All airlines and operators will say that safety is the number-one priority. Is that really true? FINN talks to Richard Howard, a safety auditor and consultant at Howard Consultants.

Howard told FINN: “Aviation is still a safe mode of transportation, but it can always be safer. What we do when we’re consulting for safety is to try and pinpoint areas in airlines [where they] can do a little bit more because it’s a continuous improvement process.

“The public demand the highest levels of safety in aviation – probably more so than other modes of transportation.”

A trade-off

“However, there’s always the commercial aspect,” Howard noted. “An airline can be the safest airline in the world but if it’s not making money, it will not succeed. So we have to have a trade-off between the investment in safety versus your productivity.

“So, safety is not really the number-one priority; it’s a mutual priority because any airline sets up its business to make money – it’s a commercial venture.”

In the DNA

Howard says it’s people and the company culture that can make or break safety.

“The safety systems are the same – they’re uniform throughout the world,” he commented, adding: “But there’s also the national culture and the commercial angle of the airline – why you are in business.”

He concluded: “There’s no turnkey, off-the-shelf solution for SMS (safety management systems). You’ve got to believe it; it’s got to be part of your DNA and it’s got to be different to everybody else’s in many aspects.”

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