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Plugging the holes in the proverbial Swiss cheese

With roughly 3200 flight accidents annually in the Royal Canadian Air Force alone, flight safety is a big concern in today’s society.

It is Col. John Alexander’s job as Director of Flight Safety at the RCAF Headquarters in Ottawa to decrease these numbers

“From my standpoint as a Director of Flight Safety, it is trying to create that culture of open and honest reporting to ultimately prevent that action (accidents) from recurring down the road,” said Col. John Alexander, who gave a presentation to this year’s graduating pilots of Algonquin Monday 9 in A 205.

The aviation program has an annual guest speaker to celebrate the end of a rigorous two years studying and flying.

“Honestly in the world of aviation, not just the military but globally, we’re a couple of steps ahead of how we deal with those sort of investigation processes to prevent future accidents,” said Col. Alexander. “We (RCAF) do have a very keen interest in ensuring they (students) develop a safety management system that is akin to what we have established in our military. Only then can you have a truly positive safety management system so that they will avoid accidents we attempt to do as well.”

Col. Alexander is well qualified to make those kinds of statements; he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Governor General for his service in the air force, as well as his work as RCAF flight director.

Since joining the Canadian Air Force in 1990, Col. Alexander has done four tours of duty, serving in Bosnia, Iraq, Northern Ireland and Egypt. He has been the commanding officer of 427 special operations during those tours and was promoted to Director of Flight Safety in 2017.

The RCAF uses the data collected from flight accidents to project ahead, in order to prevent potential dangers, rather than deal with issues as they arise — identifying the holes in the Swiss cheese, as Col. Alexander likes to explain it.

The class professor was happy with the message delivered to his students.

“In a sense, he is now welcoming them to the aviation fraternity,” Peter Pigott, an aviation professor at Algonquin, wrote in an email to the TImes. “I wanted the students to realize that we live in a peaceful, prosperous Canada because of the men and women in our armed forces, many not much older than them. It was an opportunity to, through Colonel Alexander, acknowledge this.”

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