“… but we need something; something established: a Standard.”
Film “Thesis on a Homicide”
The afternoon was fading away and turning into a hot and silent night in Douala, far away from my wife and kids. I was at my office, cleaning all the drawers and stuff I’ve been writing for years. Suddenly, my eyes became wide open, when I read again that resignation letter. It was not only a document, but a farewell to what I thought many years ago it was the last maintenance organization I would be working for.
The meeting began late as usual, because our CEO never shows up on time. I met him when we were aviation youngsters, almost thirty years ago. It was our management team meeting, which I encouraged for so long. I had to convince him during long battles, wherein money was heavier than oxygen. Safety prevailed though after many incidents occurred in other airlines operating the same type of aircraft we were rendering maintenance services on. At the end, we were having two management meetings twice a month. I was in charge of the agenda due to the hazards we were detecting. Everything was getting rational and regular until that day before the autumn commenced, when we were about to certify satellite repair stations for our new client.
Cleaning was resulting in daydreaming to me, when suddenly I found something I printed out from gugin.com: “It is all about developing the right culture – a culture no one else in the aviation industry can copy. When you have that admirable culture, your customers will be willing to pay more for your product and your employees will be willing to work for less. This way you can increase both employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and your profitability.”
I was quiet and pretty much focused on what my boss was telling to all of us. But I felt no confidence at all. Previous speeches did not align to the facts. Previous audios were not synchronized with some videos we lived in this company. This kind of commercial behavior was trying to block our attitude towards safety, and that’s why I did not trust the CEO’s words until all became crystal. When we began asking for more resources, based on our performance and more requirements from our customers, he raised his little desperate voice to say: “You have to understand our maintenance organization turned into a low cost one, because our customers are low cost airlines. If they require more services, we have to render them with fewer resources, just as they do. Otherwise, we will shut down and die!”
I was making all the Change of Management we were going to submit to the CAA. It was fifteen stations, including relevant mitigation plans. Flying to all these stations was also part of the plan I submitted to raise data and compare these with actual facts. The budget was prepared along with my other responsibilities. The CEO read all the papers I submitted. He smiled gently at me and hit me with this: “Can you imagine you are going to fly to fifteen stations? Can you imagine how much funds are we going to use for all of this? You mean I have to buy flight tickets, pay for your accommodation and meals? It is too much, Sergio! We cannot afford that! I already told you, guys. This is a low cost maintenance organization.” Suddenly, the QC Manager raised his hand and told my boss: “Technically, Sergio is right. We must perform the Change of Management procedure. Nevertheless, Sergio, don’t get mad at me for what I am going to tell. I have all this information, because I worked for another maintenance organization. I will just update the data and submit it to the CAA. And that’s it!” They did so. It was no pain or sorrow I felt. It was lack of commitment to safety and ethics trying to obstruct my veins. These are just papers, Sergio, my boss told me.
I felt these attitudes along with the documentation of the new stations were hidden under the carpet. And that’s what happens many times in aviation. Accidents begin when an error or a procedure violation is committed and the look deviates to other side. Accidents in aeronautical organizations begin the day everyone’s commitment to safety is lost. The day money defeats protection. The right time we forget passengers’ lives and profits are emphasized. I felt that in this company. I felt risk analysis was swept under the rug, including training and occupational health. Profits were the objective, no matter what.
Then, I remembered these words U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell gave Mr. Dennis Muilenburg, former Boeing’s CEO: “One thing is crystal clear: if you want to be the leader in aviation manufacturing, you have to be the leader in aviation safety. This isn’t a question of line workers – this is a question about the corporate view from Chicago”. These words begun to cut my nerves and guided me to a right place. These words must be followed, exercised and implemented in any aviation management system. Do you think it was enough? This lady threw the dice and told: “We cannot have a race for commercial airplanes become a race to the bottom when it comes to safety. The company, the board, cannot prioritize profits over safety”.