likes to collaborate with professionals of various backgrounds driven towards the same cause. Mr. Revanth migrated to Aviation Safety from a career as an IT systems administrator because he found his calling in Aviation Safety.
He has offered to assist in any possible way he can if the field of Aviation Safety inspires you. Do not hesitate to reach out to him at [email protected] should you need to talk to him.
Does aviation safety as a career pique YOUR interest? Tell us more in the comments below!