plane crashThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has placed improving the professionalism of pilots and air traffic controllers on it's "Most Wanted" list -- a list which represents the board's advocacy priorities.  It is designed to increase awareness of, and support for, the most critical changes needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives.

Although the vast majority of pilots and air traffic controllers responsible for millions of flights each year routinely perform as qualified and competent professionals under a variety of demanding circumstances, there have been a disturbing number of individual incidents of noncompliant behavior, intentional misconduct, or lack of commitment to essential tasks," according to a statement by the NTWB. "These occurrences demonstrate an erosion of pilot and air traffic controller professionalism."

"Recent accidents and incidents have highlighted the hazards to aviation safety associated with departures by pilots and air traffic controllers from standard operating procedures and established best practices. NTSB aviation accident reports describe the errors and catastrophic outcomes that can result from such lapses, and—though the NTSB has issued recommendations to reduce and mitigate such human failures—accidents and incidents continue. The costs of these events extend beyond fatalities, injuries, and economic losses: they erode the public trust. As a result, these events and the NTSB investigations continue to garner significant Congressional, media, and public interest in the professionalism of pilots and air traffic controllers."

The NTSB recommends raising awareness of the importance of reinforcing professionalism through an open and ongoing dialogue among labor, management, industry, associates and government. The NTSB initiated such a dialogue during its 3-day forum, Professionalism in Aviation: Ensuring Excellence in Pilot and Air Traffic Controller Performance, in 2010.

In addition, the board says that the industry can provide better guidance on expected standards of performance and professional behavior. Pilots, controllers, and managers can reinforce these standards through their day-to-day actions on the job. "And, though there is no way to guarantee that every pilot and controller will make the right choice in every situation, monitoring performance and holding them accountable will reinforce the absolute importance of maintaining the highest level of professionalism."