Shared Goals, Shared Knowledge, and Mutual Respect
Captain Judy’s Corner
What do shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect have to do with a major airline, a world flight, and Epic Flight Academy?
“Citation N178SF, do you need assistance?”
The Sakhalinsk air traffic controller gave us a straight-out departure on Runway 19. I was flying left seat, and my first officer, Edwin, was busy with communications. I had almost thawed from the biting Russian cold. The Citation climbed effortlessly at 3,000 feet per minute. As we climbed through solid gray clouds, the advanced avionics technology displayed on our glass cockpit went blank! Both displays were totally dark, leaving us with no instruments or navigation aids. We were in the ‘soup,’ surrounded by clouds, and with total instrument failure. I looked at the back-up steam gauges. Edwin and I looked at each other for a moment in disbelief. Then he alerted air traffic controllers of our situation, requesting headings. In a heavy Russian accent, the controller asked, “Citation N178SF, do you need assistance?” Edwin responded, “Stand-by…”
What happens when your electronic system malfunctions?
Although rare, we had experienced a complete electronic system malfunction. I kept the airplane on heading with wings level, and I used the few analog back-up instruments. Meanwhile, Edwin referred to our navigational paper charts. Our Crew Resource Management (CRM) training was paying off. Utilizing CRM provided a positive experience easing the load and helping assure our safety. After what seemed like an eternity, the cockpit screen displays returned 10 minutes later. We had planned, trained, and prepared for the ‘what if.’ And, we succeeded during those 10 long minutes.
Practice Crew Resource Management
My world flight crew practiced Crew Resource Management (CRM) at airline standards. We trained to know exactly why and what each crew member’s responsibilities were. If one team member questioned the safety of our flight, then we’d all address the concerns without question. This was standard procedure. We then made group decisions on the best course of action. This proved invaluable on several occasions, and it kept the peace and all of us safe.
Bring Teamwork to the Classroom
After the world flight, I longed for returning to my true passion: flight training. I discovered Epic Flight Academy, recognized for excellence in producing the safest, most talented pilots in the world. I asked myself, “How is Epic able to accomplish such awesome recognition?” Epic, I learned, had implemented the concepts of The Southwest Airlines Way. Jody Hoffer Gittell wrote this professional development manual. She describes Southwest Airlines’ focus on shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect among its employees.
These elements of teamwork created one of the most successful airlines in the United States, and they contribute to Epic’s excellence. A culture of shared goals creates positive energy toward objectives. SWA employees share the goal of providing excellent customer service. All employees understand the big picture, and they know how their job impacts their shared goal of service. My crew on our world flight knew this feeling. We all shared the goal working together to safely visit 35 countries. We achieved our goal to enlighten and excite students about aviation and space careers.
Without everyone’s commitment, inconsistencies might have caused us to lose focus on our mission, and issues could have arisen. Just like SWA and my world flight, shared goals are a part of Epic Flight Academy. One of our most important shared goals is assisting students in achieving their dream of becoming commercial pilots in the safest and most efficient way possible. Every staff member understands this goal and will go out of their way to ensure that every student receives the utmost respect and support along their steps into the world of aviation. It is seen on campus every day, whether from our administrative staff, scheduling and dispatch personnel, or in the classrooms and aircraft: we want students to succeed.
Finally, at Southwest Airlines, shared knowledge is crucial for smooth operations at the ramp and in the sky. SWA understands that employees must understand their role and how everyone else’s skills and knowledge add to the company’s goals. SWA uses the example of a ground crew member stating, “Pilots must do A, B, and C before take-off. So, as ground crew, we need to get this to the pilot right away.”
Shared Knowledge in Action
During my world flight as we preflighted in Fukishima, Japan we relied on shared knowledge. We practiced Crew Resource Management (CRM) during our preflight responsibilities. Each crew member had specific preflight duties. One member was responsible for checking the jet engines while the first officer and I were in the cockpit finishing cockpit checks. The outside crew member reported a potential problem. “The right engine oil pop-out valve is popped out.” Sure enough, the usual little black dot was red. This indicates the oil filter is being bypassed, a preventative measure in case particles in the oil damage the engines.
We first thought that pieces of jet engine were in the oil. One crew member immediately called the Japan Citation Service Center. The other crew member called the United States Citation Service Center. I contacted our Fukishima sponsors. We completed an oil analysis and learned it was a faulty pop-out valve. This was an easy replacement. Shared knowledge for successful outcomes.
Shared knowledge enhances the talents of Epic employees for a coordinated, well-rounded training experience. Our staff shares their knowledge of aviation, and they also assist in other ways. Students acquire this knowledge from incredible resources, such as our experienced instructors, student service staff, course managers, and our online learning platform, Schoology.
SWA values all employees’ contribution, and they demonstrate mutual respect. No one department is any more important than another, because without one department working at its fullest capability, all other departments fall short. The same can be said in relation to my world flight. Mutual respect ensured safety. We understood the importance and interconnectedness of each crew member.Their experiences and roles allowed the flight to go smoothly, even when mid-flight issues occurred. All Epic employees show mutual respect for each staff member, as well as for all students. All students are significant, even though every student learns and requires assistance differently. We all work together to ensure our students succeed in their dreams of becoming a pilot in a safe, efficient manner.
The outcome of a total technology failure while climbing through Russian airspace or an engine malfunction during a preflight in Japan might have gone very differently. Practicing the values of shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect paid off. Epic students leave our academy with aviation knowledge and skills required to be commercial pilots worldwide. They also carry an attitude of sharing and respect into their careers.