"That Day is Today"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Washington, D.C
June 15, 2009

Safety Call to Action

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mr. Secretary [LaHood], and thanks to each of you for coming on short notice.

There can be no equivocation on this one. We’re here to do whatever we can to advance safety. Some of the things I've seen and heard about practices in the regional airline industry are not acceptable. Our job is to deliver and ensure safety, and recently we’ve seen some cracks in the system. We need to look more deeply into what’s happening, but the last few months, quite frankly, are an indication that some things aren’t right. We’ve all been in this business long enough to know that you get a sense when something needs another look.

That day is today.

We are absolutely not here to point fingers, and nor are we here to say, “Well, my outfit’s OK.”  We’re not here to debate the finer points of what may or may not have happened. We might be sitting in different seats around the table, but make no mistake, we are all at the same table.

We’ve learned several lessons over the past few weeks. We know, for example, that we need to know more about pilot performance during check rides over a pilot’s entire career. We know that prospective employers need to have as much information as they can about the pilots they’re hiring. And that information should be accurate, complete and easily accessible.

That’s why we are updating our advisory circular on pilot records, setting the expectation that airlines request all records that are available from the FAA and previous employers when they hire a new pilot. And I want a recommendation today about asking Congress to expand the scope of the Pilot Records Improvement Act to give employers access to all of the records available in a pilot’s file.

Beyond that, I want you to devise similar actions — tangible, constructive actions — that will make an immediate, difference in how we operate and how we fly. Let me be clear here. We need to make moves that we can adopt right away.

Take training. Training — good, effective training — has to be at the top of our list. We need to take steps to make sure that we’re meeting and exceeding the standards. There’s a difference between quality and quantity of training. Training has got to be more than just checking the box. The fundamentals of quality training are clear and direct, as in:  we did it, and they got it.

There’s a public perception out there right now that pilots can repeatedly fail check rides and still keep their job. We want passengers to have no doubts about the qualifications of the person flying their plane.

We need to make sure that we are always looking for ways to improve how we operate — that is the foundation of public trust. So, over the next few hours, we’re going to walk you through some lessons learned from past accidents and some of the challenges we’ve identified going forward.

I know from experience that each one of you will come up with an idea or two that would have made a difference, and that will make a difference in the future. I know that some of you have well-established practices, developed over time, that we need to start sharing. One of the quickest ways to spread excellence is to cross-pollinate. As an industry, we need to share so that we’re all at the highest level possible.

These are the ideas and practices we need to get on the table and into the system so they can be adopted. Good ideas can’t stay on the shelf. They need to get from concept to cockpit as quickly as we can get them there.

Likewise, we need to get to the heart of carrier management and union responsibilities for crew education and support. We need to make sure that professional standards and flight discipline at the highest level they can be.

And we also need to make use of the thousands and thousands of hours of experience in this room. I remember all too well the weight of the words coming from a senior captain. I’m talking about professionalism. I know some carriers because of your long history have developed effective ways to transmit professionalism and we need to talk about those programs today.

We have some great opportunities to look at best practices here. Training review boards come to mind. As professionals, we know instinctively that these review boards are an effective eye on training failures and performance. They’ve grown up out of a company and union willingness to increase their own self-discipline. That’s a lesson that needs to go industry-wide.

We need to deliver a plan by the end of this session today that will lay out a process for senior captains to mentor pilots who are building experience. Then, I want a commitment from each of you that we will make that process work.

But what we need most of all is for each of us to weigh in and stay in. This is our profession, and today, we need to take responsibility.

That's what we're going to do here with the system as a whole. I need everyone at the table to make sure we're doing everything we can. And now is the time to do it. Thank you.