Aviation execs speak at seminar

Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters golf tournament by 12 strokes.

At 7 a.m. the next day, he was on the putting green practicing.

Win or lose, Woods is out on the range hitting golf balls, said Federal Aviation Administration administrator Randy Babbitt.

"What drives this guy?" Babbitt asked. "In a word, professionalism."

Babbitt spoke Tuesday to more than 460 pilots, flight crew members and maintenance personnel attending this week's 13th annual Bombardier Safety Standdown at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. The event runs through Thursday.

Attendees from 40 states included people from the Marines, Navy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, NASA, Boeing, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, universities and companies, organizers said.

The Standdown is designed to expand pilots' and crews' understanding of the human factors involved in accidents.

Seminars address issues such as airmanship, communication, fatigue, runway safety, preventing runway excursions and automation.

Babbitt said professionals show up rested and prepared. They follow all checklists and procedures, communicate well, fly with precision and continually learn.

And as professionals, they can mentor the less experienced and share wisdom and best practices, he told them.

The aviation industry is under tremendous financial and political pressure, National Business Aviation Administration president and CEO Ed Bolen told the group.

But "at our core, business aviation is really about safety," Bolen said.

One issue the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are addressing is how to combat fatigue.

In the past 15 years, fatigue has led to more than 250 fatalities in air carrier accidents and to countless general aviation accidents, organizers said.

Last year, for example, two Go Airlines pilots fell asleep and overflew their Hawaii destination. The captain's previously undiagnosed sleep apnea contributed to the problem.

Had the pilots not woken up when they did, the outcome would have been tragic, said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman, who also addressed the group. That has led to recommendations concerning sleep apnea, Hersman said.

Ultimately, professionalism is doing the right thing, she said.

"You never know which flight is the one on which your career will be judged," she said. "So approach each and every one as if it's the most important one you'll ever fly."