Powering up a cultural change
Published: 06 May 2016
Self-confessed “engine guy” Jon Beatty came out of retirement to take up the post of president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, where he strives to help the industry improve its accident record.
Where did you start out?
My first aviation job was at Sikorsky in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I was a quality inspector for tail cones on the S-76 helicopter. I worked on the shop floor and it was a great way to learn. From there I joined Textron Lycoming as programme manager for the ALF502 and FL507 geared turbofans which powered the Bombardier Challenger 600 and BAe 146.
Later, I became the marine and industrial programme director responsible for the US Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion programme, high-speed ferries in Hong Kong, and industrial power generation. When Lycoming was purchased by Allied Signal, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona to run the regional propulsion business.
I had the opportunity to move back to Connecticut to become general manager of Allied Signal Aerospace Precision Products, which made inertial navigation systems for cruise missiles and tracking devices. There were four facilities with more than 1,100 employees. It was great to experience the military side of the business.
Tackling complacency over improved safety is a top priority, says Beatty
Throughout this time, however, my heart was always in propulsion and I was proud to consider myself an “engine guy”, so next I joined Pratt & Whitney as programme director for the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500.
I then became vice-president for operational commercial engines with full responsibility for the 14,000-engine commercial fleet. I returned to IAE as president and chief executive from 2007 to 2009.
I then served as senior vice-president for airline customers and led the team that launched the P&W geared turbofan. In 2012, when P&W bought Rolls-Royce out of the IAE consortium to give it majority control, I was asked to return to IAE as president and chief executive for the second time to lead the integration into P&W. After the integration, I decided to retire and quickly became restless.
How did you come to lead the Flight Safety Foundation?
I was contacted by some former colleagues now on the foundation’s board of governors. Based on our conversations, I knew that I could add value to the organisation. In mid-2014, I became the president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, an international non-profit organisation founded in 1947 to advance aviation safety.
How did your experience prepare you for this new role?
During my tenure at P&W, when I was responsible for the commercial fleet, I was also on the safety board, which had overall responsibility for the integrity and safety of our engines. This allowed me to become very involved in aviation safety, including the process and procedures that are required to develop and maintain a safety culture.
We are currently working on an initiative called the Global Safety Information Project. It is focused on understanding how data is collected and shared to improve aviation safety. In the beginning it is focused on the Pan-America and Asia-Pacific regions. We are very pleased with the improvements aviation has enjoyed during the past 20 years. But to continue to maintain this rate of improvement, as aviation traffic continues to grow at almost 5% per year, we must find new ways to share and learn from our safety data.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The hardest part is that some people think just because we have enjoyed the safest levels in aviation during the past few years, that the job is done. They think there are better ways to invest time and resources. We know that the job of improving aviation is a journey and takes work every day. We cannot let up or take our eyes off the ball, because even one accident that could have been prevented is one too many.
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