Safety Standdown Celebrates 25th Anniversary

 - December 6, 2021, 8:40 AM
New Safety Standown leader Chris Milligan (far left); Ed Coleman, Standdown council member; Standdown award winner Nick Verdea; and outgoing leader of the program, Andy Nureddin.

The Bombardier Safety Standdown celebrated its 25th anniversary last fall in Wichita, Kansas. Over the past quarter-century, the event has become one of the most comprehensive and respected human-factors conferences in the aviation industry.

The mantra of “learn, apply, share” serves as the cornerstone of the Safety Standdown, during which industry professionals come together for two days of safety training. Bombardier plays a key role in organizing and sponsoring the conference.

Over the years, more than 10,000 aviation professionals from all sectors and many disciplines have attended Safety Standdown during live events; many more have experienced the conference through webcasts. In 2021, nearly 200 people visited Wichita to participate in the conference, while another 1,100 from more than 20 countries joined the event via a webcast. The event typically draws 400 or more attendees but Covid restrictions limited last year's in-person registrations.

Former Safety Standdown Award winner and long-time safety advocate Mike Ott called the Bombardier Safety Standdown "the ultimate act of corporate citizenship.” Ott is a high-time Learjet and Gulfstream pilot flying worldwide missions for Phoenix Air Group, where he acts as the director of government contracting. In addition, Ott is a member of the Safety Standdown Advisory Council, IS-BAO Standards Board, and NBAA Safety Committee.

Bombardier started the Safety Standdown in 1996 as a safety training event for its Learjet flight demonstration team in Wichita. After three years of success and growth, Bombardier opened the event to all corporate pilots and flight crews, not just to Bombardier customers. There has never been a fee charged to attend, and the list of attendees is diverse; the roles vary from flight crew to maintenance to other supporting employees such as flight dispatchers and schedulers.   

The goal of each Standdown is to promote knowledge-based pilot safety training along with personal discipline and responsibility as essential elements of aviation safety and professionalism. This is accomplished each year by recruiting industry thought leaders to facilitate general session presentations as well as workshops. Last year's two-day event included six presentations in the general session and more than 12 workshops.

In 2021, Bombardier passed leadership of the event to Chris Milligan, Bombardier VP certified pre-owned aircraft services, flight operations. Milligan succeeds Andy Nureddin, a long-time Bombardier executive and past steward of the program. Nureddin has led the event for 25 years and said, “Safety Standdown is one of the most comprehensive human factors safety conferences in the industry...We at Bombardier are exceptionally proud to be sharing critical strategies to improve safety awareness, processes, procedures, and structures in all aspects of our operations.” Nureddin is currently the Global 7500 program lead and plans to retire in late 2022.

“It is an honor to be taking over as the leader of this invaluable industry event," Milligan said, "one my colleague Andy Nureddin has been so effectively leading for many years. Bombardier champions this important event because it enables us to take on current threats to aviation safety, as well as develop opportunities to create a culture of safety and leadership. This event also presents an outstanding opportunity for industry leaders to share tools and solutions to address the challenges we all face.”

The Safety Standdown is more than an annual conference. The complete program consists of an Advisory Council, several subcommittees, an internal Bombardier ambassador program, a safety award program, and a website that has resources in its knowledge center.

The Safety Standdown Advisory Council consists of a diverse group of 12 professionals from aviation and other industries. Council members provide advice and recommendations for the content and direction of the Safety Standdown programs.

Beginning this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's digital transformation advisor, Dr. Amy Grubb, takes over as the Safety Standdown advisory chair. Grubb is the first non-aviation-based chair and the first woman to hold this position. She has been a member of the Advisory Council since 2018 and is an industrial-organizational psychologist who provides insight regarding leadership, organizational culture, and change management, all areas that are relevant to aviation safety.  

"I'm excited for the future of Bombardier Safety Standdown," Grubb said. "The past few years have set the stage for the future: to be more than a single event that happens once a year." It is, she said, a community "with top-notch resources and year-round offerings to keep safety at the forefront of aviation operations. Bringing in additional perspectives from cabin crews and flight operations and maintenance—and even other industries and disciplines—has really enhanced how to be safe in aviation, and I look forward to that trend continuing.”

Grubb follows Ed Coleman into the role of Safety Standdown Advisory Council chair. Coleman has been a Council member since 2015 and was instrumental in navigating the event through a global pandemic. In 2020, the Safety Standdown was held virtually through a series of webcasts and the launch of the “Safety Talk” series of videos; and that concept is planned to continue. Coleman, a former Safety Award winner, is the manager of aviation at Midwest Transplant Network and flies a Cessna Citation CJ3.  

He has great memories of the Safety Standdown and said, “In the 25 years that Safety Standdown has been meeting, the audience has grown from a few dozen pilots at Learjet and now includes attendees from the entire aviation community. In the past few years, we have had award winners that represent pilots, government, support organizations, and maintenance. The Advisory Council has grown as well and now includes representatives from business aircraft operators, maintenance operations, airport managers, and dispatchers.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I asked how many were attending for the first time and nearly a third of the room raised their hands," Coleman continued. "We have reached operators from every corner of the world and our recordings are used in a multitude of settings, from universities to flight schools to small department meetings...The 'Learn, Apply, Share' motto is something I've experienced multiple times. Standdown really is one of the best-kept secrets in aviation safety, and the fact that it costs nothing to attend is a testament to Bombardier and the sponsors who help us put it on every year.”

Each year, the Safety Standdown Advisory Council culls through nominations for its annual Safety Award. The award goes to aviation professionals who demonstrate a commitment to the promotion of safety. The award winners live the principles of the Safety Standdown by following the "learn, apply, share" model in their flight departments and beyond. The 2021 Safety Award was presented to Williams Company director of aviation and travel Nick Verdea, a longtime supporter and advocate of the Safety Standdown. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Verdea is a Certified Aviation Manager and Global Leadership Professional. In addition to managing a team of 13 professionals, he has accumulated more than 13,000 accident-free hours.  

The future looks bright for the Safety Standdown. New leadership plans to build on the event's past successes while adding a few new elements such as experts from outside of aviation to bring fresh perspectives. Plans are underway for the 26th Safety Standdown in the fall of 2022.