Our collective comfort in either making or receiving a “knock it off” call may be as good an indication as any of how far we have come in changing the culture of air show safety.
Not just anyone should be calling a knock it off, but if you are one of the people who have previously been authorized to do so, you should also be comfortable making the call if it becomes necessary.
The “knock it off” concept is simple enough. When some aspect of air show operations is not going as planned, a simple “knock it off” call over the radio will prompt everybody to stop what they’re doing and, potentially, avoid an accident or incident. And like many simple ideas, it can be as effective as it is simple. A commonly recognized phrase spoken over the air show radio frequency can function as a virtual “reset” button. Stop what you’re doing. Reassess the situation. And take the appropriate next step once you have completed your brief reassessment.
But, in the air show industry, “knock it off” is often seen as a course of last resort. In at least two difference incidents recently, air show professionals who could have and probably should have called a “knock it off” were reluctant to do so because it would reflect poorly on or anger somebody. Not only is that a courtesy that our business cannot afford, it’s also suggests a sense of priorities that is potentially dangerous in the air show business.
All of us are responsible for air show safety. And none of us can predict when we may be the only one who recognizes a developing situation as being dangerous. Hurt feelings and bruised egos can be taken care of later. If you are in a position to stop or mitigate a potentially dangerous situation, it’s critical that you take action immediately.
Similarly, if you are the recipient of a knock it off radio message or some other warning signal from a fellow air show professional, please make a deliberate effort to receive that message in the spirit in which it was intended. Our industry’s effort to improve safety will necessarily require the occasional over-reaction or unnecessary warning. If you react emotionally to being the recipient of such a message, you will compromise the ongoing effort to help make your colleagues more comfortable about delivering that kind of message.