I’ve always been impressed by what I receive from the Australiasian Aviation Ground Safety Council. The group’s monthly newsletter, Safety Watch, is always packed with news on this important subject. The AAGSC’s LinkedIn Group also has great discussions, too. Finally, member Norman Hogwood – a past contributor to Ground Support Worldwide – has always kept me informed of the group’s milestones.
Considering I and fellow blogger John Goglia have posted news on unsafety lately, I was curious what Norman’s take might be. Mind you, we didn't conduct an extensive interview. We asked him one big question - What's the biggest difference between ground handling in the U.S. and elsewhere?
So what is the biggest difference?
“The chief difference was that U.S. employers are more likely to fire someone for causing an incident, such as damaging an aircraft, rather than using the event and the subsequent investigation as an educational tool,” he wrote us in an email.
Norman specialized in ground safety when he worked for Air New Zealand. His main focus was on the operational aspects of the ramp, airport driving standards, FOD, airport emergency procedures, etc.
During his tenure with the airline, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Air Transport Section of the National Safety Council and was its General Chairman for two years.
Not just only an AAGSC member, Norman helped found the group and was its Chairman from its inception in 1982 until 1991. He’s currently a Life Member and serves as the group's Press Officer.
Although Norman retired for Air New Zealand 10 years ago, he did typically visit the United States more than a few times annually to perform safety audits or conduct incident investigations.
In his email, Norman also pointed out that the pay for ground handling work in the U.S. is low – lower than other parts of the world. As a result, our “safety culture” will tend to be lower, too. The U.S. isn’t the only country in that league, but Norman felt that pay and safety culture no doubt go hand-in-hand.
But the league might be adding to its roster since he readily acknowledged that a lot has changed since he retired in 2002.
Last June, for example, Norman traveled to Toulouse, France for a meeting hosted by Airbus to identify how to reduce expensive incursions from GSE.
“I was amazed to hear that the safety culture in some parts of the world is as bad as it ever was with people still being fired, especially in the U.S.,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the closest he ever saw to perfection in ground handling was in Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.