Safety: Beside the Point?


“Safety is for sissies!” That was a comment recently overheard at the bar during an air show party. The kind of comment that begs anyone within hearing distance to take exception. And they did. 

But the explanation may change your perspective on air show safety. 

This person argued that safety is the end goal, but professionalism is the tool we use to get there. Thorough briefings AND de-briefings. Frequent practice. Continual risk identification and mitigation.  Thoughtful consideration of energy management issues and how to respond to emergency situations at every point in the maneuver sequence. Rigorous self-assessment before every flight. Active elimination of pre-flight distractions. Unemotional consideration of constructive criticism offered by fellow pilots. Careful integration of new maneuvers into an established air show sequence. Meticulously well-maintained equipment. An ongoing program to maintain physical conditioning.  

Professions of safety consciousness, this person argued, often sound hollow to professional aviators who see safety as one of many byproducts of professionalism. After all, who among us is opposed to safety? It’s what you actually do — not what you say — that separates professionals from amateurs. 

There is nothing any of us can do that will completely eliminate the risk inherent in low-level aerobatic flying, but approaching those risks as a professional is an air show performer’s surest path to predictable outcomes on every flight. It’s not enough to simply aspire to being safe. It takes a commitment to professionalism.  

So, is safety for sissies? We’ll stay out of that argument. But there seems little doubt that the one proven method for staying safe is to fly and behave professionally.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.