CHC Safety & Quality Summit 2011


2005 Prague__Employees Only
2006 Vancouver__Open to Public for first time
2007 Vancouver Fairmont Hotel
2008 Vancouver Fairmont Hotel
2009 Vancouver Fairmont Hotel
2010 Vancouver Westin Bayshore Resort
2011 Vancouver Westin Bayshore Resort

This year’s Summit attracted over seven hundred delegates from companies around the globe, coming together to focus on the human side of safety and to explore how to reduce risk. Fixed wing and helicopter operators, regulators and related industries like oil and gas, insurance and crisis management companies attended presentations to hear about and discuss ways to improve aviation safety standards worldwide.

Summit Registration

The first time I attended in 2007 I had been invited by Greg Wyght, the brilliant organizer behind the whole show, to make a presentation. Despite having no time at work to attend to such a formidable task, I worked on my own time to put together something solid and meaningful specifically targeting helicopter operators. I overshot my mark on two accounts.

First, I ended up attempting to cram a two day course into a two and one half hour slot. Then, even worst, I attempted to introduce an advanced topic that even Bristow had only just started to tackle: “Behaviour Based Safety Management and Identifying At Risk Behaviour Individuals.” After all, I reasoned, my target audience was supposed to be hardened aviation managers. I thought the aviation world was ready for something new and exciting.

CHC Chief Pilot

In the meantime, seasoned presenters, such as Patrick Hudson and Scott Shappell, where using proven but time worn accidents such as “Piper Alpha” and “Tenerife” to highlight their safety cases and purposely dumbing down day-to-day safety examples by literally using baby rattles and car keys to make their audience laugh their way to understanding.

I made the mistake of talking about up-to-date helicopter incidents and accidents and using day-to-day safety examples from helicopter maintenance technical logs and ended losing most of my “non-safety” oriented audience as their eyes glazed over and rolled to the back of their heads. It’s not that I didn’t have any jokes, but you had to understand the basics of aviation to get the jokes. The few who did laugh at my jokes encouraged me that I was on the right track. I could tell by their reaction that they knew what I was talking about. Overall, the audience just couldn’t absorb 30 years of experience in just two and a half hours.

CHC CEO “Bill” Amelio

This is now my fourth summit and I believe I could now bring back behaviour based safety management topics and at least half of the audience would understand. I have seen the aviation safety awareness side growing but we still have a long ways to go. As aviation experts we should live and breathe risk and safety management. A home town friend recently asked me what I do for recreation on my time off. Besides motorcycle trips, scuba diving, paragliding and the like, where I routinely manage risk, I answered “I am going to a helicopter safety conference.”

For most of the attendees, however, safety is something you learn at a safety conference. I think Greg Wyght would agree with me when I say that safety is something we should discuss, share, question, clarify and illustrate at the summit but it is something we should learn from life. That is why Scott is so successful because he takes his examples from his non-aviation life around him. But at some point the people who work in aviation need to take their safety examples from aviation. And they can only do this when they make aviation their life.

Bristow CEO “Bill” Chiles

I also attend the summit on my time and at my own expense. I find that the company sponsored “delegates” are less likely to be serious about sharing lessons and incorporating the lessons learned into their routines. Some of the delegates only come because they now have someone to pay their way. I am always surprised when a “grey beard” (or grey hair) confesses to me that this is their first time to the summit. “The company finally decided to get serious about safety” as if safety had nothing to do with them personally. Or even worse, “I have been hired by XYZ Company to be their Director of Safety and Quality and so I insisted that they pay for me to attend. It’s my first time.”

First Time Attendees plotting to change their name to “Bill”

My participation is more personally meaningful and rewarding when the time and effort is my own. This is something I do for me. I come here to verify, corroborate, refresh or even to authenticate my knowledge, not to come here hoping to learn something for the first time. If I do learn something here for the first time then I take that away like a precious gem and use it to my bolster my collection.

I believe, however, that the proportion of “paid-to-think-safety” types compared to “real-time-practicing-safety” professionals is becoming less and less at each progressive safety summit and more and more safety managers are getting on board. I felt that this year was the best ever for both quality of presenters and advanced knowledge of the delegates.

My Vote for Best New Presenter of Summit

The best part of the summit, however, is the way that CHC combines the use of very seasoned and educated safety consultants such as Dr. Graham Braithwaite, Dr. Tony Kern, Dr. Douglas Wiegmann, John Nance, and Dr. Scott Shappell. These guys always give presentations worth the time and money to attend. As academics they look at risk and safety management from an industry wide point of view that doesn’t necessarily discuss aviation specifically but safety is safety and anyone can take something away from their presentations. Besides these guys are funny and everyone learns more when they are enjoying the show.

Bayshore Resort & Marina

The other side of the coin is that CHC brings in first time or speciality presenters who may or may not appeal to everyone. As I can mouth the words in synchronisation to Shappell, Kern, and Wiegmann with my eyes closed I now like to attend the less well known or aviation specific presentations. Most are great but some are, for me, duds. But even the duds are good for some.

I attended an “Advanced” Risk Management presentation this year and even though several of us walked out because this guy was addressing safety for kindergarten children there were three ladies in the room who had never heard of a “risk management matrix.” They were busy taking notes and obviously learning something, but maybe they should have done some homework before deciding to spend their company’s money on risk assessment 101. Meanwhile there were several guys looking seriously dejected because the presenter could not even answer a simple few questions on how to apply a risk matrix in real life.

The CHC Safety & Quality Summit is, without doubt, the single best 3-day event anyone can attend for sharing information on how to implement risk and safety management into their airline or helicopter operation. Since CHC runs this conference as a non-profit organization they can’t pay me for their plug but there is no reason I can’t put in a good word for myself.

The single best decision for any company to take would be to hire an air transport consultant, who has integrated risk and safety processes and interventions as an fundamental part of his career, to show your managers how to have the safety and quality summit working for them 365 days of the year instead of just three.

More importantly, an air transport consultant can make use of his 35 years of aviation risk and safety management experience to show their newly appointed quality manager how to make use of the two and a half hour presentation he just attended at the summit. In other words, hire a consultant who lives and breathes aviation safety.

Mr and Mrs Goulet attending another CHC summit in Beautiful British Columbia

Leaving Beautiful British Columbia behind somewhere in the clouds and rain

Returning to Winterpeg with Lake Manitoba in the background

2011 CHC Safety & Quality Summit

About John S Goulet

Air Transport Pilot, consultant, writer, blogger and photographer with 40 years in Professional Aviation.
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