For pilots and their support staff in the aviation industry, open communication and trust is essential. That’s true for any healthy working relationship, but it’s especially critical when the daily grind involves aerobatic stunts that push airplanes to their limits.

Bertrand Nivard

Bertrand Nivard, a former leader of the French Jet Aerobatic Team, the Patrouille de France, and current water bomber pilot for French Civil Protection, says that trust building is not only important among pilots, but also between pilots and their technicians and mechanics.

“Because our brain is 100 percent in the aircraft when we fly, we have no time to think about if the aircraft is serviceable or not,” says Nivard, adding that 80 to 90 percent of incidents and lapses are human errors.

Trust in the Cockpit Begins on the Ground

The best way to fix the problems? Ensure pilots and technicians talk about them — openly and without judgement, Nivard says.

Don’t miss Bertrand Nivard’s keynote at the upcoming Predix ServiceMax Paris workshop (Oct. 2).

“If the pilot makes a mistake one day, there is a chance their colleague will do the same. We have what we call a ‘fair culture’ — if you report an error you are not penalized for it. Because of this, human errors have really decreased,” Nivard says, adding that technology in modern aircraft that can predict maintenance needs has played a significant role in safety improvements.

This combination of open communication and predictive technology allows Nivard and his team to continue improving.

“Nobody is superhuman, which is why trust is so important,” he says. “That’s true for all pilots.”

Behind Every Great Pilot Is a Talented Support Staff

Before flying with the Patrouille de France, Nivard graduated with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and joined the French Air Force in 1994 where he participated in NATO training and flew missions in Africa. In 2003, he was the squadron leader for the prestigious Normandie-Niemen fighter unit of the French Air Force.

Patrouille de France technician Sully-Stéphane Daleau

Then came a new challenge: From 2004 to 2007, Nivard joined the Patrouille de France, performing in more than 140 airshow displays around the world. While performing complex stunts, often just a few feet from fellow pilots’ aircraft, it’s no wonder pilots like Nivard can’t afford to think of anything but flying. And that requires absolute trust in technicians on the ground.

“Technicians treat our planes like a jewel. They work on it with honor, their skills and their hearts. When we go inside the aircraft, we have no questions. We are just focused on the flying skills required. This is why we have very close relationships with our technicians,” he says.

Nivard and his former Patrouille de France lead technician, Sully-Stéphane Daleau, will speak at the ServiceMax’s upcoming Paris workshop on Oct. 2 at the GE Digital Foundry (18 Rue du 4 Septembre, Paris). The pilot-technician duo will share anecdotes from their time with the prestigious aerobatic team and discuss the relationship between equipment, technician and pilot. Click here to register.

Images via Patrouille de France