Jenna is our Health and Safety Coordinator, helping to make sure we have the necessary systems and training in place to deliver safe and successful flights every time. She sat down with us to talk about the critical role health and safety plays in an aviation environment, the importance a strong team makes to safety, and to share her advice to anyone interested in aviation!
How did you join Waterloo Warbirds and what is your role with the team?
I am the health and safety representative for Flite Line Services [one of Waterloo Warbirds’ sponsors] so I joined the team organically. As part of my role, I consult with Derek [Hammond, our President and Director of Flight Operations] to maintain our Safety Management System, leveraging his in-depth industry knowledge and my expertise from the Health and Safety side. I also work with the team’s Health and Safety Trainer, Alan Robson, to hold health and safety meetings for the team, facilitate necessary training, and deliver training sessions. Working with Derek, Alan, and other members of the team, I help develop roles for the team, review whether people are appropriately trained for their roles, and schedule any required training sessions to keep team members qualified for their roles. On an ongoing basis, I also make sure all health and safety practices are functioning in the best way, which is particularly important as we continue to grow and evolve. We leverage our integration with Flite Line a lot for these sessions, which helps keep health and safety for the team in line with best practices for the greater aviation industry.
What first got you interested in aviation?
My family is involved in the aviation industry, so I’ve been exposed to it for my whole life. We own and operate Flite Line Services, Hammond Aviation, and Hammond Fuels, so I’ve gotten to see a lot of what aviation has to offer outside of the pilot track, and also beyond commercial airline aviation.
What is your favourite or most memorable aviation experience?
The most exciting thing I’ve probably been involved in with the team is when the Harvard joined the team in the summer of 2019. Being in a health and safety role, I typically interact with the team most when training has to be delivered or if something has gone wrong and mitigating measures need to be implemented. Being involved early on in something so positive as seeing the fleet grow, and knowing an additional plane was coming, was really exciting. The team growing is always exciting. Part of my role also involves maintenance bookkeeping, so it was really interesting to be involved in that aspect of planning for the new arrival as well.
In your experience, what is the most challenging thing about health and safety in an aviation environment?
Some people can tend to have a bit of an ego because you have to have a certain level of confidence given the nature of aviation. I find that balancing confidence and caution can be difficult, but it’s definitely doable, especially when people have an appreciation for the outcome. One of the nice things about the Waterloo Warbirds team is that most team members are experienced enough to know that safety is not a joke. They have a respect for the potential danger involved in operating any aircraft and approach everything with the appropriate amount of caution and preparedness to result in amazing outcomes. I know that’s something our passengers appreciate, as well as something the customers of our FBO [Flite Line Services] appreciate when they are operating alongside some of the jets.
Is there anything special you’ve had to incorporate into your role given the age of the planes we operate?
Nothing specifically related to the age of the planes, but because of the volunteer nature of the team, my role includes helping to balance the relationship between the maintenance staff from Flite Line and the volunteer maintenance crew. Any aircraft maintenance requires a high level of attention to detail, so any volunteer working on maintenance has to be very detail-oriented and willing to engage in every step of the process to make sure nothing gets left out. I work behind-the-scenes with our Person Responsible for Maintenance (PRM) [Chief AME Andrej Janik] to ensure all the appropriate steps are being followed for maintenance based on his interactions with the volunteer maintenance crew, to help define boundaries for what maintenance activities can and cannot be completed by volunteers based on health and safety requirements and training, and to provide disciplinary action or additional training if required. Our team is lucky in that our PRM is very experienced in these types of planes and can help guide the volunteer maintenance crew through maintenance and restoration activities. This is unique in an organization like ours because even experienced AMEs in the larger aviation space typically don’t have much experience with planes like ours.
Is there anything you find is particularly important to have in a fully volunteer-based organization like ours?
The wrong attitude can destroy a team environment, so it’s important to know the people on your team and to trust them. The Waterloo Warbirds team is so well connected to each other, and that trust and camaraderie results in the kind of safe environment that is necessary in aviation. Because of the nature of the activities we do and the equipment we work with, it’s important for everyone to watch each other’s backs and speak up when someone is being unsafe. You have to trust that everyone is there for the end result of a safe, fun experience. With our team, I feel like if something unsafe was going to happen, the team would not allow it - they’d take the steps in the moment to prevent it from happening, but also follow up afterward to make sure the possibility of that safety concern didn’t come up again. That’s important to me as Health and Safety Coordinator because I’m not on the ground all the time for every flight, and I place a lot of trust in the crew to help each other and lead each other to a safe outcome every time.
I also appreciate the diversity we have in our team and the dynamic that brings to the group. We have male and female team members of all ages and experience levels, who bring a wide range of knowledge from a lot of different fields. I find that brings valuable perspective to the team at every level, and gives everyone the opportunity to teach or to learn from one another.
What advice would you give someone interested in aviation?
It can seem daunting because there’s a lot to learn, but if you find what you’re interested in, expose yourself to it, and involve yourself enough, you can learn a lot. It will become an integral part of your life - a lifestyle, not just a hobby - so don’t be deterred by the details and the commitment it takes. When you give it your all, it’s a fascinating industry to be a part of.