For the last several Editorial Comments, the issue of “Aviation Professionalism” has been repeatedly explored, and indeed, given the current high interest in the subject, the conference theme of the upcoming 22nd annual WATS event is “Identifying and Developing Professionalism in the Global Aviation Workforce.”
The term “Professionalism” is seen my many to encapsulate so much of what the aviation industry endeavors to achieve every day, by thousands of employees.
It’s not hard to find definitions of professionalism, as Mr. Google will satiate any and all curiosity. In the aviation context there are some very specific qualities, competencies, ethics and emotional intelligence that most of us could list, and no doubt vigorously discuss and debate.
In recent years, much attention has been paid to the issue of coaching and developing the current generation as they learn how to be an aviation professional. As such, a willingness to mentor the next generation must be included in any definition of professional. This is seen as “returning to the industry” and can be seen as the final or ultimate mark of a professional, something that has been called “Learn, Earn, and Return”. An individual’s character, conduct and ethical responsibilities all get “topped off” when they “return” to the industry, through such activities as volunteering, participating in a career day, getting involved in industry associations, and most importantly, creating a positive image of the industry.
Over the recent holiday season, I had the occasion to visit with an old friend who started ab initio flight training with me when we were both in our late teenage years. Mike did not pursue the aviation career path, but has had a successful career in engineering. However, he kept himself connected to aviation, flying various single and multi-engine aircraft on weekends with his family.
Neither of his two daughters chose any aspect of aviation as an interest or career, but Mike encouraged them to follow their interests and both are college graduates with fulfilling careers. One of his daughters completed her degree quite recently and embarked on her first overseas solo business trip this past September, a few months after commencing employment.
Mike remarked that while driving his daughter to the airport, it struck him that she was completely at ease over the prospect of her first solo business trip, despite the prospect of multiple connections, time zones and one leg served only by small aircraft. It occurred to him that one of the reasons for his daughter’s comfort level was her observation over many years of the behaviour of a multitude of aviation professionals.
Once, while travelling commercial air on holidays with his family, they all observed a young flight attendant deftly handle an inebriated passenger, de-escalating the situation with her colleagues and ensuring the safety and continuation of the flight. On another flight they witnessed a flight attendant patiently explaining to a new mother how to deal with the distress associated with changing cabin pressure on an infant.
Later, Mike was pilot in command of a 6-place aircraft with his family onboard when some propeller issues caused a stop at a small FBO in the mid-west. The young mechanic on duty immediately offered to investigate despite the early evening arrival. He told them that he could fix it, but it would take him until early morning the next day. He then offered to drive them to a local hotel, assuring him that he would be finished by their 7am departure time. And sure enough, upon arrival back at the airport, he was waiting for them, having stayed all night so that he could watch the morning pre-flight and the cycling of the propeller.
Another event was the witnessing of an exchange between ATC and a student pilot that had become disoriented during a training flight. Sitting in the passenger seat, Mike’s daughter heard the calm voice of the controller offering vectors, and the captain of a commercial airliner in visual contact relaying the position of the fledgling flyer to the controller. Their combined efforts encouraged the student pilot, de-escalating the situation and potentially avoiding a tragedy.
While Mike’s daughter had an unusual and privileged opportunity to observe a large swath of the industry in action, her experiences also remind us of the importance of the public perception of “Aviation Professionals”.
What image are you projecting and how are you “returning?”
Safe travels, Chris Lehman, CAT Editor in Chief
Published in CAT issue 1/2019